Monday, January 16, 2017

BLACK FASHION DESIGNERS: FIT Fashion Symposium: Review by Polly Guerin

Black Fashion Designers Exhibit the Museum at FIT
Black Fashion Matters. That is the thesis of the Museum at FIT'S exhibit Black Fashion Designers. which examines the impact made by designers of African American descent on the world of fashion.
     While acknowledging the creative talents of designers, who were often overlooked, the exhibit pays homage to their legacy and puts a fresh spin on issues of diversity within the fashion industry.
    Co-curated by Ariele Elia, an assistant manager of outfits and fabrics at the Museum at FIT and her co-curator Elizabeth Method, a curatorial assistant, the exhibit, featuring 75 ensembles by 60 designers, shows that even though they share a common identity, black designers are cut from an individualistic cloth of originality.  While the 1970s was a good time for black designers, the sinuously sexy clothes by Stephen Burrows and Scott Barrie were regarded precisely since they were black. Although these designers had a hard time, they ultimately influenced and changed the fashion industry.
    Flamboyant fashion spokesman, Andre Leon Talley who helped with the exhibition said. "By their very presence, when they were acknowledged, and recognized, they took that minute of fame and ran with it, like they were running for the Olympic gold medals.  I believe that when they had chances to be on a phase, they took advantage and they quietly transformed style."
Ann Lowe and an elegant ensemble
 In 1953, when the fashion industry was, in practice, segregated, Ann Lowe, stands as a pillar of remarkable fortitude. History records that the Lowe, proud to be the designer of Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding event gown and bridal party gowns, did not let the fact that pipe burst in her showroom a mere 10 days prior to the wedding ruin her reputation. Lowe worked overtime, providing the dresses on schedule. There are other black designers to mention such as Jon Weston, a FIT grad,  who dealt with discrimination throughout the 1960s, but emerged in the 1970s, after the Civil Liberty Motion, when mindsets towards black designers changed, and Weston opened a Seventh Avenue
     Then too, there is there is the black beaded dress of Eric Gaskins who trained with the Paris Haute Couture Givenchy and Andre Walker's abstracted fashion that illustrates the vibrancy that black designers bring to the fashion industry.
     FREE "Talk and Tours" for the Black Fashion Designers exhibit include Wednesday, February 22 and Wednesday, March 15 both at 10:30 am and Monday April 24 and Monday, May 8 both at 6 pm. Meet in the FIT Museum lobby.
BLACK FASHION DESIGNERS, FASHION SYMPOSIUM, (Registration required) Monday, February 6, 10 am-5 pm.. The daylong symposium, held during Black History Month, explores the emergence of black designers in the New York and global fashion industries, the unique challenge of being labeled a "black designer<" political activism, and a wide range of other themes that are touched on in the exhibition, Black Fashion Designers.   

Among the twenty scholars, designers, and models scheduled to speak are Alphonso McClendon, associate professor of fashion design at Drexel University, who will talk about fashion and Jazz and Elena Romero, professor of Advertising and Marketing Communications at FIT, who will lead a conversation about hip hop's influence on the fashion industry with Harlem-based hip hop designer Dapper Dan. Also, models Veronica Webb and Bethann Hardison will discuss modeling and diversity.
     For a full schedule and to register for this FREE symposium go to, or call 2l2.217.4585. Seats are first come, first served with RSVP.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! PollyTalk will be attending the symposium. Hope to see you there, stop by and say "Hello!!!"  Fan mail always welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at on fashion, beauty, women determined to succeed, visionary men and poetry. Just click on the link in the left-hand column to access the /Blog that resonates with your

