A lively and engaging retrospective look at wearable art as it has grown and changed over the past 35 years. The exhibition of approximately 100 objects will chart the genre’s development from embroidered and crocheted hippie style, to grand, one-of-a-kind woven, knitted, and dyed garments that are equally at home on the body and on the wall, to the more fashion-oriented works of the 1990s.
Curated for the Fine Arts Museums by Melissa Leventon, principal of Curatrix Group Museum Consultants and former Fine Arts Museums Curator of Textiles, Artwear will feature the permanent collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The eclectic and provocative display will be augmented by works in public and private collections in the United States and abroad. Many of the pioneers of the genre live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they will be featured along with artists from elsewhere in the United States, and from Europe and Asia. Mid-way through the span of exhibition, approximately a third of the costumes on display will change in a rotation of the works.
Wearable art--garments made by artists from their own hand-made textiles--sprang from counterculture street fashions of the 1960s. Its development in its twin centers of the Bay area and New York was influenced by the era’s feminism, interest in non-western cultures, movements like Pop Art, and the development of studio craft practice. The term encompasses one-of-a-kind works, limited editions, and costumes made for performance. Wearable art can be said to occupy the intersection between art, craft, and fashion: it is first and foremost an art of materials and processes, and its creators, most of whom are women, are passionate about making art with textiles. Despite its fashionable origins, the creators of wearable art have set their works apart from fashion; yet the genre has been drawn inexorably closer to fashion ever since its inception.
The exhibition will also chart new territory, such as the performance aspect of art to wear as exemplified by artists such as Kaisik Wong, Seattle’s Friends of the Rag, and New Yorker Pat Oleszko. Wearable art’s relationship to the popular use of unwearable garments as artistic metaphor will also be explored. In addition, the exhibition will set wearable art in context as one in a long line of art and dress reform movements by including costumes from its antecedents, such as the Wiener Werkstätte, Mariano Fortuny, and Liberty of London. Related trends in contemporary fashion will be examined as well, with the inclusion of works by designers such as Kansai Yamamoto and Issey Miyake.
Artwear: Fashion and Anti-fashion will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, entitled Art to Wear: Fashion and Anti-fashion, published by the Fine Arts Museums in collaboration with Thames & Hudson.