Friday, August 5, 2016

New York City, Part 2: The Museums

I traveled to New York largely to see the costume exhibits. My trip was actually fairly short: I was gone for 7 days, but two of those days were mostly travel. I worked for two days, which left three days to squeeze in everything else. I set one of day aside to see both the Manus X Machina exhibit (at the Met), and the Isaac Mizrahi exhibit (at the Jewish Museum). The Whitney Museum is near the New York office, so I also ran over one day at lunch to check it out. The Whitney has been at their new location for just over a year now.

That means I did not have time to see the Uniformity exhibit at the FIT Museum. I will make sure to stop by on my next trip, though it won't be the same exhibit. I didn't mind missing this one, too much.

I also had no time to visit Philadelphia for the Vlisco exhibit of African wax prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I would have loved to see that exhibit, but it ends on January 22nd, and it's unlikely that I can get there before then.

This is another long, picture-laden post, so buckle up!

Manus X Machina Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In front of the Metropolitan.
Photo credit: Mary Glenn

This exhibit motivated me to schedule the trip to NYC. I've been wanting to see some of the costume exhibits mounted annually at the Met, and when I saw The First Monday in May movie, I decided it was time. I just couldn't stand missing another of these fabulous exhibits!

Mary Glenn of Inspired Sewing joined Robin and I. Mary Glenn is one of Diane Ericson's "angel assistants" at Design Outside the Lines. She lives in Philadelphia and was willing to take the train to the city for the day. It was great to meet her in person!

Manus x Machina has been well documented in the media, on blogs, and in a companion book. The point of the exhibit is to examine how designers fuse handwork (Manus) with machines, be it sewing machines, pleating machines, 3D printers, or other forms of technology (Machina).

It's a brilliant concept and the garments ranged widely. The exhibit was somewhat overwhelming—it's spread over 2 floors of the museum. The main floor contains the garments that seem to be the most often blogged, and there were gorgeous and classic garments there, but I was more intrigued by the garments on the basement level, which were often less wearable and more avant garde, more conceptual.

I will mostly describe those garments, with a few exceptions.

This garment is the centerpiece of the entire exhibit. We start with a wedding dress, which is rather backwards in a fashion show!

This wedding ensemble, from the 2014-2015 Autumn/Winter collection, design by Karl Lagerfeld as part of the Chanel collection.

"This ensemble, which Lagerfeld has described as "haute couture without the couture," exemplifies the confluence of the hand (manus) and the machine (machina). Made from a scuba knit, a synthetic material, the dress is hand molded, machine sewn, and hand finished."

"Maison Desrues (founded 1929) hand embroidered the buttons with gold, glass, and crystals, and Atelier Montex (founded 1939) hand embroidered the medallion with glass, crystals, paillettes, anthracite cannetilles, and gold leather leaf motifs."

"The train of scuba knit and silk satin is machine sewn and hand finished."

"Lagerfeld's hand-drawn design was digitally manipulated to give it the appearance of a randomized, pixelated baroque pattern and then realized through a complex amalgam of hand and machine techniques. Atelier Lunas (founded 1993) used a heat press to transfer the rhinestones; Atelier Anne Gelbard (founded 1997) painted the gold metallic pigment by hand; and the pearls and gemstones were hand embroidered by Cécile Henri Atelier (founded 1982)."

The "Floating Dress" by Hussein Chalayan, a British designer born in Cyprus, from his 2011-2012 Autumn/winter collection. This is a "dress" in only the loosest sense of the word. The model steps into the garment from behind. The door closes and it moves via remote control. (It's on wheels.) "Cast fiberglass painted with gold metallic pigment, hung with Swarovski crystal and pearled paper "pollens", rear-entry panels with motorized hinges, radio-controlled digital handset."

In Hussein Chalayan's own words: "[This dress is] made from cast fiberglass that has been [machine] painted with gold metallic pigment, and [hand] 'embroidered' with fifty 'pollens' created from crystals and pearled paper. The wearer enters the dress through a rear-access panel, and the entire garment, which is on wheels, is operated via remote control. Each 'pollen' is spring loaded. During a peak moment, all the pollens are released into the air and swirl around the wearer. It was intended as a poetic gesture, as the dress is meant to symbolize new beginnings."

