Rei Kawakubo: Art of the In-Between at The Costume Institute

Rei Kawakubo 1
Rei Kawakubo 1

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969); Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Costume Institute, a curatorial department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, holds a collection of more than 35,000 costumes with accessories, representing seven centuries of costume for men, women, and children on five continents dating from the fifteenth century to the present day.

03.BodyMeetsDress-DressMeetsBody,Spring1997

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This year their spring show is the exhibition Rei Kawakubo-Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, which will be on view on Level 2, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall from May 4 through September 4, 2017.

Born in 1942, Rei Kawakubo is a Japanese avant-gardist whose clothes for some reflect hope and experience. Her label Comme des Garcons means ‘like some boys’.

She wanted to provide women with clothes that gave them a feeling of ‘ease and confidence’, much like a man. Kawakubo’s clothing is not conventional; it could be likened to the ridiculous made sublime.

“In blurring the art/fashion divide, Kawakubo asks us to think differently about clothing,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met.

What she believes is strong and beautiful comes out of her own notion of fashion, which differs greatly from everyone else. She treats her textiles differently too, crumpling silk, cooking wool in the sun so it fades and she also scrubs her cottons.

04.BloodandRoses,Spring2015

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blood and Roses, spring/summer 2015; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Her shapes are unique; a pair of trousers that is spliced into a skirt, body hugging numbers that cling in all the wrong places, it’s a case of Frankenstein meets the broken bride. Her clothes appeal to those who enjoy feeling like a misfit.

When she started out Rei Kawakubo was unable to sew or cut a pattern and as she did not attend fashion school, had no preconceptions to unlearn. She has been busy rethinking the female body and feminine identity ever since and her cheeky biker jackets from spring, 2005, were given the moniker “Balenciaga on Steroids’.

In celebration of the opening, The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017.  The evening’s co-chairs will be Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Anna Wintour.

06.BlueWitch,Spring2016

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute.  “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time” Bolton said.

02.BodyMeetsDress-DressMeetsBody,Spring1997

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Body Meets Dress–Dress Meets Body, spring/summer 1997; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is Bolton’s mission to ‘challenge ideas about fashion’s role in contemporary culture’ and the exhibition will feature approximately 150 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from the early 1980s to her most recent collection.

Objects will be organized into eight dominant and recurring aesthetic expressions of interstitially in Kawakubo’s work: Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Design/Not Design, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes.

Rei Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm.  And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent” she said.

05.BlueWitch,Spring2016

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, born 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969), Blue Witch, spring/summer 2016; Courtesy of Comme des Garçons. Photograph by © Paolo Roversi; Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This event is The Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements and a publication, authored by Andrew Bolton and designed by Fabien Baron, will be available, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

Should prove an interesting show to view with Rei Kawakubo breaking down imaginary walls and demonstrating interstices can be places of meaningful connection while coexistence is about revolutionary innovation and transformation.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

Rei Kawakubo
Comme des Garçons
Art of the In-Between

May 4 – September 4, 2017

The Met Fifth Avenue,
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall
Floor 2

 

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