Monday, April 25, 2016

UNIFORMITY: Dynamic History of Uniform's Influence on Fashion:Review by Polly Guerin

Uniforms occupy a unique place in our society and resonate with high standards of design both to blend in and stand out. UNIFORMITY, the exhibition opening at The Museum at FIT, May 20, explores the dynamic history behind a variety of uniforms, examining their social roles and their influence on high fashion.

 Traditional uniforms give an individual several reasons why wearing a proper uniform is important--it provides recognition, a sense of pride, dignity, commonality and status. In a way, uniforms are the antithesis of high fashion.  While standard uniform design focuses on functionality, control and tradition, fashion promotes constant change, creativity, and subversion.  Yes, haven't you observed yourself that fashion has often drawn inspiration from uniforms of all kinds, taking functional features and transforming then into decorative elements.

        INFLUENCE ON FASHION: Naval uniforms in particular have had a marked influence on high fashion ever since the late 19th century, wits "middy" collars and "Breton" stripes appearing on sportswear, children's wear and women's  as well as more contemporary pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier and Sacai that utilize distinctive "Breton" horizontal stripes of the French navy.
      UNIFORMITY is organized thematically to focus on four main categories of uniforms, military, work school and sports. The exhibition opens with a display highlighting each of these four themes, incl ding a full Black Watch (Royal Highland) uniform from 1900, a fireman's uniform from the 1950s, a contemporary schoolgirl uniform from Japan, and an eye-popping professional cyclist uniform from 1985.  The exhibition continues its exploration of military
uniforms in the first display, which concentrates on the importance of modern "dress" uniforms, considering how they have evolved over time, as well as howhey differ among the ranks, genders, and the various branches of the armed forces. These are juxtaposed with designs from Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Perry Ellis that demonstrate  range of fashionable uses for the deep blue woo and gold buttons of dress uniforms. Image left: Chanel, "Brasserie Gabrielle" ensemble, fall 2015, wool, silk, cotton, leather, France, gift of Chanel.
   Another section focuses on the U.S. military implementation of olive drab service uniforms and cotton fatigues during the 20th century These are represented by a U.S. Army uniform from World War I a WAC uniform from 1944, a World War II Air Force uniform that features a shortened "Eisenhower" or "Ike" jacket, and a cotton jeep coat. UNIFORMITY also moves on to school uniforms with collegiate jackets from the 1920s and 1940;s to contemporary Japanese school uniform.  THE CLASSIC UNIVERSITY BLAZER is a fascinating   
 commentary on identifying the college as a brand and the prestigous logo and distinctive color add to the wearer's status.  Case in point, the Russet-red Princeton University blazer, 1994, wool, USA, a museum purchase stands out in a crowd of pedestrians who dress as if they belonged to a people's army wearing worn, tattered, and dreary clothing.   UNIFORMITY gives us pause to remember that logos, insignias, color and style gives us a sense of authority, status and an air of achievement.
    Ta Ta Darlings!!  Uniformity is on view at The Museum at FIT through November 19, 2016. FREE admission. Museum hours: Tuesday-Friday noon-8 pm, Saturday, 10 am-5pm. Closed Sunday, Monday and legal holidays.  
      Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left-hand column click on the Blog link that resonates with your  interest from fashion to poetry, amazing women and visonary men.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

PsychoBarn:The Met's Roof Garden Installation:: Review by Polly Guerin

PsychoBarn Installation on the Metropolitan Roof
PsychoBarn, The Roof Garden Commission by Cornelia Parker, is set atop The Metropolitan Museum of Art, high above Central Park---providing an unusual contrast to the spectacular Manhattan skyline
     With one foot in reality and the other in fiction the large-scale sculpture, nearly 30 feet high, was inspired by the the painting of Edward Hopper (1925)  and by two emblems of American architecture---the classic, red barn and the sinister Bates mansion from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film, Psycho.
The Roof Garden Commission: Cornelia Parker, Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) is fabricated from a deconstructed red bard and seems at first to be a genuine house, but is in fact a scaled-down structure consisting of two facades propped up from behind with scaffolding. Simultaneously authentic and illusory, the sculpture evokes the psychological associations embedded in architectural spaces.  The installation is on view to the public from April 19 through October 31, 2016 (weather permitting).           
     "For this summer's Roof Garden Commission, Cornelia has developed an astonishing architectural folly," said Sheena Wagstaff, the Museum's Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, that intertwines a Hitchcock-inspired iconic structure with the materiality of the rural vernacular ranging from innocent domesticity to horror, from the authenticity of landscape to the artifice of a film set. Cornelia's installation expresses perfectly her ability to transform cliches to beguile both eye and mind."

There is no doubt that Hitchcock based his film on Edward Hopper's well-known, "House by the Railroad," a house that was symbolic of the lost that is felt when modern progress leaves an agrarian society behind. 
Ms. Parker has made a career out of taking pieces of material and elaborately combining them in surprising ways. In this instance the primary materials in Ms. Parker's installation PsychoBarn, all came from a single farm building that was once scheduled for demolition in an upstate New York Town. 
     Ms. Parker's  oeuvre is that of an installation-artist and her works have become popular in museums, galleries and art fairs.
Ta Ta Darlings!!! The work of the artist is featured on the Met's website, as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitters via the hashtag#Met Roof.  Head for the Roof Garden Bar and lounge away a daytime visit and for cocktails, when the night becomes bewitchingly enchanting, there is a Martini Bar which is open on the Roof Garden on Friday and Saturday evenings (5:30-8pm).  Fan mail welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at and click in the left-hand column to a Blog's direct link that resonates with your interest. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

THREE CENTURIES OF GREEK ART From Alexander to Cleopatra at the Met: Preview by Polly Guerin

