Wednesday, March 12, 2014

American Folk Art Museum

I went walking around the Upper West Side yesterday and stopped into the American Folk Art Museum. I hadn't visited for some time - the last time I did they were still located next to the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd. The fate of that building still seems in flux - but it looks likely that the facade will remain while the interior is gutted. Which is a pity, really, because it was a pretty cool little spot. Not a great place to see or exhibit art, it's true, but still.

Anyway, the new location isn't great either. I did a quick tour of the ground floor before realizing that there were no other floors. The ground floor was the only floor. I wonder how big their storage facility must be because there can't be more than a fraction of their collection on display. Which sucks. But enough complaining, because the exhibit up right now is pretty great. It's titled "Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art." They asked 13 fashion designers to create a garment inspired by a piece in the museum's collection. I saw a review somewhere online with an image of a Gary Graham ensemble accompanying it and my curiosity was piqued.
Gary Graham
Gary Graham
Gary Graham
As it happens, the Graham outfit was amazing - he used a jacquard weave fabric inspired by a 19th century coverlet. It was really, really gorgeous with extraordinary detail. I loved the woven leggings that stretched down over the booties and the fact that the jacket's "hem" was raw - it had a few stray strings hanging off it.

Another great piece was a dress made of paper, designed by Yeohlee Teng. Inspired by 4 kinda awesomely weird little animal sculptures, she photographed them and then printed them on craft paper. I loved the combination of sepia and blueish-black and the fragility of the leaf like layers.
Yeohlee Teng
LOVE this guy

these guys are pretty cool, too

Yeohlee Teng
Another favorite was by Koos van den Akker, who seems like somebody I'd like to hang out with, judging from his profile on the AFAM's website (which has an awesome tumblr blog about the exhibition linked to on their website - worth checking out - I put the link at the bottom of this post). One of his inspirations was this early 19th century portrait of a woman who looks to be having a not great day:
image from tumblr
This was his dress:
Koos van den Akker
The fabric wall hanging to the right of the dress was another of his chosen inspiration pieces and it was pretty great, too:
Kumiko Sudo

Turns out old Koos is behind those awful sweaters Bill Cosby wore back in the day. I'm not going to hold that against him, though. It was a gorgeous dress. It had a bustle (!). Here is a quote of his I liked: “I’m a craftsman. I’m a seamstress. I really sit in front of my sewing machine every day from six in the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon and I make clothes.”

This dress was by a duo called Creatures of the Wind. The inspiration was a photo by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein of his wife. What's interesting is that they lifted the pattern of the backdrop drape for their dress. Not completely - just a fragment - the palm leaves. The colors of the dress reference the warm tone of the silver gelatin photo, which is also a nice tie-in.
Creatures of the Wind
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Catherine Malandrino (on the left) and Fabio Costa - love that thing with the wooden spikes
Fabio Costa
Catherine Malandrino inspiration piece
I loved the wooden piece that hung behind Fabio Costa's dress. Not crazy about his dress, though. Looked like a bulky doily to me. This one by Jean Yu made me laugh:
Jean Yu
Jean Yu
It's up until April 23. If you are in NYC it's well worth a visit.