Blurring the boundaries of fine art and fashion
Blurring the boundaries of fine art and fashion
An artist draws a picture. A designer prints it on a t-shirt. In the relentlessly inventive worlds of fashion and art, the standard collaboration has become just that: standard. As artists from collagists to photographers are proving, there are much more interesting ways to do it.
RAF SIMONS / STERLING RUBY
For an art enthusiast like Raf Simons, it’s no surprise that his Fall 14 collaboration with contemporary artist and longtime friend Sterling Ruby was a fully executed conceptual exercise. Ruby had previously designed a Tokyo store interior and bleached denim textiles for Simons, and four of the artist’s paintings appeared on satin gowns in the designer’s debut Dior couture collection. But dissolving the distinction between “designer” and “artist” was the entire point of the collaboration – a joint effort at every stage. Details down to cut, fit, and finishing were all decided on together, with Simons even proclaiming that the Raf Simons brand will cease to exist for the season. A look at the runway confirms the synthesis is total. As models walked underneath stuffed fang sculptures from Ruby’s “American Vampires” series, the bleach splatters, frayed patches, multicolored stripes, and fragments of text reading “FATHER” and “ABUS LANG” that are hallmarks of his collages reappeared as embellishment on sweatshirts, parkas, bomber jackets, and tailored overcoats. Oversized fits translated the monumental scale of Ruby’s work through Simons’ precision cuts. Both referenced the band patches they sewed on jackets as teenagers, and their inspiration shows in the collection’s infectious energy: an ode to teenage nostalgia and punk perfectionism.
Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Edward Arnold are collaborators of a much more conventional kind: photographer and art director. But their methods are far from orthodox. In pursuit of an “unexpected or iconic” final image, the duo draw on painting, chemistry, garment design, sculpture, and installation art. “The end goal is to represent an idea or insight in the purest way possible,” says Arnold. “We both appreciate a kind of single-mindedness, rigor, and craft.” Qualities shared by menswear designer Alexandre Plokhov, who enlisted the pair to create a runway environment and campaign imagery for his Spring 13 “Apostate/Acolyte” collection. Other designers they’d like to work with? “Anyone willing to take risks.” It’s an openness Cope and Arnold embraced when constructing the sculptural garments in their “Vedas” photo series, inspired by the worldview-shattering work of medieval astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. According to Arnold, the project evolved “from a formal study of monastic spaces to a narrative between architecture, belief, and the body. We were designing spaces that reflected asceticism, rigor, and discipline in miniature, so it only felt natural to evolve the same principles towards the architecture of clothes.” Space remains an appropriately boundless inspiration: the pair are currently at work on a short film set in a science fiction universe.
Selections from “Vedas,” “Aether,” and Alexandre Plokhov Spring 13 by Cope-Arnold
For collagist Jesse Draxler, all media is source material – and fashion editorials are a particularly beautiful kind. “I started using fashion imagery for purely aesthetic reasons,” says the Minneapolis-based artist. “Clear shots, unobstructed figures – it was easy to work with, and I was able to inject whatever I wanted.” Start with a great image, add Draxler’s distinctively curved cutouts and rearrangements, and the end result is striking – a process he compares to remixing a song, referring to his collages as “chopped and screwed.” His process has evolved to include original collaborations with fashion photographers, commissioning images that he then reconfigures. Draxler’s first series, done for CREEM magazine with photographer Anna Cone, remains his favorite editorial to date. Still, limits apply. “I usually want to obscure the models, or deform the figures until they are not so recognizable, and that doesn't always fly with the other people involved in these editorials.” The designer he’d most like to remix? “It’d be dope to do some work for Rick Owens.”
Jesse Draxler for Creem
Lorna Barnshaw leaves the facial distortion to computers. In her “Replicants” series, the London-based artist input photos of herself into three different digital rendering programs and then 3D printed the results, flaws and corruptions and all. “I wanted to portray that technology has flaws much similar to human error,” says Barnshaw. “In a world of advancements and augmentations, we sometimes get carried away with the future and forget about the present.” Selfies and death masks are frequent comparisons, but the questions her self-portraits raise about the reality of digital images are equally relevant to the heavily manipulated genre of fashion photography. Rendered with the same 3D printing technology designers are increasingly exploring, her “Replicants” offer an uncanny reminder that “the line between the real and the altered is becoming difficult to define.” Barnshaw further explores the issue in an upcoming project about the digital self and its constant shifting within social media. “Much against popular belief, I think we’re starting to portray more and more of our true selves,” she declares. “We rarely line up with a hired photographer in our best attire for a family portrait. Instead, we capture as we go.” Something to think about while scrolling through “candid” Fashion Week photos on Instagram.
Image credits: “Replicants” by Lorna Barnshaw