Artwork: Installation photograph from “Black Fashion Designers,” courtesy of The Museum at FIT, New York.
New York is abuzz as Fashion Week takes over the city with shows, parties, and special events now through February 16, 2017. For those looking for inspiration, a bevy of art shows around town will provide you with a wide array of fashion trends, history, and source materials. As Oscar Wilde so eloquently wrote, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” and indeed he was right.
Dapper Dan. Andre Walker. Hood By Air. Black fashion designers have blazed a trail wholly their own. Working both inside and outside of the industry, they have created work that has changed the game though their magnificent contributions have largely gone unrecognized. Black Fashion Designers works to right that work, presenting approximately 75 fashions by more than 60 designers from the 1950s to the present. Among the legends present are designs by Patrick Kelly, Lawrence Steele, Stephen Burrows, and Willi Smith. The exhibition has something for everyone, from the high glamour of evening gowns to cutting-edge streetwear. Black Fashion Designers is on view at The Museum at FIT through May 16, 2017.
Pyer Moss, ensemble, spring 2016, USA. Gift of Pyer Moss
Many Americans have been quick to appropriate sacred elements of Native American culture without knowing the history, the heritage, or the contemporary works made by the First Peoples of this land—but one exhibition works to set the record straight. Featuring nearly 70 works made over the past 50 years, Native Fashion Now opens at the National Museum of the American Indian on February 17, 2017, and runs through September 4, 2017. Focusing on women’s wear, the show is divided into four sections: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, and Provocateurs, and includes collaborations with major figures in the industry including Christian Laboutin and Donna Karan.
Thosh Collins, Jared Yazzie (Diné [Navajo]) for OxDx, Native Americans Discovered Columbus t-shirt, 2012. Cotton. Gift of Karen Kramer. Peabody Essex Museum, 2015.11.4. Photo by Thosh Collins.
French artist Valérie Belin has an intuitive gift for the space where beauty, glamour, artifice, surface, and disorder meet and fuse into a riotous blend of energy. Her newest series, All Star, features a selection of eleven large-scale color photographs that pull you into their spell. Combining portraits of feminine glamour with iconography taken from vintage comics, Belin weaves a wonderland of psychological complexity that moves between the sunshine of the fashion photograph and the mystique of film noir to create a new genre where the polarities of good and evil and joy and despair merge with endless ambiguity. Valérie Belin: All Star is on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery now through March 4, 2017.
Valérie Belin, Golden Girl, 2016. Archival pigment print © Valérie Belin. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York and Zurich.
We’ve all been there. A stain, a tear, or simply a hopelessly out of style cut renders a once-beloved garment unwearable. We may donate them to Goodwill in the hopes that they will have a second life. But what if there were something more that could be done: what if we held the power of this second life in our hands? Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse, a new exhibition, explores this idea at length with the work of three designers who put sustainability at the center of their design process: Luisa Cevese, founder of Riedzioni in Milan; Christina Kim, founder of dosa, inc., in Los Angeles; and Reiko Sudo, managing director at NUNO in Tokyo. The exhibition features forty works that examine new ways to reuse and recycle textiles, while combining them with local craft traditions and new technologies. Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse is on view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum now through April 16, 2017.
Luisa Cevese working on “Spreads Threads” mat. Courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Musuem, © Luisa Cevese Riedizioni.
The popular image of the Caucasian cowboy comes from Hollywood myths spurned on by fictional characters like The Lone Ranger. No figure like this has ever been shown to exist, but a parallel has been made to Bass Reeves (1838-1910), a black man born into slavery in Arkansas. He won his freedom after the Civil War and become one of the first black Deputy U.S. Marshals. Credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons during his 32-year-career, Bass is one of the true heroes of the Wild West.
The tradition Bass embodied lives on, not just in historical stories but also in the new millennium. A new exhibition, Black Cowboy, looks at this phenomenon as it is alive and well today. What might surprise folks is that it is happening in your backyard, with cowboys riding horses in cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore as well as across rural America. The exhibition is a study in the space where masculinity, black culture, and American history merge into the very essence of style and nobility. Black Cowboy is on view at the Studio Museum of Harlem through March 5, 2017.
Ron Tarver, “A Ride by North Philly Rows,” 1993, archival ink jet print, courtesy the artist
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.