Monday, January 9, 2017


VIRTUAL REALITY: Silhouettes in their original setting
Here's a wrap on three exhibits that have made there mark on the cultural scene in New York City.    
PIERRE CHAREAU: Modern Architecture and Design through March 22 at The Jewish Museum proposes a fresh look at the internationally recognized designer and brings together rarely seen pieces of furniture, light fixtures and other major public and private collections.
    Modernism in the period of Art Deco. In the 1920s and 1930s Chareau became one of the most sought-after designers in France. He circulated among Paris's cultural elite creating custom furniture and interiors that were in sync with the requirements of modern life.
      Chareau's oeuvre drew on tradition while looking forward, combining the craftsmanship and materials such as mahogany with the sleek lines and metals of the machine age. However, he
is best known as the creator of the Maison de Verre, a Landmark Modernist architecture carved out of an 18-century Paris townhouse on the Left Bank. The exhibit designers Diller Scofidio + Renfro display Chareau's work in a ground breaking way.  Scenes of shadowy silhouettes of people using the furnishings are projected on screens.
     VIRTUAL REALITY Best part of the show, be sure to take a seat on a swiveling chair and peer through VR glasses and get 360-degree views of select pieces in their original settings. jewishmuseumorg.
Dramatic lifelike figures painted directly from the model
VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE: Beyond Caravaggio Monumental, breathtaking and masterful "Le Valentin," recognized as the leading French practitioner of the Caravaggio style, is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The response to this exhibition has been so engaging that its run has been extended but will close on Sunday, January 22, 2017.
    This is the first monographic exhibition devoted to the 17th-century artist, featuring 45 of his 60-odd extant paintings that cover the walls with lifestyle views. Whether he depicts card players or a Biblical scene, Valentin imbued his painting with humanity. These everyday scenes in their monumental scale, are enticing slices of life that somehow invites the curious viewer to enter and  vicariously become part of the scene.  Valentin's oeuvre style, distinguished by dramatic contrasts between dark and light, shed emphasis on the lifelike figures painted directly from the model.  Sadly Valentin's career was short-lived by his untimely death at age 41.
PIERRE GOUTHEIERE: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court. The golden hand of genius, Pierre Goutheiere, was a master metalworker who may not have enjoyed the name recognition of 18th-century artists such as Fragonard, but at the height of his oeuvre his work garnered prices comparable to theirs. The Frick Collection showcases 21 of Goutheiere's finest pieces through February 19th.
      His skills as a chaser-gilder earned his a royal clientele and the status of doreur du Roi to Louis XV.  Although, being a favorite of royal court gave Goutheiere an important role as master gilder,   too much of a good thing can go drastically wrong, especially when the King's mistress, Madame du Barry, failed to pay him for years of commissions which eventually drove him into bankruptcy.
     This is the first exhibition devoted to his oeuvre showcasing some 21 of his finest pieces from firedogs and wall lights to mounts for Chinese porcelain vases. Not to be missed: Take time to watch a video in which one of his creations is meticulously reproduced illustrating this master gilder's step by step craftsmanship behind Goutheiere's masterworks of gilt bronze.
      Ta Ta Darlings!!!  AS the chill of winter drives us indoors why not visit these exhibits in warm environments to brighten your cultural interests.  Fan mail welcome at
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Monday, December 12, 2016

THE MARQUIS de LAFAYETTE: A TRUE FRIEND OF THE CAUSE (Lafayette and the Antislavery Movement) Review by Polly Guerin

The Marquis de Lafayette at Yorktown by Jean-Baptiste Le Paon 1782, oil on canvas
It is popularly known that in 1780 the French frigate, the Hermione, brought the  Marquis de Lafayette to America with exciting news of renewed French aid for the faltering American Revolution and a replicate of the frigate came to the United States in 2015  to celebrate the fact. Significantly, in addition, according to historians without the French Alliance, America would have lost its war of independence. However,  it is intriguing that the youthful twenty-three year old Lafayette's contributions in the areas of politics, diplomacy, and the military have received scholarly and public recognition, yet his role as an ardent abolitionist has not received the same kind of attention. Now in a timely manner a new exhibition offers a more comprehensive look at the man who was a "hero of two worlds." Image: The Marquis de Lafayette at Yorktown by Jean-Baptiste Le Paon 1782, oil on canvas. Courtesy Lafayette College Art Collection.
     The Grolier Club takes a giant step forward in history to focus Lafayette's sustained efforts in France, the United States, and South America on behalf of the abolition of slavery. The exhibition, THE MARQUIS de LAFAYETTE, A TRUE FRIEND OF THE CAUSE: Lafayette and the Antislavery Movement is on view through February 4, 2017 with free lunchtime tours from 1-2 pm on December 14, January 11 and 18, and February 1, and are conducted by curators Olga Anna Duhl and Diane Windham Shaw. No registration is required, free admission. Where: 47 East 60th Street
     JUST WHO WAS THE MARQUIS TO GAIN SUCH NOTORIETY? Although the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) fought in the American War of Independence, he was a friend of the Native Americans, defended the rights of French Protestants and Jews during the French Revolution, supported the emancipation movement of people of Poland, Ireland, Italy, Greece and South America, and promoted the ideas and causes of women. Most significantly, he remained throughout his life a fervent advocate of the abolition of slavery and the African slave trade, earning the recognition of prominent British abolition is, Thomas Clarkson, as "a true friend of the cause."
    THE EXHIBITION AT LARGE: This is an exhibition not to be missed for its historical record traces Lafayette's first ideals of liberty and equality.  Early on Lafayette learned that the revolutionary era hardly benefited all members of society. In fact, one of the most daunting paradoxes of that era, which became a source of reflection and action for him, was between the national independence of the newly formed United States and the practice of slavery and the slave trade.  His first encounter with slaves was on the South Carolina coast. 
     Highlights of his role in service with the Continental Army are revealed in letters to his mentor, George Washington, written from Valley Forge, Newport and Virginia during the Yorktown Campaign, where Lafayette writes of the intelligence gathered by one of his spies, James, an enslaved African American. On view are many original artifacts including a highly significant letter written by Lafayette to Washington requesting his partnership in a venture to free slaves.
     Lafayette's complicated story includes his membership in the French Society of the Friends of Blacks. On view are Publications of the Society as well as stunning French prints of the American Revolution as well as the decree abolishing slavery in the French colonies.
    Ta Ta darlings!!!  Lafayette is in town for a short sojourn. Drawn from Lafayette College's rich collections of 18th and 19th century rare books, manuscripts, prints and objects, some of which are on public view for the firs time, the approximately 130 works in the exhibition also include loans from Cornell University and the New York Historical Society.  FAN MAIL ALWAYS WELCOME at Visit Polly's other Blogs at on fashion, visionary men, women determined to succeed and poetry.

