Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Comme de Goya

The human mind is an inexhaustible source of images, such as photographs, paintings, volumes, colors,... At times you automatically tap into your personal archive of imagery. And sometimes there are these moments where everything comes together and you understand the meaning of an artwork, or at least the meaning you personally ascribe to it. When I saw the Comme des Garcons spring/summer 2012 collection, that very thing happened to me. 

In my opinion Rei Kawakubo struck gold with this collection that consisted of all white silhouettes. The theme was 'the drama of life' and the use of fabrics referred to both birth and baptism (lace) and marriage (duchesse satin). As in life, death also took its share of the collection with dresses that looked like winding sheets and textures that reminded me of funerary decorations. 

Comme des Garcons, Spring/Summer 2012 

Looking at the silhouettes that covered the heads of the models, a work of Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura of 2004 immediately sprung to mind
Yasumasa Morimura, 'Look this is in fashion' 2004

Yasumasa Morimura (°1951) is an artist who 'appropriates' art of others. This means that he doesn't copy an artwork but takes it and makes it his own. His most famous work consists of photographs based on famous paintings by the hand of Van Gogh, Velazquez, Manet and the likes. The artist himself appears in each of these photographs.

Yasumasa Morimura, Daughter of Art History (Velasquez), 1990

Yasumasa Morimura, Portrait (Van Gogh), 1985

Yasumasa Morimura, Portrait (Manet), 1988

The photograph with the girls in the white dresses is based on an eighteenth century aquatint print of painter Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). 

Francisco de Goya, Ya tienen asciento (They're already seated), from 'Los Caprichos' n° 26, 1799
This aquatint is part of a collection of 80 pictures named 'Los Caprichos', which Goya meant as a satire of the eighteenth century Spanish society.

Francisco de Goya, Todos Caeran (All will Fall), 1799

Francisco de Goya, A Caza de Dientes (Hunting for Teeth), 1799

'Ya Tienen Asciento' shows two girls holding a chair on their head. This is a wordplay on the Spanish saying that light headed girls that spend the day idly have nothing but a chair on their mind. 

It is striking that Yasumasa Morimura titled his photograph 'Look this is in fashion'. The artist ridicules the superficiality that is so in 'fashion' these days, but it could be that he also hackles the vanity and exuberance of modern day fashion. A couple of years later, almost exactly the same outfit is found on the catwalk in Paris in the show of Comme des Garcons. 
Because of this notably similar dressshape I believe this to be a direct reference to the art of both Goya and Morimura. Kawakubo wishes to criticize our modern society by referring to these older artworks.

or maybe the likeness is just a coincidence,

but we alchemists don't believe in coincidences, now do we?

The Mere Alchemist


  1. Nice associative thinking, alchemist! You create order in the world of chaotic fashion art.

  2. :) It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it!