The museum also showed a video of the dress in action, and I found the same video on Youtube:

Note that the model steps out of the dress before the "pollens" are released. I suspect that this is to avoid entanglement in the model's hair, or smacking her in the arms or face. That's my suspicion, anyway, as these little pollens don't use sophisticated technology when deploying. ;)

These pieces, by Maiko Takeda, a Japanese designer, are from his 2013 collection and are entitled "Atmospheric Reentry" Ensemble. "Hand-cut transparent yellow- and green-ombre acetate fringe, hand-woven with machine-cut clear acrylic squares, hand assembled with silver metal jump rings, cast-aluminum strap."

Maiko Takeda's Atmosphereic Reentry Headpiece and Bolero. In Maiko Takeda's own words: "Through the experiment process, I developed the technique to create a visual effect of intangible aura by layering printed clear film, sandwiched to keep something tactile and analog about them. I didn't want to use LED lights or anything with a motor of battery. The effect is that [they] look somehow digital, but the point was they were all made of [the] tactile and low-tech materials around us."

Gareth Pugh had two of his "straw" dresses on display from his 2015-2016 Autumn/winter collection. "Machine-sewn white silk-wool gazar with overlay of white mesh, hand-embroidered with clear plastic drinking straws."

In Gareth Pugh's own words: "Every straw was cut by hand... . They were attached individually with metal hardware—a little twisted jewelry fitting that hooked onto the fabric base. On the runway, you could hear them before you saw them. And they moved beautifully—like feathers caught in a gust of wind."

Mary McFadden's pleated dresses were displayed near Issey Miyake's Pleats Please garments. I didn't include McFadden's pieces here, but here are some Miyake pieces:

One of Miyake's dresses from his Pleats Please collection. When not worn, it collapses to a flat disc. This display shows how the piece looks as it's lifted up. Also, on the back wall, you can see a garment before and after pleating, when it's much narrower.

Three more pieces from Miyake's Pleats Please collection. Here the garments are laid flat.

The same three garments, on mannequins.

I love Iris van Herpen's avant garde work and this exhibit featured several of her pieces. This dress, on the right, is from her 2013-2014 Autumn/winter collection. "Machine-sewn black cotton twill, hand-painted with gray and purple polyurethane resin and iron filings, hand-sculpted with magnets."

In Iris van Herpen's own words: "[This] dress has a base made from cotton fabric. Then there is a rubber component—a soft rubber—in which we place metal powder. When you mix everything together, the rubber has a few minutes when it is still wet and soft. We pour the rubber onto the cotton fabric. Then we place magnets above and below, and you see the metal powder grow piece by piece—in a matter of seconds—before it sets. The coloration is exquisite because while the rubber is still wet and soft, we add a very thin enamel powder that has iridescent qualities."

This dress, on the left, is by Proenza Schouler for their Autumn/winter 2015-2016 collection. "Machine-sewn black silk chiffon, hand-embroidered with silver plastic paillettes." In the words of Lazaro Hernandez and Jac McCullough, the designers: "We wanted the embroideries to look like astrakhan—to have the texture of astrakhan. So we laid all the sequins on their sides, which resulted in a furry-looking, three-dimensional sensibility. They were so densely placed that each ensemble comprised three hundred thousand paillettes. The shine was so strange—sort of metallic but pearlized at the same time."

The dress on the right, from Alexander McQueen's Spring/summer 2012 collection, and designed by Sarah Burton. "Hand- and machine-sewn nude silk organdy and net, hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, freshwater pearls, pieces of coral, and dyed shells."

In Sarah Burton's own words: "A lot of our embroideries are designed in our atelier, then sent to India to be executed, like the finale [pieces] in my spring/summer 2012 collection. Everything was done by hand—the embroidery, the cutting and fraying .. . It took days and days to finish. I lost track of the hours."

This jacket, from the House of Dior and designed by John Galliano for their Autumn/winter 1997-1998 collection. "Hand-cut and hand-pieced white leather, machine-topstitched, with hand-sewn wire frame."