Monday, December 5, 2016

BLACK FASHION DESIGNERS at Museum at FIT: Review By Polly Guerin

The often unrecognized impact that designers of African descent have had on fashion garners significant homage to the contribution of black designers at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. 
        Always at the forefront of fashion FIT takes a lead position presenting the exhibit, BLACK FASHION DESIGNERS, from December 6, 2016 to May 16, 2017.
      Although there have been exhibitions on individual black designers, Duro Olowu, Zule Bet and Patrick Kelly to name a few, this is the first major exhibition in many years that highlights the global history of black fashion designers from the 1950s to the present. To their credit, all the objects on display are part of The Museum at FIT.
Duro Clowu, ensemble, Fall 2012
Nigerian designer, Duro Olowu's enthusiasm for fashion was inspired by the unexpected mix of fabrics, texture and draping techniques of the clothing worn by the women that surrounded him. Following in the footsteps of his father, after a stint as a lawyer in Nigeria,  he returned to London to pursue his true vocation, starting his eponymous label at the end of 2004. His first collection was an instant success with fashion editors and buyers worldwide. Pictured Left: Duro Olowu, ensemble, Fall 2012, Gift of Duo Olowu.
     The signature hallmark of his designs includes, alluring silhouettes, sharp tailoring, original prints juxtaposed with luxurious vintage fabrics in "off beat: yet harmonious combinations.  His first collection was an international sell out including Barney's in New York, Harrods in London and Maria Luisa in Paris.  He won the "New Designer of the Year Award' at the British Fashion Awards, the only designer to have ever done so without a catwalk show.
Patrick Kelly dress, Fall/Winter 1986, France
This ground breaking exhibition features approximately 75 fashion by more than 60 designers. Not to be missed, among them I remember Patrick Kelly, who I met in Paris when I was covering the Pret a Portez (ready-to-wear) collections  Sadly Kelly died of AIDS after a short, brilliant career. But his legacy of button accents, zebra prints, clingy knits and safety-pin-trims lives on. Henri Bendel, Bloomgdale's and Bergdorf Goodman were just a few of the high-end stores that sold his designs. And he did it in his signature blue denim overalls. Imagine that, a uniform reminiscent of his humble beginnings in Vicksburg, Mississippi. When you look at his shapes, silhouettes, color, and his playful use of trimmings and whimsical treatments you realize that his take on fashion was very modern and is relevant even today.
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  The exhibit opens tomorrow, FREE admission always. Where: The Museum at FIT, Shirley Goodman Research Center, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, southwest corner Fan Mail welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the link that interest you in the left hand column on visionary men, women determined to succeed, the fashion historian and poetry from the heart.

