Disobedient Bodies The Hepworth Wakefield / Yorkshire

June 21, 2017

With playful irreverence and a keen eye for formal associations, fashion designer Jonathan Anderson has created a level playing field for seminal works of art, iconic garments, ceramic pieces and design objects.

At the center of the exhibition, Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure (1936), its sinuous curves morphing dynamically into a head, torso and folded limbs, is set against an installation of colorful, oversize jumpers hung floor to ceiling, whose elongated sleeves, knotted or braided together, intersect different patterns. Along the walls, a series of photographs titled “The Thinleys,” made in collaboration with fashion photographer Jamie Hawkesworth, show a male model encased in garments from the JW Anderson archive. A collaborative approach underlies Anderson’s practice, and the exhibition integrates different creative fields. 6a architects transformed the exhibition rooms into a series of interlocking chambers partitioned by screens of draped fabric.

In their challenges to conventional conceptions of beauty, Rei Kawakubo, Helmut Lang and Rick Owens have directly influenced Anderson’s nongendered clothing. Fashion garments take on the structure of sculptures and vessels, transforming the human figure into an abstract silhouette.

Comprising close to one hundred works, the show is rich in visual juxtapositions. Sarah Lucas’s stuffed tights sprawled with abandon over an office chair reverberate with the insidious interlocking of padded wool-knit tubes from Comme des Garçon’s A/W 2014 “Monster” collection. Anthea Hamilton’s Leg Chair (2012) resonates with Elisabeth de Senneville’s S/S 1977 Nomade vest, whose clear plastic top layer is filled with political newspaper cut-outs.

Anderson creates sophisticated groupings of objects that confer renewed vigor on classic and lesser-known works of art and design by revealing their radical nature. Interpretations of the human form move fluidly between gender conventions, showing how the emancipatory value of fashion can parallel the transgressive power of art.

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