One never knows what to expect when walking into MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York. The school turned museum has hosted everything from neon-themed dance parties to traditional-ish oil painting exhibits, but one arena it’s never truly delved into was fashion—until now. Included among the works by Charles Atlas, Gordon Matta-Clark, Collier Schorr, and Kiki Smith in its just-opened “Greater New York” show are ones by fashion designers Susan Cianciolo, Mary Ping of Slow and Steady Wins the Race, and Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta of Eckhaus Latta.
“The exhibition on the whole, I see it as predicated on a series of questions about the body and the city, and fashion, to me, becomes the most obvious and interesting example of a kind of everyday space that mediates between the body and the city,” said Mia Locks, assistant curator at PS1, who worked on the New York–centric exhibition. “These three particular brands and designers have a long history either having been schooled specifically in art or having long, ongoing conversations with artists. Historically, we can always look at a certain relationship between art and fashion, but for us, these three designers were particularly interesting for different reasons.”
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The main theme stringing together the works of the three designers was how they married nostalgia and newness, an idea informing the entire show through many mediums. “One of the things we asked ourselves, that I think Slow and Steady Wins the Race became really emblematic of, is the question: What if newness could live alongside the old rather than displace it?” That question is one well familiar to those in the fashion world, who have been questioning the relationship between retro trends and hyper-futurism for several seasons, but the ways the artists in the show address it are not as familiar as the ’70s-meets-synth tropes that can play out on the runway.
Instead, viewers will find Eckhaus Latta’s T-shirts, made of prints of the designers’ bare chests, taped to the museum’s walls alongside collaborations with sculptor Annabeth Marks shown on clear mannequin forms. “This was a really nice way to see our work outside the art or fashion context because I think Mike and I really feel a fluidity about what world we belong in, and we just happily exist in both,” said Latta. “This exhibition for us was kind of the first time we got to play with stagnancy. Our artist collaborations in the past have been performances or coexisting within someone else’s context, so it’s a fun experiment to play with how clothes sit when they’re not on the body and what that means for us.”
Eckhaus echoed her sentiment: “It’s interesting to be able to have more intentionality with our work now, in regards to its life after the [runway] show or ways it can be seen.”
One way the duo’s work has lived inside the museum that you won’t see was as part of an impromptu fashion show held at the opening party of the exhibit. “We have a side hobby of hosting these fashion shows with whoever is on the street or who we’re with and just doing a walk,” said Latta. “It just so happened that the tables at the opening were a great place to hold a fashion show. We did one, and I think the curators were jealous and joined,” she laughed. It helped that the curators were decked out in designs by Eckhaus Latta, Susan Cianciolo, and Mary Ping. “It’s not every day that curators wear quote-unquote fashion garments, so it was a lot of fun for us to support the designers, obviously, but also dress up in a way,” said Locks. “It was super fun.”
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