Monday, February 7, 2011

Isabelle de Borchgrave's 'Pulp Fashion' at the Legion

Paper - the whole thing about paper is that it's fragile, transitory, utilitarian, usable and reusable. For the past fifteen years, Isabelle de Borchgrave has been creating a body of work that encapsulates the past in a fragile yet durable form, the paper of our dreams, figures that have stepped out from their gold frames and now, stand among us, real, solid, tangible. 

Her central project has been to re-create exquisite, life-size historical costumes entirely from paper. From afar, de Borchgrave’s creations appear to be masterpieces of trompe l’oeil. Taking inspiration from the rich depictions in early European paintings, iconic costumes in museum collections, photographs, sketches, and even literary descriptions, de Borchgrave skillfully works paper to achieve the effect of textiles: crumpling, pleating, braiding, feathering, and painting the surface. The culmination of a long and restless artistic career,
de Borchgrave’s mature work is best understood not only by examining her
artistic processes, her sources, and the theoretical discourse that surrounds
painting and costume, but also by considering the artist’s own social and
creative context.

One of the most stunning rooms at the exhibit is De Borchgrave's homage to Fortuny.  Fortuny (1871–1949) primarily considered himself a painter but moved easily between a myriad of artistic ventures, working as a photographer as well as a designer of fabric, clothing, theatrical scenery, and stage lighting. De Borchgrave decided immediately that she wished to capture the totality of Fortuny’s oeuvre: “I could not tell his story with just a dress. I wanted to bring the visitor into Fortuny’s world, into his palazzo. I needed to create an environment.” 

Fortuny tent, 2006–2007 Inspired by photographs of Fortuny’s Venice workshop,
Paris boutique, and display at the 1911 Exposition des Arts D√©coratifs, Paris. 

During a visit to San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum in the summer of 2010,
de Borchgrave was captivated by the portrait of a woman in Neapolitan peasant costume
by Italian Baroque painter Massimo Stanzion.Tellingly, she has lavished as much attention on the rooster as on the figure’s dress, individuallycrafting each hand-painted feather. The overall effect serves only to emphasize the mysterious tension of Stanzione’s portrait.

Delphos dress and coat, 2006–2007
Inspired by a design by Fortuny
Eleanora of Toledo, 2006 - figure on the far left.
Inspired by a ca. 1545 portrait of Eleanora and her son Giovanni de’ Medici by Agnolo
Bronzino in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
 Why paper and not fabric? She has always loved the arte povera aspect of her work, and the fact that such a simple, unsophisticated material can be transformed into something incredible. 'It is completely different when you use fabric,' she says. 'It is soft, yes, but it's expensive, and if you paint fabric and it goes wrong, well…' She raises her eyes at the thought of all that waste. 'But with paper, if it goes wrong, you can scrunch it up and drop it in the bin and start again. It makes you more adventurous. It allows you to play.'


Zoomie said...

I rolled my eyes at the idea of yet another fashion show but you've made me see that this one may be quite interesting. Thanks.

namastenancy said...

The show is actually as much about history as about fashion. She makes it easy to see just how those fashions would look. There are too many gorgeous pieces to post here - a 1910 white lace tea gown, a dress a la Marie Antoinette, shoes, accessories, even a couple of darling little dogs. I am looking for the images from the piece that she did which was inspired by the painting, "The Russian Bride" which is up at the Legion. She did a wonderful figure based on the bride's sister and there are her paper interpretations of the Russian caftan up on the walls.