Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies

Fashion can be many things, likeable or not. Among these, fashion as theater is one aspect that gives it a certain kind of excitement. And by theater I don’t mean a mere parade of lavish outfits, but a convergence of the immaterial, in the form of designer’s ideas, with the material, in the form of a show that makes your heart jump even if for a second. Anyone familiar with the runway presentations of Alexander McQueen of Hussein Chalayan will know what I’m talking about. The fact that there is an incredible amount of painstaking work that leads up to the spectacle that lasts a mere fifteen minutes makes it all the more exciting because of how irrational the whole thing is.

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M to M of M/M (Paris)

That graphic design can unite fashion, art, and music is an unusual proposition, certainly one I haven’t thought about, but going through the new book M to M of M/M (Paris) (Rizolli, $85) was an eye-opening experience. It makes sense on a basic creative level. All three disciplines demand visual representation and M/M, the design firm that has worked with the likes of Bjork, Yohji Yamamoto, and Hans Ulrich Olbrist since 1992 does it by putting the three disciplines through their own stylistic prism.


Enslaved and Pallbearer at the Bowery Ballroom

It was the last night of their North American tour and Enslaved, the Norwegian black metal band, did not seem tired in the least. Coming off a stretch of shows to promote their new album RIITIIR, Enslaved toured the states with fellow bands Pallbearer, Ancient VVisdom and Royal Thunder. The Bowery Ballroom was sold out and most in attendance chose to stay in the main room, shirking the basement bar in order to hear the bands. Each performance brought with it a different sound from folk-metal (Ancient VVisdom) and southern doom rock (Royal Thunder) to Pallbearers brand of old-school doom and finally the prog-black metal that Enslaved have refined over the past 22 years.

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Exhibit Review: Dan Flavin and Donald Judd

The nine grand Dan Flavin works and one big five-unit Donald Judd aluminum cube installation, now collectively up at the David Zwirner gallery on 20th Street will serve as a slap in the back of the head for anyone who thinks they’ve had enough of minimalist art.

And, as much as I want “to get” the elevating art historical language that dust-devils around these works, and American minimalism in general, the best response I have come across to date and the one most appropriate to describe this show, is Kirk Varnedoe’s clear-eyed description from his 2003 A.W. Mellon Lectures delivered at the National Gallery. In the process of debunking the theory that the CIA actively promoted American abstract expressionism to highlight “the freedom of the individual” against Communism, Varnedoe described minimalism as follows –


Book Review: Dark Romanticism

“Romanticism is a grace, celestial or infernal, that bestows us eternal stigmata.”
Charles Baudelaire

In recent years museums have paid quite a bit of attention to the dark side of human emotion, from the brilliant 2006 Czech exhibit “In Morbid Colors,” to the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met in New York, where McQueen’s own darkness was cloaked in an aura of romanticism by the curator Andrew Bolton, to this year’s “Death: A Self-Portrait” at the Welcomme Collection in London.

As part of the ongoing exhibition series called “Romantic Impulse,” the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt au Main, Germany recently held an exhibit called “Dark Romanticism: From Goya to Max Ernst,” which finished last month. But don’t worry if you missed it – the exhibit was accompanied by a three hundred-page catalog, published by Hatje-Cantz, that is hitting the shelves on this side of the pond (the exhibit itself will travel to Musee d’Orsay in Paris this spring).


Studio Visit: Alexandre Plokhov

Yesterday I visited Alexandre Plokhov’s studio in New York’s Flatiron district to check out his Fall/Winter 2013 collection. Plokhov was in a pretty serene mood despite his mind-boggling schedule (he was hopping on the plane the same afternoon to go to Premiere Vision in Paris.).

The collection reflected Plokhov’s continuous refinement of his style. In a way Plokhov presented a full wardrobe, from the most casual to the most sophisticated looks – there was even his version of a tuxedo (perhaps for our fist black tie party?).


Luc Tuymans : The Summer is Over

To stand in front of a painting by Luc Tuymans means accepting that while you can “get” what it’s about you can never really say you fully understand it. This later point stings in that his paintings calmly stand as a rebuke that so much of what we think we have independently earned in terms of knowledge or sophisticated understanding is really just second hand.

What makes it uncomfortable at times to look at Tuymans’s paintings for an extended period is the sickening feeling that comes out of the inability to engage the paintings using our own eyes and wits.  The paintings lay bare, in the here and now, our intellectual impotence to create meaning from them without inside knowledge.

And then it kind of dawns on you, maybe that impotence shadows you in some form or other wherever you go. Maybe, to a large extent, you are only as good as your information.


Lost & Found: Rooms

Lost & Found, the artisanal Italian label designed by Ria Dunn, has launched an online shop called Rooms. Here, you can buy L&F archival pieces in addition to their adorable children’s wear, which sprang up from Dunn’s desire to make clothes for her own two kids.

Taking the creative approach, Dunn’s husband, the photographer Alessandro Esteri, shot all stock with Instagram, which superbly matches the label’s purposefully unpolished aesthetic. Shipping is available worldwide.


Fall Books, Part 1 | In Case You Missed the Show…

To think of Christopher Wool only as a painter is to deprive oneself enjoyment of his accomplishments as a bookmaker and photographer. For three decades now Wool has brought to bear his trademark attention to detail, professionalism, intelligence and disquieting use of copy and re-presentation to over 30 books. While some were published in miniscule edition that would be rough to come by now, the admirable thing about Wool is that each of his book projects – regardless of price — is produced with the care normally reserved for more valuable and marketable works of art. In this regard, a book by Wool is part and parcel of his artistic practice.

Rather than merely document and reproduce his works — as art books traditionally do –the design of each publication pushes further the questions his paintings raise about authorship, the original, the copy, gesture, mechanical reproduction (silkscreen,, photography, Xerox), seriality, reading (of books, of paintings), and the glitch versus the mark.

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Gallery Aesthete Opens in Chicago

A new menswear store bowed in Chicago two weeks ago – Gallery Aesthete. A brain child of Stephen Naparstek, the owner of Bonnie and Clyde’s, the new shop offers a carefully selected designer lineup in a stark space designed by Lukas Machnik. Next to the established names like Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garcons, and Rick Owens hang clothes by Boris Bidjan Saberi, InAisce and Julius. Faliero Sarti scarves round up the collection. A rotating selection of fine art will be displayed alongside the garments and accessories, to highlight Naparstek’s view that the boundaries between fashion and art have been blurred.