Bite: Street Inspired Art and Fashion
Exhibition Dates: September 8 – November 24, 2010
Opening Reception: September 8, 2010, 9pm-midnight
BITE: Street Inspired Art and Fashion is an exhibition that challenges the preconceived boundaries of visual arts, performance art, and fashion. The show combines the works of international visual artists and artist-designer collaborations, all addressing the production of space and the politics of race and gender. Participating artists and designers take the street as a cue for their work and explore it as a space where identities and subjectivities unfold. While the series of live performances extend the aesthetic and conceptual sensibilities of the works on display, visual works predominantly use portraiture and different strategies of abstraction to explore how individuals create the street culture around them, and how they are, in turn, created by the same environment.
One of the featured artist-designer collaborations is between fashion designer and filmmaker duo Deux Conceptualiste Noir and visual artist Kenya (Robinson). Inspired by Nam June Paik’s collaboration with designer Willi Smith, Deux Conceptualiste Noir investigates the concept and legacy of couture, as they create fashion collections that are only presented in online platforms, such as social networks, video-sharing websites, and blogs. For their video work Project Movement I (2010), the duo invites Kenya (Robinson) to wear their designs, pose and walk around parts of New York City, partly associated with established worlds of finance and European culture, such as Wall Street and Lincoln Center. The performance is inspired by Frantz Fanon’s seminal work Black Skin, White Masks that scrutinizes the psychological impact of blackness in predominantly white cultures. The work therefore suggests a critical reading of the feelings of dependency and inadequacy through fashion and body language.
Certain collaborations in the exhibit take more conventional forms. John Ashford designs a costume for Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow’s live performance Crop Killa where she personifies a farmer-turned-dance hall dancer, referencing the political and cultural changes that have taken place in Jamaica since the 1970s. Ashford provides a particular sub-narrative to Lyn-Kee-Chow’s piece, as his boots depict stereotypes about Jamaica, including palm trees on sunny beaches, as well as the dancehall culture that is often associated with violence.
In addition to performance works, figuration is also a strategy the artists in the exhibition use. Among these, Andrew Dosunmu works with portraiture to explore his subjects’ identities. Although the compositional technique of Bricklane Boy (2007) and Bricklane Couple (2007) alludes to the artist’s career in fashion photography, Dosunmu’s non-professional models represent more than mere objects of his projection. Instead, they are portrayed with a documentary style approach. They articulate their subjectivities through the language of fashion, gesture and posture; their identities in turn become indexical signs of the street. Dosunmu’s photographs not only aestheticize the black body, but also emphasize its politically charged image.
Similarly, Jayson Keeling uses figuration to explore body politics in relation to the street. In Pictures 1986-1993 (1986-1993), the artist gathers his small-scale photographs inspired by his work in fashion photography. In these images, some of the subjects are positioned against neutral, monochromatic backgrounds, whereas others are captured in an urban setting. Keeling’s approach dissolves the boundaries between the studio and the street while complicating the interplay between art and fashion. Bad Girl (2006) and Jesus is My Envy (2006), on the other hand, are large-scale portraits with stark simplicity.
Art works and performances by:
Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow with John Ashford and Michael Walls
Jennie C. Jones
Peter Dean Richards
Deux Conceptualiste Noir (Zulema Griffin and Sherie Weldon)
Designs featured in the store by:
Derrick Adams with Brian Wood
Nicky Enright aka DJ LightBolt
Zulema Griffin of Deux Conceptualiste Noir
Ronald Pierre Jean-Gilles aka DJ SoulBrother
Osamu Koyama of Complete Technique
Jay Tuazon of Phlag13