On the left: A dress for Alexander McQueen by Sarah Burton. In her words: "In [this dress]... I bonded laser-cut patent leather to tulle. The tulle was covered in hand-cut lace appliqués. Every technique was incredibly labor-intensive. The collection was based on the merging of oceanic and human life—the idea of an all-encompassing underwater world. I wanted the dress to look like a coral skeleton."

On the right: A dress by Iris van Herpen. In her words: "[This] patent-leather dress ... was entirely laser cut. I use a lot of leather in my fashions. I like the fact that each skin is different. Leather is so natural, so formable, that you can give it your signature."

A dress from Iris van Herpen's Spring/summer 2015 collection. "Machine-sewn black polyester microfiber and cotton twill, hand-finished, hand-embroidered with clear thermoformed laser-cut acrylic, hand-joined with clear silicon connectors."

In Iris van Herpen's own words: "This dress is made from laser-cut silicone chevrons that have been baked in an oven. I assembled the dress myself—by hand—one Christmas. It took days and days, but it was a fun process—like Lego—a gigantic puzzle. I call the technique 3-D lacework."

Paco Rabanne coat from 1967. "Machine-sewn black wool knit with overlay of hand-cut black leather and black astrakhan hand-joined by silver metal rings."

A dress for Valentino by the designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Picciolli for their Spring/summer 2016 collection. "Machine-sewn black machine-made lace and silk tulle, hand-sewn and hand-riveted with strips of fringed black leather."

For Comme Des Garçons and designed by Kei Ninomiya for their Spring/summer 2015 collection. "Machine-sewn black polyester with overlay of laser-cut synthetic leather hand-joined with silver metal rivets in a lattice pattern"

And here are a few more classic pieces of couture, a bit more wearable than the more avant garde pieces.

House of Dior's "Junon" Dress from their Autumn/winter 1949-1950 collection.

"Machine-sewn, hand-finished pale green silk faille and taffeta foundation, hand-sewn pale blue silk tulle embroidered with sequins, hand-appliqué of forty-five hand-cut pale blue silk tulle and horsehair petals, hand-embroidered with opalescent, blue, green, and orange gelatin sequins."

By Karl Lagerfeld for the House of Chanel. This ensemble is from their Spring/summer 2010 collection. "Dress: pink silk chiffon and charmeuse, hand-embroidered with pink silk satin flowers, pearls, and pink frosted crystals, hand-finished. Cape: 1300 hand-pieced pink silk satin flowers by Lemarié with pink frosted crystals."

In Karl Lagerfeld's own words: "The pink cape was made from 1300 satin camellias... . They grew from small flowers at the collar to large flowers at the hem. Chanel was very discreet with the camellia—brooches, corsages."

There are more garments in the exhibit than I've shown here. If you want to see more, either travel to New York (the exhibit has been extended to September 5th, 2016), or you can buy the companion catalog.

Which are my favorite pieces? It would have to be Iris van Herpen's work. She has such an artistic vision and her work is so varied. I mean, how did she think up making a dress out of iron filings using magnets and glue?!?!?! I bow down before her genius!

At this point, we broke for lunch at the Met cafe, as a mental palate cleanser. Well, to be honest, I first did a little shopping in the Met store, using my 10% discount...

The earrings are 3D printed and the necklace is composed of wire mesh balls, which are hard to see in this pic. I also bought a pleated bracelet, which you can just barely make out in the top photo of me standing in front of the Met.

Isaac Mizrahi Exhibit at the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum, on the "Museum Mile", not far from the Met

After the Met, my head was buzzing, and I was at risk of mental shutdown, but I was determined to see Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History at the Jewish Museum, not far from the Met on the Museum Mile. Robin begged out of this exhibit, but Mary Glenn and I soldiered on.

I'm so glad we did—I loved it! It's much smaller than Manus X Machina at the Met (thank goodness!), so it's much easier to digest. In addition to three rooms of his clothing, costumes, sketches, and fabric swatches, there's a short film about Isaac's career. I like Isaac Mizrahi and his designs, which often have a very whimsical quality, and this exhibit was delightful.

