20 March 2017

Art and Fashion in Conversation

Jonathan Anderson has been busy this year. He unveiled the new collection for his eponymous label at London Fashion Week before presenting his latest Loewe lineup and now he's gone and treated us to an exhibition. And it's only March. Taking place in Wakefield's Hepworth Gallery, Disobedient Bodies is a collaboration with 6a architects and by no means a retrospective of Anderson's career. Although there are some of his garments included, the focus is more so on what influences him and acts as a peer into his references and design process. Anderson explained at the exhibition's preview that he wanted to "challenge the DNA of the body" and given his track record, he's more than qualified to pipe up on the subject. Gucci may have been awarded all of the credit for pioneering a genderless approach but J.W. Anderson's AW13 show was perhaps the ripple that onset the gender-focused (or not-so-focused) wave that crashed over the fashion industry.

The exhibition narrative is shaped by Anderson’s enduring interest in modern art and the open questions posed by his own collections. He makes connections and disconnections which touch on issues like the role of media in shaping perceptions and the concept of boundaries as the break-down in contemporary society. It's a chance for art and fashion to have a natter and challenge the human form through objects and clothing, while highlighting the sculptural qualities of the body. In one room, a Dior emerald silk cocktail dress is poised by a wavy marble Jean Arp sculpture while a cement Brancusi head shares space with a bunch of Comme des Garçons fat, padded skirts and soft bulbous shapes. It's a welcomed juxtaposition that feels playful and lighthearted despite not necessarily being so conceptually.

The personal selection of sculptures includes the work of Louise Bourgeois, Lynn Chadwick, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Sarah Lucas and Henry Moore and they're brought into direct dialogue with garments from Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang and Issey Miyake amongst others. This pairing of clothing and more traditional objects of art is intended to encourage the viewer to find parallels between these creations, with the attention always being drawn back to the human form.

It would seem too that Anderson has slowly built his own enviable archive as 70% of the fashion pieces in the exhibition belong to him. He has himself quite the extensive Issey Miyake collection, including the lantern dress in the show, and the Helmut Lang harnesses that are a milestone in fashion history in themselves. Around 20% of what is on show was selected from the Hepworth Wakefield archive with the futher 10% being special comissions and loans.

The gallery’s location was also a major draw. “I’m glad to be putting creative energy into something that is about getting people out of London,” Anderson explained. One of the collaborators include Jamie Hawkesworth, who shot a photos series for the show which ingeniously stars 123 local school children modeling garments by the aforementioned designers. There's an obvious purity to photographing regular kids in completely irregular garments but it's a refreshing change from seeing them in the form of an editorial shoot that's had too much cash thrown at it or an insta pic drowning in tagged brands.