As a devotee of his runways in the late 90s and early aughts, I was mighty curious to see this exhibition. The press release describes his use of materials “with a certain history, elements with irreplaceable presence and with scars and memories of a former purpose.” Right then. I was all ready for a nostalgia trip, a slideshow of campaigns featuring his favorite model, Kirsten Owen, captured by his favorite photographer Jurgen Teller, washing softly over my eyeballs as I walked to the Bowery.
Inside I was rewarded with an opportunity for contemplation that would last longer than the time I spent in the gallery and it looks like I won’t arrive at any conclusions during this post either: there’s always time for ruminating on the longevity of fashion; the recycling of clothing; the myth of a fashion icon and the destruction of it by his own hand; reinvention; the nature of fashion as art…
But the exhibition also provided fun objects to look at on a rainy January afternoon. If you imagine a fashion junkyard like the ones that take cars and crush them to flattened cubes, there was more than a suggestion of that. If you imagine a great big fashion-obsessed Cookie Monster had gobbled up Lang’s extensive archive, and the bits that fell out of his slobbering gob were swept together, sticky and half-chewed, it might resemble that. I experienced a certain satisfaction in noting the shards of the past protruding from the resin coated pieces: zippers, beads, needles, the stem of a pair of sunglasses, flickering memories of his fabulous metallics. The color palette was classic Lang, the layout of the sculptures had the pared down sparseness of his boutiques, but also recalled bolts of luxury fabric lined up in a fabric mill. Texture was often what elevated his catwalk shows above the sea of 90s minimalism and texture was spotlit in his sculptures here.
Helmut Lang’s sculptures are on view at Sperone Westwater gallery on the Bowery.
You’ve got until 21st February 2015.
Colorful endnote: One of my Lang purses from my own archive, a piece of art in itself.
If you are a fashion devotee. You like to wear it, look at it, and read about it too, check out my debut novel set in the international fashion industry. Get Silk for the Feed Dogs here.