Thursday, October 18, 2007

At The Asian 1: Fashion

Two new exhibits installed by the great Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto have just opened at the Asian Art Museum in the Civic Center.

One of the exhibits is dedicated to modern Japanese fashion and it's a stunner.

Japanese fashion designers exploded into worldwide consciousness in the 1980s, and I first saw their work in a 1988 Irving Penn art photo book about Issey Miyake.

After the first shocked reaction of "they can't be serious," rather like seeing one of Frank Gehry's buildings for the first time, the pleasures provided by these modern designers can sneak up on you.

Kenneth Baker, the art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, isn't convinced. In his review of the two Sugimoto shows, he ends by writing, "I consider Sugimoto a great artist - and connoisseur - but he loses me when his interest turns to contemporary Japanese fashion...Though diverting in their strangeness, and occasional elegance, the costumes arrayed here, with a handful of Sugimoto photos, distill the rage for novelty that has infected all the modern arts, mainly to their detriment."

Sugimoto had free rein to select about 30 dresses from the legendary Kyoto Costume Institute (click here for their digital archive), and he features the work of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, and Tao Kurihara.

The gorgeous black-and-white photos, by the way, are by Sugimoto himself and are being used courtesy of the Asian Art Museum.

The show is definitely worth checking out, especially since there are two, beautifully printed brochures, with great photos and graceful writing, that come with the price of admission.

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