Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between—Gallery Views

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between—Gallery Views


(single piano note plays) ANDREW BOLTON: Rei Kawakubo
is the first living designer we’ve displayed
in a monographic exhibition since Saint Laurent in 1983. She’s doesn’t want
one grand narrative to be imposed on her work,
so the actual display itself is presented as
an artistic intervention. It’s mazed like
almost like a playground. You’re encouraged
to experience it at your own pace,
in your own route. When you first walk
into the gallery, you’ll see red ensembles from three
different collections: “Body Meets Dress,
Dress Meets Body,” “Invisible Clothes,” and “Two Dimensions.” They’re three expressions
of how Rei blurs the boundaries between the body and dress. And there’s eight
overarching themes or dichotomies
in the exhibition. The first dichotomy
is a section called “Design/Not Design”– a process-driven category that looks
at Rei’s modes of expression. The idea of the unfinished,
the idea of asymmetry, the idea of elimination, and the technical leitmotifs
in her work– notions of fusion, the notion of juxtaposition. “Fashion/Anti-Fashion” looks at her early work
from the 1980s when she began showing in Paris. It was oversized, asymmetric, black became the color
associated with her. It was so revolutionary, one of the questions
that she raises every season about identity and beauty
and femininity can be located in her early work
from the 1980s. So, the “Model/Multiple” looks at one
particular collection, “Abstract Excellence,” which was a collection
of 34 skirts. The illusion is of uniformity, and the idea
of one skirt, but every single skirt
was different. We have one section of the
exhibition called “High/Low” and that’s really
about street style through two particular
collections, “A Motorbike Ballerina”
and “Bad Taste.” Rei described
“Motorbike Ballerina” as Harley Davidson
meets Margot Fonteyn. It’s a collection that combines
tutus with biker jackets, so, again, fusing two types
of garments, but also conflating notions that are believed
in popular culture. In her collection “Bad Taste,” she conflates both punk
and fetish styles into one garment,
using seemingly cheap materials like polyester. And then we have a section
called “Then/Now” looking at Rei’s approach
to time and temporality. Rei consistently argues that she doesn’t look back,
so her engagement with history is a constant rejection and redefinition of it. The garments in “Then/Now”
look at her engagement with particular
historical garments. She has an affinity
to the 19th century, in particular
the overblown silhouette created by crinolines
and bustles. Part of that section’s
also looking at one’s own temporal progression
through life, traditionally associated with the rites
of marriage/death. “Self/Other” looks at the idea of hybrid identities, and within “Self/Other”
there’s three subsections– “Child/Adult,” “Male/Female,” and “East/West.” In “East/West,” Rei is using both Eastern traditions with Western traditions
of clothing, tailoring and draping,
combined in one ensemble. Within the
“Male/Female” category, she’ll fuse together
two garments that are traditionally
associated with either sex, either a skirt or trousers,
which she’ll morph into one ensemble. Her 2D collection
bridged the gap between “Child/Adult” usually made out of
a felt type of material, and it was all
about age-appropriate dressing and this idea of playfulness. We have a section
called “Object/Subject,” which is more
about hybrid bodies, where the dress
and the body becomes one. One of her
most radical collections even to this day,
was her 1997 collection “Dress Meets Body,
Body Meets Dress,” included padded structures
made out of goose down feathers that completely
disfigured the body. So it was a celebration
of deformity, and what she was challenging were these normative conventions
of beauty. So, it still stands out as one of the most
provocative collections, more so because often
it was done in very childlike and sweet
bubblegum pink gingham. The final section
in the exhibition is a section called
“Clothes/Not Clothes.” It focused mainly
on her last eight collections, which Rei feels are the result of this radical rupture
in her design process. It was in spring 2014 where she began to see fashion
as objects on the body. It’s more akin to conceptual art
or performance art. It wasn’t really
about wearability. Prior to that,
her clothing always was viable, this clothing. So, she still doesn’t
define herself as an artist, but she’s been forced
to enter the debate of art and fashion. What we always try to do
in our exhibitions is to encourage people
to think differently about the boundaries
of fashion. I think people will
have to work hard. The design itself
is challenging, and the objects
contained therein are also challenging. But I think people will
come away from the exhibition rethinking the art
of the in-between. Rei is this figure who is about originality. So, every single season,
she reinvents herself and reinvents fashion.

14 thoughts on “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between—Gallery Views

  1. I look a these garments and am so inspired to recreate these in pattern cutting , the idea of negative space in fashion

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