Here are some of the highlights of the exhibit, which ends on August 7th, in just two days.

Many of his sketches were on display as well as a wall of fabric swatches he's collected over the decades (not shown).

Mary Glenn particularly liked this sketch—I do too!

I like this wool plaid dress with buckles and fringe.

He called this dress, from his Fall 1994 collection, his "lumberjack ball gown".

His "exploded tulip dress", made from printed silk crepe for spring 1992. "These two garments (also his exploded poppy, not shown) pay homage to the photographer Irving Penn. Mizrahi's design assitants created a series of new photographs in the style of Penn's Flower series from the late 1960s. He worked closely with fabric printers to pioneer an elegant means of printing these large-scale photographs onto fabrics, which were then transformed into dresses, suits, tops, and scarves. An ankle-length shift becomes a surface for a tulip that extends from neck to hem, while a poppy delicately sways on a short, pleated dress. Elemental tailoring, as spare as Penn's own photography, emphasizes the graphic quality of the images."

I love this "purse hat"!

This "swirl ensemble" is probably my favorite in the exhibit, other than his costumes. The swirl on the jacket is created with wooden beads sewn to a base fabric. I'd wear this!

"the real thing: Coca-Cola can paillette dress, spring 1994."
"Mizrahi worked with the charity We Can, which employed homeless New Yorkers to gather and flatten Coke cans. These were then shipped to the luxury Parisian sequin maker Langlois-Martin, who cut the aluminum into paillettes. The paillettes were sent to India along with the dress patterns, where they were hand-embroidered onto silk before finally being returned to Mizrahi's New York workshop."
I'd wear this, too, with leggings!

And who wouldn't want a translucent shoulder lobster?!?!?!

It doesn't seem to be widely known, but Isaac Mizrahi loves to design costumes, particularly for ballet. I knew this because I sometimes have his QVC shows on in the background while sewing. He recently talked about designing costumes for the 2015 production of Mark Morris's Acis and Galatea. The exhibit featured his costumes in their own room and included a video showing some of them in action on stage.

I neglected to photograph this placard, but these might be from Peter and the Wolf.
That dress is pretty much to die for.

This ostrich is "shredded synthetic chiffon and papier-maché, 2014."
"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Magic Flute Opera Theater of Saint Louis.
Directed and with costume design by Isaac Mizrahi."

The owl, also from The Magic Flute. "Hand-painted stretch synthetic velvet, papier-maché, and feathers, 2014."

"duckie, cotton and tulle, 2013."
Sergei Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Direction, costume and set design, and narration by Isaac Mizrahi
"Annually since 2007, Mizrahi has narrated Prokofiev's 1936 musical fable at the Guggenheim Museum. In 2013 he directed and designed a production, which he set in Central Park. The artist Maira Kalman was cast in the role of Duckie. Mizrahi imagined the character as an 'NPR-listening, PBS-watching school-teachery kind of duck,' and fashioned her costume with the lights and most symbolic of means. It consisted of a tutu, black-and-white striped tights, a canvas tote bag, swimmer's flippers, and a bill made of felt affixed to her eyeglasses."

Platée with two frog attendants.
Platée: "Hand-painted Lycra spandex and hand-painted stretch georgette, 1997"
Frog attendants: "Hand-painted Lycra spandex bodysuits, molded rubber heads, 1997."
Jean-Philippe Rameau, Platée, Royal Opera, Edinburgh Festival Theater
Directed and choreographed by Mark Morris, costume design by Isaac Mizrahi
"Rameau's 1745 satiric opera tells the story of Platée, an amphibian creature tricked by Jupiter into thinking she is to be his new wife. Mizrahi imagines her as a bumbling matron, like the eternally deluded dowager in Marx Brothers movies. 'I have this fantasy that she's the Margaret Dumont of eighteenth-century swamp creatures.'"

I love Isaac Mizrahi's sense of whimsy and his wild and fanciful imagination! If you want more, check out this companion book to the exhibition.