Monday, November 28, 2016

MASTERWORKS: Unpacking Fashion at The Met: Review by Polly Guerin

Ball Gown, Viktor & Rolf spring/summer 2010
Why does fashion matter? Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Anna Wintour Costume Center at The Metropolitan Museum of Art says it all, "Our mission is to present fashion as a living art that interprets history, becomes part of the historical process, and inspires subsequent art. Over the seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, our collecting strategy has shifted from creating a collection of Western high fashion that is encyclopedic in breadth to one focused on acquiring a body of masterworks."
    The Costume Institute's fall 2016 exhibition, MASTERWORKS: Unpacking Fashion features significant acquisitions of the past 10 years and explores how the department has honed its collecting strategy to amass masterworks of the highest aesthetic and technical quality, including iconic works by designer who have changed the course of fashion history and advanced fashion as an art form  The exhibition runs through February 5, 2017. Image: Self-proclaimed "fashion artists" Viktor & Rolf celebrates their distinct brand with this blue polyester tulle and black silk-synthetic moire embroidered with white plastic sequins from their "Credit Crunch Couture" collection. The striking sculptural form subverts the tradition of a feminine 1950's-style dress bisecting densely stitched clouds of tulle with a flourish intended to evoke the swipe of a chainsaw.
Maison Margiela ensemble with Red Coat 1787-92  
Some newly acquired objects are paired with pieces already in the collection to illustrate the enduring influence of certain master couturiers and iconic historical silhouettes.  In this Maison Margiela ensemble,  (left) John Galliano reinterprets the eccentric dress of dandified young men in post-revolutionary France. The historical influence is evident in the high collar, oversized lapels, and exaggerated coattails, which have been transformed into trailing lengths of silk chiffon. (right) The red wool broadcloth coat from France (1787-92) was worn by raffish young men known as the Incroyables (Incredibles), whose tightly fitted fashions took on extreme proportions. The high, turned-down collar, narrow sleeves, and sharply curved coat fronts create the impression of an elongated figure.

Heidi Slimane spring/summer 2014

     A selection of Charles James structured ball gowns draws attention as do numerous examples of creations by contemporary designers including Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen and Comme des Garcons.
     Yves Saint Laurent's scandalous 1971 "Liberation" collection featured signature elements of 1940's fashion. (right)The dress at center with a print of bright red lips against a black background belongs to the ready-to-wear interpretation of the collection. (left) In 2014 Yves Saint Laurent creative director Heidi Slimane revived the iconic motif in a white silk crepe blouse, embroidered with lip motifs in white iridescent and red plastic sequins and black glass beads, trousers black wool gabardine.
      The exhibition is a fascinating  If the holidays prove too hectic for you, take this option. The exhibition is featured om the Museum's website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #FashionMasterworks.
    Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Fan mail is always welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at and click in the left hand column to Blogs on visionary men, women determined to succeed, poetry from the heart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

FRAGONARD: Drawing Triumpant at The Met: Review By Polly Guerin

The Swing 1766 Wallace Collection, London 
Whenever I think of Jean Honore Fragonard I recall at best his series on romance,"The Progress of Love," for which he is chiefly known.  It calls to mind his most famous  painting, "The Swing' with its enchanting colorful depiction of an erotic subject that was then in vogue.
    However, the current exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, FRAGONARD: Drawing Triumphant --Works from New York Collections sheds new light on one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century. Now on view through January 8, 2017 at the Met Fifth Avenue, Galleries 691-693,  the exhibition celebrates the artist's achievements as a master draftsman. 
The Armoire (Lover discovered( 1778
    Among the 100 works on paper on view, nearly half are from private collections, some of which will be shown publicly for the first time. Now is your chance to re-discover Fragonard in this rare opportunity to see well-loved masterpieces alongside new discoveries and works that have long been out of the public eye.  The exhibit reveals how Fragonard, one of the most forward-looking and inventive artists of the 18th century was equally skilled in drawing and etching. In this genre, Fragonard explored the potential of chalk, ink and wash to create sheets that were works of art in their own right. As displays of virtuosity and an imaginative spirit, Fragonard's drawings were highly prized from his own day to the present.
     The Armoire was Fragonard's first print and his most accomplished, the culmination of many months immersion in printmaking. A technical tour de force, it would have appealed to contemporary audiences for its entertaining subject.  Furious parents have stormed into their daughter's bedroom, she weeps into her apron while her lover is discovered shame-faced in the armoire.
      The freedom and speed afforded by chalk or wash on paper were particularly suited to Fragonard's improvisational talents and allowed his creative genius to shine.  Among the other subjects for which he is best known are joyful images of daily life, portraits, and landscapes, as well as episodes from the Bible and diverse works of literature from the fantastic to the licentious. The frolicking children, young lovers, and sunlit gardens that spring from his imagination are not weighted down by detail, but rather speak to the viewer's sensitivity and appreciation of the subject.
    The exhibition follows the chronology of the artist's life, from his early training in Paris in 
Fragonard Triumph-Works from New York Collections
the studio of Francois Boucher to his training at the French Academy in Rome, to his return to the French capital, and ultimately to his break with the official arts establishment.  A highlight is the display of all five of the works on paper, three drawings, an etching,  and a gouache, related to the famous composition The Little Park (Le petit parc). Also on view, are many pairs of works whose compositions echo one another, experimental variations on themes, often in different media.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Re-connecting with Fragonard as a master draftsman and printmaker is a challenging experience. Do go with an open mind and find new reverence in Fragonard's genius. Fan mail welcome at  In addition, visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links in the left hand column to subjects that resonate with your interest.

