Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘design

Balenciaga and Spain

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De Young Museum

Hamish Bowles, Editor at Large, curator, and cape-wearer.

On my most recent visit home to San Francisco, I had a museum day with my mom.   My mom was insistent we see the Hamish-Bowles-curated Balenciaga and Spain at the De Young Museum.  My mom had already seen it (bought the catalogue), and had been raving to me about its unconventional display.  The clothes are integrated into a background of paintings (one by Miro, a reproduction of Velazquez’s Las Meninas), photographs of the Spanish landscape and matadors; sometimes lively flamenco music accompanies the designs.  I wanted to glean something from the exhibition to point out to my mom that she might not have noticed.  This came from the object labels.  Each label included the requisite materials, date, lending organization, and donor.  However, in some cases an additional “worn by” line was added.

Who were some of the women wearing Cristobal Balenciaga’s bolero jackets and flamenco-inspired gowns?

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Rodarte: States of Matter

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MOCA – Pacific Design Center

Black Swan star Natalie Portman in Rodarte at the 2011 Oscars.

It is widely disputed how many seasons Los Angeles has, but it actually has five: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Awards season.  Awards season affects many aspects of life in LA, from street closures and parties to other cultural organizations like museums.  LACMA has a small unabashed installation of Larry Fink Oscar party photographs to commemorate the season.  The FIDM Museum and Galleries has its annual exhibition of Art of Motion Picture Costume Design, which features costume design from 2010 films.  But another show across town may be stealing some of FIDM’s thunder.  On view until June 6th, Rodarte: States of Matter at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center outlet features work from Rodarte’s Fall 2008, Spring 2010, and Fall 2010 collections—as well as costumes from 2010’s humungous ballet film Black Swan.

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Action / Reaction – California Design Biennial

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Pasadena Museum of California Art

Designer must-have: flying purses by Raven Kauffman.

It’s CDB time once again at the PMCA! CDB, or California Design Biennial has been organized by PMCA since 2003, and focuses on new directions in design from California designers.  There are two significant changes to this Biennial’s format.  One: along with the categories of product, graphic, transportation, and fashion design, the category of architecture has been added this year.  Two, instead of a juried panel, each category has an invited specialist serve as curator.  The curators are Louise Sandhaus from CalArts (graphic design), Rose Apodaca fashion journalist (fashion design), Stewart Reed from Art Center (transportation design), Frances Anderton of Dwell magazine (architecture), and Alissa Walker (product design).

Everyday object or Art? I don’t kayak everyday.

Each category has great work, but the show is not organized into these categories.  The PMCA galleries are filled with mannequins, products, architectural models, and other goodies seemingly at random.  While the objects have been elevated to the level of fine art because of their inclusion in this show, the method of display (very democratic and not highlighting one work over another) also acknowledges the works’ real functions as houses, clothing, and advertisements.  These are everyday objects whose artistic design is often unnoticed. This show is an opportunity to notice.

Green advertisement, PR points for Toyota.

While there is so much on display, two projects dominate the show right away because of their size and positioning.  First is the Saatchi and Saatchi-design Toyota Prius Harmony Florascapes, represented here by a cheeky, playful model.  The project was meant to be a green way of advertising the third generation prius—a replacement for a billboard.  This work is exemplary of the theme of Action/Reaction, which explores how designers are dealing with or inspired by challenges and uncertainties involving the economy, politics and the environment.

Conceptual trash map.

Another work inspired by environmental concerns is the project Where Does It Go? by Indhira Rojas and Ellen Keith.  The conceptual map in vinyl is placed across the length and breadth of the gallery.  It is always underfoot and therefore unavoidable through the show, but at the same time it does not distract from the other work. A person can choose to follow the whole map or not, the same way a person can choose to recycle or not. It’s a well-designed educational tool.

Is the person wearing this outfit taking public transportation?

Other favorites included First Earth Battalion by fashion designers Michel Berandi and Simonida Tomovic, and the Metro Neighborhoods Posters.  The Lady Gaga costume (accompanied by large dramatic sketches) was displayed alongside the Metro posters, even though the two things have little or nothing to do with each other.  But they are in dialogue: the fashion design is highly theatrical (not everyone is going to be wearing this, I mean hopefully) and demand attention, whereas the posters are unobtrusive, but are nonetheless well-designed.

Reuse in a museum display.

Other methods of display were used for the architecture category.  Many well publicized and well-known projects were included in the show: the Baldwin Park Scenic Outlook, Inner-City Arts, the Annenberg Community Beach House, and the well-publicized 747 Wing House.  The displays included large concept posters with plenty of photos, and models of the projects.  The 747 House display even had a portion of reclaimed aircraft displayed alongside it.

OMG Shoes!

Another multiple-faceted display was the Esquivel Shoes.  Some shoes were presented in vitrines and display cases, while in front of this a work table had been place on which shoes in various states of construction had been placed.  This display revealed the craftsmanship and artistry that curator Rose Apodaca identifies as qualities that constitute the “Reaction” to the “Action” of mass produced, cheap clothing.

High Inquisitor pick: Felt Chairs by Tanya Aguiñiga.

- H.I.

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