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Textile design, Sonia Delaunay, 1929-30.
Gouache, ink, and pencil on paper.


 
 

 

 

       

 

Fashion on 5

 

 VC & A,
 Delaunay,
 McQueen.
 

 

 

Set off in style with the glitz, glitter, and glamour of the baubles and bangles and beads of Van Cleef & Arpels at the Cooper-Hewitt.  Some 350 pieces of jewelry are scattered around the downstairs most attractively—some glittering from within modern bulbous shapes of glass (the jewels far less fragile than their cases), other art deco pieces (that were deco before deco) sparkling beneath a forest of silver leaves that shimmer and rustle.

 


The Walska brooch pendant, New York, 1971

 

The jewellery of maharanis, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor -- all sumptuous splendor and unabashedly so (and yes, the self-promotion is quite brazen in this VC&A-financed exhibition).  Cuffs, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, minaudières at their best when both detailed and dramatic. Don’t question the mystery of the setting –- this is about the transformative power of jewelry that is itself capable of changing into other things: necklaces that zip and become bracelets; the marvelous bird (above) where the wings become earrings, the tail a brooch, and the pendant detaches to be worn separately; butterflies that hold within their gossamer colorful beauty the memories of different lives and foreign places and this along with the Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese influences give the entire scintillating show an air of mystery and international opulence.  Be dazzled!

 

Coat made for Gloria Swanson, Sonia Delaunay, 1923-24

 

Move on to the world of dynamic, rhythmic color upstairs at Color Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay.  Here it’s all about the calm contemplation of the possibilities of pigment (the crowds are gawking the jewels below).  Born Sonia Terk in an Ukraine village, the abstract painter renowned for her sense of color moved to Paris in 1905.  She later married the painter Robert Delaunay and the couple were particularly influenced by Michel-Eugène Chevreul’s work on color theory and the concept of simultaneity -- the idea that the color perceived is influenced by adjacent colors.   An abstract art that Delaunay adapted to fabrics, clothing, and interiors.  Boldly colored dresses, chicly-patterned diving caps and bathing suits -- a modern sensibility that is almost tribal in its strong lines and flat planes of color.  Color as a precursor to form and movement, color as everything here.  Hers is in essence a combinatory art—the juxtapositions of flat pure colors into abstract patterns, repeating floral motifs, geometries....

 


Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2001
Overdress of panels from a nineteenth-century Japanese silk screen; underdress of oyster shells

 

And then, finally, there’s the mad extravaganza of the must-see show of the moment: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Met.  We thought 'savage' a most appropriate word to describe the fabulously gothic and macabre sensibility that pervades this retrospective.  But everywhere Beast, and only fleeting glimpses of disfigured Beauty.  The titles of his collection are not subtle: Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims, Highland Rape.  McQueen on McQueen: “There’s something . . . kind of Edgar Allan Poe, kind of deep and kind of melancholic about my collections.”  If he was initially about drape and cut with his Savile Row training perhaps other instincts took over.  McQueen's legacy is all about spectacle, a certain theatrical drama.  His historical and cultural influences were diverse, ranged from the Japanese to Flemish painters, and his is an art of culling the particularly grotesque from his varied sources.  The mannequins are masked or have their hair hiding their faces (in shame or because they had nothing to say we couldn't quite tell but then surmised it was all about evoking a certain sense of the freakishly fashionable and this they do so well).  McQueen manages to make some of it quite lovely despite himself -- a tartan dress with jet beads and cream silk tulle, a row of dresses in brown that are almost poetic in sensibility (a dress from the Scanners collection of brown and ivory silk with metal sequins, a jute dress with an underskirt of gold organza, an overdress of panels from a nineteenth-century Japanese silk screen with an underdress of oyster shells (above).  But, always, it is all about the ensemble as a creation, some mad work of art -- the body beneath mere prop.  What does one care if the length might be unflatteringly long, or if the jute feels like sackcloth against the skin -- this is all about celebrating the fantastical imagination and legacy of the mad costumer (and yes, the exhibition is made possible by Alexander McQueen™ ).   

 

See: Set in Style, the Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, Cooper Hewitt Museum

 

See: Color Moves: Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay

 

See: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Metropolitan Museum of

*Since the crowds have been showing up in droves take advantage of the special viewing hours or try to sneak away on a weekday afternoon....

 

Tags: fashion   art  museums   color    pattern   jewelry

 

 

 
 

Peony brooch, 1937
Gold, platinum, diamonds, Mystery Set rubies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Tour Rouge,
Robert Delaunay, 1911
Oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Dress of black leather; collar of red pheasant feathers and resin vulture skulls, for Givenchy, 1997-98

 

McQueen on being MacAbre:
“[In this collection] my idea was this mad scientist who cut all these women up and mixed them all back together.”

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