Monday, October 31, 2016

KERRY JAMES MARSHALL MASTRY at the Met: Review by Polly Guerin

Kerry James Marshall's "Untitled (Vignette) 2012 
The monumental scale and the black beauty of Kerry James Marshall's paintings often evoke familiar themes with black image sensitivity on subjects that often are a Requiem to the 60's a decade synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement.
     Then, too, in the large paintings, some 8 and l/2 x 10 feet, that Marshall has come to be known, art history is also suggestively part of the picture.
     For instance, based on Jean-Honore Fragonard's series on romance, "The Progress of Love," Marshall's "Untitled (Vignette) 2012, places black lovers--a rare subject in Western paintings---frolicking in a pink setting amid heart notes descending form a musical scale, flowers and chirping birds. Marshall gives new dignity to courtship and romance in paintings about Black lovers, that echo universal sentiments of endearment and commitment. Commenting recently Marshall said, "Images don't only express our desirers, but teach us about our desirers."
       KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: MASTRY is the largest museum retrospective to date of the work of Chicago based, American artist, Kerry James Marshall, which opened recently at the Met Breuer and is on view through January 29, 2017. 
      Marshall said, "To be part of the Met's magnificent history has always been my dream.  This is where I always wanted to end up, thankfully while I am still living."
     Encompassing nearly 80 works---including 72 paintings, that span the artist's 35-year career, the monographic exhibit is based on the central concern of redressing the absence of the black figure in the canon of Western art.
Kerry James Marshall's Garden Project series
Black skin is always dominant in Marshall's art---black as you have never seen before. Marshall uses three kinds of black---carbon black, mars black and ivory black and each is subtly different. Look into the depths of the blacks in Marshall's painting, no white has been added, the blacks have absolute value and demonstrate that black can have complexity, be beautiful with rich intensity.
     The exhibition also reunites five paintings of Marshall's Garden Project series, pictures from the mid-1990s that serve to complicate the idea of public housing as bleak or desolate. For the first time in 20 years, included among these is Watts 1963, where the 8-year-old Marshall and his family lived when they first moved to California in 1963.
MARSHALL THE MAN Born in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama,before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, he grew up in Los Angeles and was witness to the Watts rebellion in l965.  Marshall has long been an inspired and imaginative chronicler of the African American experience. He holds a BFA (1978) and honorary doctorate (1999) from the Otis College of Art and Design. Marshall is a hometown resident of Chicago where has lived since the late 1980s.   The show originated at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.  As a storyteller, Marshall is a born raconteur. In the painting, Souvenir 1 (1997) a middle-aged woman wearing glitter-encrusted golden wings arranges her living room as a shrine to the 1960s civil rights martyrs.  
Kerry James Marshall's "Souvenir 1" (1997)
     Thomas B. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art said, "The exhibition is an important body of work that fills a void in the history if art to tell stories about people we don't usually see at the Met."
     Kerry James Marshall Mastry is accompanied by a variety of educational programs at The Met Breuer, including family tours and exhibition tours. At The Met Fifth Avenue, an all-day symposium "Kerry James Marshall---A Creative Convening: will take place on Saturday January 28, 2017.  Additional information at
     Ta Ta darlings!!!  One visit is not enough to resonate with Kerry James Marshall.You will want to come back to Met Breur another time. The scale of his works are monumental and resonate in some cases with Renaissance magnitude. Fan mail always welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click in the left-hand column to links to amazing Art Deco divas, visionary men, fashion and poetry.