I kindly avoided opportunities to revisit the season’s hit NSU Art Museum show, “The World of Anna Sui,” a historic tour of over 100 looks that have marked the paths of American and international fashion. over the past 30 years. It is not that I am so disinterested in such a spectacle as completely incompetent to see it again with any discernment. Fashion definitely deserves to be included in an art museum, but like ballet, it is largely outside my cultural expertise. We all have our blind spots.
I felt on firmer authority ground when I visited this week at a pair of upstairs exhibits at the Fort Lauderdale Museum, which almost strip fashion of its everyday functionality and portability. I’m still not sure what the main takeaways are from Eric N. Mack’s Lemme Walk Across the Room, a vast gnomic installation combining painting, tapestry and sewing, but I’m not sure I need it. fully understand; general conceptions of surprise and disturbance may suffice.
Its most sprawling element is a vaporous cotton canvas, suspended like an L-shaped clothesline over the central space of the second floor, and painted with muted ribbons – shades of browns and sienna blending into greens, blues and yellows, like frayed prototypes of potential flags.
The installation also includes a deconstructed cowgirl outfit draped over a furious tangle of yarn that, given the context, suggests a horse; the way the dress stretches across the gallery floor reminded me, to me anyway, of Hitchcock’s most famous “Topaz” scene. A metal rod and a stepladder, apparently discovered in Robert Rauschenberg’s studio, complete the installation. It’s a sort of fitting provenance: with its inspired and eloquent juxtapositions of materials and multiple associations, the piece feels at least partially indebted to Rauschenberg’s alluring âcombinationsâ.
Mack’s only 2D work in the exhibition, âTartan Film Strip From 1987 Till Present,â is one of the artist’s so-called âmood boards,â a collage of pin-ups from fashion magazines and music and international newspapers, as well as Mack’s own. photograph, covered with an occasional coat of stray spray paint. Evocative of zine culture, it feels organized and personal, both artistic and not, and a glimpse of what one of the walls in Mack’s studio might look like.
While the broader objectives of Mack’s installation are more mysterious than concrete, portrait photographer IkÃ© UdÃ©’s work in an adjoining gallery offers a more direct appeal. A style icon often celebrated among the world’s best dressed, the Nigerian-born, New York-based artist is a cultural omnivore, dressing his models – often himself – in eccentric ensembles and golden anachronisms across the world. time and space.
This is most evident in her “Sartorial Anarchy” series, in which the artist poses in extravagant unorthodox jumpsuits: a Catholic church cape with Madras plaid pants, a harlequin suit with a tuxedo jacket and a cotton organdie, a sombrero with a cub cape full of patches alongside pants embroidered with whales.
None of the accoutrements make sense in Anna Sui’s world; hence the âanarchyâ part of the series. But they are rich in ironic humor. In an “Anarchy” play, Ude sports an elaborate Nigerian spiral headdress and wears a butterfly catcher in an attempt to capture an insect that has landed on her wig. In another, a mini fedora is perched precariously atop a huge “macaroni” wig.
These kinds of ethnic fashion tropes have been appropriated for centuries of entertainment, usually by Western designers, without much regard to their cultural insensitivity. Borrowing from burlesque and surrealism, UdÃ©’s stylish satire exposes this story of exploitation. And he looks really good doing it.
“The world of Anna Sui”, “Eric N. Mack: Lemme Walk Across the Room” and “IkÃ© UdÃ©: Selected Portraits” are on display at least until October 3, some longer, at the NSU Art Museum, 1 E Las Boulevard Olas, Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $ 12 for adults, $ 8 for seniors / military, and $ 5 for students. Call 954 / 525-5500 or visit nsuartmuseum.org.
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