Art of the In-Between
New York, 1000 Fifth Avenue
Since the founding of The Comme des Garçons ( “like some boys” ) in 1969, the Tokyo based designer Rei Kawakubo (born 1942) is one of fashion's most influential designers. Through her career, she consistently challenged, defined and redefined the aesthetics of our time — no wonder why The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute is celebrating her avant-garde designs.
The show is about Kawakubo’s career, upon her request, it is not a retrospective and examines and highlights key themes that have inspired and continue to expand her creativity. In the exhibition, there are approximately 140 examples of Kawakubo’s womanswear for Comme des Garçons from the early 80s to her most recent collection.
In the show, the objects are organized divided into nine aesthetic categories of ‘’in-betweenness’’: Absence/Presence; Design/Not Design; Fashion/Antifashion; Model/Multiple; High/Low; Then/Now; Self/Other; Object/Subject and Clothes/Not Clothes. The in-betweenness can be interpreted as koans in Zen Buddhism where dualities form the meaning. According to Kawakubo, it is impossible for koan mu (emptiness) and ma (space) to not coexist because one cannot be felt with the absence of the other.
The designs are very daring and experimental, creating visual ambiguities and enigmas. Often times, the modification of the garments suggest the modes of expressions of the body. What is defined as an abstract image, becomes a reality. What is inspiring is that the actual body and the dress body have no limits, altogether, they form an idea. According to Kawakubo, by designing shapeless, abstract and intangible clothes, she not only challenges the notion of the accepted female body image culturally and historically but also liberates and unites both the body and the clothes.
The exhibition runs through September 4, 2017.