Friday kicked off Fall, and the art world converged on Chelsea. Charles Renfro peddled his bike down 22nd Street as the crowds took shape—there’s a man devoted to culture.
I stuck my head into Susan Inglett Gallery where fashion-meets-art was in full swing. The show/retail venture smockshop, is a project launched by artist Andrea Zittel. Known, among other things, for her utilitarian uniforms, she asked a number of artists to re-interpret her simple smock according to their own vision. The garments are then sold to generate income for the artists, who’s work, according to the website, is “either non-commercial, or not yet self-sustaining.”
The scene was a tad Barney’s Warehouse Sale as the gal-heavy crowd pawed through the circular rack of dresses. Priced at a reasonable 300 to 500 dollars, each is piece a temptress in felt, silk, embroidery, or tarpaulin. According to the release, there is an artistic caveat that comes with the purchase:
In keeping with her personal practice, Zittel recommends that clients wear each smock exclusively for the entire season. Perhaps that’s not realistic in chic Chelsea, particularly during fashion week, but the artist hopes her project will inspire a more frugal approach to design. “Our current state of consumerism is pretty out of whack right now,” she says. “Wear what you work.” And if that sounds too Marxist, Zittel offers this slogan to the fashion legions: Liberation through Limitation.
I’m a big Zittel fan, having written about her work for both Dwell and for the 2002 Goetz Collection catalog. But the show, in thoroughly blurring the line between retail fashion and art (if that line was even there before), reduces both to the kind of crafty consumerism I can find on etsy.com: beautiful, desirable, and handmade, but also easily digestible. Zittel’s “Marxist” slogan and the rigors she applies to her own art are part of an ongoing critique, and sadly, it is undermined by the gallery’s need for a fashion week tie-in.