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Aware: Art Fashion Identity – Royal Academy of Arts

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Aware of clothes and identity at Royal Academy of Arts. 

Thursday, 2nd December 2010 – David Franchi

“GSK Contemporary –Aware: Art Fashion Identity” opens at the Royal Academy of Arts from the 2nd December until the next 30th January.

It will be a success, not only for the works of art on display but because of the underlie concept which is ‘clothes’. This exhibition deals with artists that continuously have used clothes to express concepts linked to the context and to both individual and collective identity.

This is the third season of contemporary art at the Royal Academy of Arts. Curators, Kathleen Soriano, Gabi Scardi, Lucy Orta and Edith Devaney, pay credit to pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, for supporting exhibitions for these three seasons, and to womenswear brand Bastyan, for their help of Salon Talks.

Aware exhibition, in fact, includes a series of salon talks, a symposium at London College of Fashion, family days and architecture walks.

Clothes have always been a primary reference to identity, they are shelter, an element fundamental to physical survival, an interface between self and others, between what we are and what we wish to reveal of ourselves. Clothes are nucleus of many artists research and relate to new contexts and new values, social environment and their transformation.

The exhibition consists in four sections. The first, “Storytelling”, deals with the depiction clothes make of personal and cultural history. Being the show on the first floor, at the middle on the staircase we can meet the fascinating Grayson Perry’s Artist’s Robe’ (2004), an embroidered silk brocade, leather, printed linen and ceramic button. It is a combination of historical references of the traditional kimono, the notion of clothing and uniform of secret society.

In the first room, notably Marie Ange Guilleminot’s ‘Kimono memories’ (2005) inspired to belongings of victims of Hiroshima atomic bombing.

Another piece is ‘A –Z Fibre form Uniforms’ by Andrea Zittel (2003-06) an example of artist’s preoccupation of creating uniforms for different tasks.

The second section, “Building”, covers the concept of clothing being used as a form of protection and the notion of carrying one’s own shelter, referring to nomadic, portable nature of modern life.

Maria Papadimitriou’s ‘Sewing together’ is a result of the experience of the artist in working with a community of Greek Roma. It is a symbolic cloth linked to tradition and beliefs.

Following is ‘Shelter Me 1‘ (2005) by Mella Jaarsma a Dutch artist migrated to Indonesia whose work reflects the process to adapt to a new environment lifestyle and traditions.

The third gallery “Belonging and Confronting” examines ideas of nationality as well as displacement and political and social confrontation.

Here the witty video installation ‘Chic Point’ (2003) by Palestinian artist Sharif Waked, transforming in a fashion catwalk the humiliating experience at the Israeli check point, where clothes must be taken off for security purposes.

Remarkable the Yinka Shonibare MBE ‘Little rich girls’ (2010) commissioned especially for this exhibition. Shonibare continued is exploration of post colonial Africa and worked with well known tailor Chris Stevens. They created 18 designs based on 19th century children’s dress, made of wax – printed cotton batik fabric.

The final section, “Performance”, deepen the roles that fashion and clothing play in our daily life. This is maybe the most remarkable section.

Opening with Alexander McQueen’s ‘Red lace dress covering head from Joan – Autumn Winter Collection 1998-99’ one of the most pictured work of the fashion designer who suicide just few months ago.

Aside of it there is the appealingly ‘Marcello who arrives by train’ (2001) by Marcello Maloberti, a four piece photographs taken in an Algerian barber’s in Milan where expatriates men in red clocks are familiarizing in their own culture environment.

Following a space for Gillian Wearing’s ‘Sixty minute silence’ (1996). This video piece examines the authority of clothing and dynamic of group. People dressed in police uniforms are arranged in the ranked pose. As time elapses they start to squirm and individuality of each one of them emerges.

Another piece commissioned especially for this exhibition is the Hussein Chalayan ‘Son of Souzi Surn’ (2010) which presents a new dress inspired by the Japanese tradition of Bunraku puppet theatre. Chalayan – who with McQueen exploded on the scene in the mid 90’s – in this installation examines the manipulation of the fashion industry.

Next is the Andreas Gursky’s ‘Kuwait stock exchange I’ (2007) a digitally manipulated photograph of Kuwait stock exchange workers wearing traditional Arabian thab robe and ghutra head dress creating an undistinguished mass of individuals.

Also on view the outstandingly film footage of Yoko Ono’s performance of ‘Cut Piece’ at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York (1965) for which the artist invited the public to cut strips from her clothing. While the scraps of fabric fall to the floor, the unveiling of the female body suggests the total destruction of the barriers imposed by convention.

Additionally another famous film footage of the Marina Abramovic ’Imponderabilia’ (1977, re-enacted in 2010). At an exhibition opening in June 1977 at the Museum of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Bologna, Marina Abramovic and performer artist Ulay stood naked at the side of an entrance opposite each other, kept staring each other like statues. The people streaming in had to squeeze one by one through the gap between the two, unable to avoid physical contact. The two artists are forming a physical frame, confronting the involuntary participants passing through the “birth canal” with the decision which side to face, exposing them all to an unfamiliar own bodies sensation between shame and an awareness and to close physical contact with another human being which is generally considered disturbing between strangers.

A interesting exhibition this one. Though something seems to be not really well –blended, but more working in spots, it really worth to pay a visit.

photo: Royal Academy of Arts.

Published for: www.italoeuroepo.co.uk

Direct Link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/eventes-great-britain-%28london%29/show/aware:-art-fashion-identity-%e2%80%93-royal-academy-of-arts/

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Written by davidfranchi

December 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm

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