Whitney Museum of American Art

I probably would not have made it to the Whitney, if it weren't near the Google NYC office, where I worked for two days of my trip. The Whitney has been open at this location for a little over a year. The views from the museum are wonderful, overlooking the Hudson River on one side, and the trendy meatpacking district, and the High Line, on the other. When the museum opened at its new location in 2015, it was profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, so I knew a little about it.

I was advised to start on the 8th floor and work my way down. The Whitney has a lot of outdoor space, as well as indoor space. The first several floors can be accessed through outside staircases, providing wonderful views, worthwhile even on a hot day.

I'm going to start with probably my favorite exhibit in the museum! (Though I loved a lot of the exhibits!) This statue, many feet taller than I am, stands in an 8th floor gallery, facing a mirrored wall. His head was damaged and it was curious to see him face the mirror, as if studying his injuries. He also had a drippy looking material on his coat, landing on the floor. I was perplexed by this, and captivated, when I suddenly realized that it was wax, and he's a giant candle!!! The flame was lit and a bit hard to see, down in his brain stem.

He is watching himself melt!!!!


Urs Fischer
b. 1973; Zurich, Switzerland
Standing Julian, 2015
Wax, pigment, steel, and wicks
"Standing Julian is a portrait of Urs Fischer's friend and fellow artist Julian Schnabel. The massive sculpture is also a wax candle: lit every morning and extinguished each night, Standing Julian will slowly melt over the course of the exhibition. Although this candle will eventually burn down and be discarded—a process that evokes the inevitable transience of life—the sculpture can also be recast and lit anew. As Fischer explained, his waxworks allow 'materials and images take on their own life.' "

Julian and I in the mirrored wall—me taking the photograph and he, watching himself melt. You can get an idea of how tall he is.

Once I realized that this was a candle, I made sure to capture the flame. I had to hold my phone way above my head to get this pic.

This painting is hung near the giant candle of Julian. Wow, do I relate to this woman, though she has smaller boobs and bigger hips than I do. ;)
Larry Rivers
b. 1925, Bronx, NY
Double Portrait of Berdie, 1955
Oil, fabricated chalk, and charcoal on linen
"The woman depicted here is Larry Rivers's mother-in-law, Berdie Burger, who was the artist's primary model in the early 1950s, when she lived with Rivers and her daughter in Southampton, NY. Seen by critics as heralding Rivers's mature style, the painting registers a range of influences, from the detailed interiors of Impressionism to the expressive brushwork and ambitious scale of the New York School. By depicting the figure simultaneously in two poses—suggesting a time lapse—Rivers emphasizes the process of creation and the active role of both artist and model in creating a fictive scene."

I loved this painting of a young black man wearing a stark white trenchcoat and aviator glasses!
Barkley L. Hendricks
b. 1945, Philadelphia, PA
Steve, 1976
Acrylic and oil on linen
Barkley L. Hendricks began making full-size portraits of his friends and neighbors in the late 1960s. Steve depicts a young man he met on the street. Sharply dressed and striking a pose at once commanding and detached, the figure emerges from a flat white ground. Steve is the first of several portraits in which Hendricks used what he has described as a "limited palette" to purposefully contrast with the complexity of an individual sitter's personality. Within the reflection of Steve's sunglasses the viewer can discern the glass windows of Hendricks's studio and the artist's face, making this work a double portrait."

View of the Hudson from the museum

They had a lot of space dedicated to Liz Craft, who creates fascinating multimedia projects, using paper mache, clothing, and knotted yarn. Unfortunately, I did not photograph all of the placards, so I don't have complete information on these pieces.

Liz Craft
b. 1970; Los Angeles, CA
Spider Woman 1 (Stripes), 2014
Papier-maché, yarn, and mixed media

I didn't buy anything in their gift shop, but I certainly enjoyed these pillows, made from sweater knit!

There were many more wonderful works of art at the Whitney, and I took many more photos, but this is a sampling. You can watch a video of this museum, released when it opened at its new location in 2015, on the CBS News Sunday Morning website. (One of my favorite TV shows ever!)

I have sooo much more to post about my trip to NYC, but this has taken me hours and hours, and it's time for work, so stay tuned for more later!

Have a great day!