The Acropolis of Pergamon by Friedrich (von) Therich 
Once upon a time, in the long, long ago Pergamon and the Hellenistic kingdoms of the ancient world were sophisticated areas of superior intelligence and artistic mastery. One may ask, "How did these cathedrals of culture emerge in this area of the world?" 
        Foremost, it was the conquests of Alexander the Great who transformed the ancient world, making trade and cultural exchange possible across great distances.  Alexander's retinue of court artists and extensive artistic patronage provided a model for his successors, the Hellenistic Kings, who came to rule over much of his empire.  It also took the patronage of the Hellenistic kings which led to the development of new institutions---libraries and museums, in particular---that have become pillars of modern civilization.  Then, too the origins, the concept of art history and the practice of connoisseurship also began at this time. 
      The exhibition PERGAMON and the HELLENISTIC KINGDOMS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD is on view from April 18-July 17, 2016
    Pergamon's sanctuary of Athena, goddess of wisdom, is represented by the 12-foot Hellenistic marble statue of Athena Parthenos, newly restored for this exhibition. Poetry also gets its due recognition with the importance of the epic poet Homer in Hellenistic times. It is highlighted by means of the allegorical sculptural relief known as the "Apotheosis of Homer," which was made to celebrate the victor of a poetry competition.  
Marble Bust: A Royal Head
WHO WERE THESE ROYALS? At the height of their powers in the third and second centuries B.C. the Attalid rulers of Pergamon controlled large territory of Asia Minor. Opulent luxury items in various media were produced by artisans for royalty and other elites Images of the Attalid royal family give face to the people who hosted elegant banquets and sophisticated entertainment in royal palaces.

    CAMEOS: It is interesting to note that the practice of cameo engraving was invented in the Hellenistic period. This artform-is represented by one of the largest and most spectacular examples known: the "Vienna Cameo," which depicts the king and queen from the Ptolemaic Egypt richly attired and imbued with divine symbolism. The mastery achieved by Hellenistic artisans in the employ of royalty includes ancient glass, engraved gems, and jewelry from all parts of the Hellenistic world. A small selection of actual furnishings evokes the lavish decor of the palaces themselves including mosaic floors, decorative sculpture, furniture of wood, marble and bronze; and painted stucco walls feature figural scenes.
Decorative Wall Sculpture
THE ROMAN EMPIRE: The complex history of the formation of the Roman Empire is presented through portraits of historical figures, including Mithradates Eupator
, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra. Although the power of the Hellenistic kingdoms came to an end in the late first century B.C. with the defeat of Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium, the innovations of Hellenistic artists fostered by their royal patrons would influence Roman Imperial art for centuries. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue suitable for scholars and the general public. For updates on programs and events visit:
Ta Ta Darlings!!! The awesome creativity and the mastery of the artisans in the ancient world gives pause to examine the artifacts that have survived for our education and pleasure Fan mail always welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the direct link in the left-hand column to a Blog that resonates with your interest.

Monday, April 4, 2016

TECHNOLOGY'S IMPACT ON FASHION at Met Museum: Preview by Polly Guerin

Here's  heads up on one of fashion's most coveted event: 
The never ending love affair with fashion will take on a new spin at the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Arts' spring 2016 exhibition, manus x machine: fashion in the age of technology, on view May 5 through April 14, 2016 (preceded on May 2 by the Costume Institute Benefit. May 2.  However, if you want to attend the highly coveted Met Ball you not only would have to be on Anna Wintour's highly coveted list, but you would have to be among the 600 luminaries---one of the social cognoscenti, a brilliant star on the firmament, or  a show-stopper celebrity. Image Left: Iris van Herpen's 3D fashions.

     Presented in the Museum's Robert Lehman Wing and the Anna Wintour Costume  Center, the exhibition will explore the impact of new technology on fashion and how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and advant- garde ready-to-wear.
SO WHY IS TECHNOLOGY SO IMPORTANT? Mais, pourquois pas? "Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) was based on handmade, one-of-a-kind fashions and the machine made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practises and techniques of the other," said Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute. "manus x machina will challenge the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy, and propose a new paradigm germane in our age of digital technology."  Image right: 3D Digital Shoes.
     EXHIBITION OVERVIEW: manus x machina will feature more than 100 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from a 1880's Charles Frederick Worth (father of the Paris Haute Couture) to a 2015 Chanel suit.  Sentimentally the exhibit will reflect on the founding of the Haute Couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of industrialization and mass production. It will explore the ongoing rhetoric of this dichotomy which hand and machine are presented as discordant instruments in the creative process, and will question this oppositional relationship as well as the significance of the time-honored distinction between the haute couture and ready-to-wear
 Fascinating juxtaposition of the pairing of handmade haute couture garments and their machine-made ready-to-wear counterparts gives cause to pause and reflect on the great fashion industry's ability to capture our collective imagination.  Most delightful, there is a suite of rooms reflecting the traditional structure of a Parisian haute couture atelier and is constituent petites mains workshops for embroidery, feathers, pleating, knitting, lacework, leatherwork, passementerie and fringe work. Image Left: 3D Advant-Garde Garment.
They will be contrasted with ensembles incorporating 3D printing, laser cutting, thermo shaping, computer modeling, circular knitting, ultrasonic welding, and bonding and laminating. There's a great deal to take in but the series of "in process" workshops, including 3D-printing workshops where visitors will witness the creation of 3D-printed garments during the course of the exhibition.
Ta Ta Darlings!!  The member preview is May 3 -4. The exhibition opens to the general public on May 5, so buy your tickets early.  For those fashion enthusiasts, a special feature the Museum's website:, provides further information about the exhibition.  Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on and select the Blog that resonates with your interest...just click in the left hand column for the direct links to poetry, visionary men, womendeterminedtosucceed, etc.