“What’s New: Fashion and Contemporary Craft,” Cincinnati Art Museum

October 22nd, 2013  |  Published in October 2013

“What’s New: Fashion and Contemporary Craft,”  Cincinnati Art Museum

By Sara Caswell-Pearce


Some exhibitions are big, but lackluster. Others are small, but juicy. Happily, the latter is the case with the Cincinnati Art Museum’s What’s New: Fashion and Contemporary Craft.

The basic idea – comparing works to one another – is hardly new. Yet, here it’s done with such intelligence, care and humor that it feels fresh.

Museum curators Cynthia Amnéus and Amy Dehan focus on recent additions to the permanent collection – all made since 1950 – and similarities of form, pattern, texture, movement, etc.

Fashion designer Iris Van Herpen’s scary, fetishistic Fang Shoes with their matte blood-red uppers and glossy, fang-shaped black soles are shown beside ceramist Michelle Erickson’s equally frightening “Weapon of Choice” in which a skull-shaped porcelain gas pump rests atop an earthenware block that looks like a chunk from an archeological excavation. Both play with tradition: Van Harpen’s laced shoes echo Victorian designs; Erickson’s gas pump is tattooed via a blue-and-white design reminiscent of antique Blue Willow dinnerware.

Architect Zaha Hadid’s sleek, sculptural, leather boots for Lacoste snake up and around the calf, and mimic the swirling, hard-edged lines of a silver-lined vessel by wood turner Virginia Dotson.

The front of fashion designer Yoshiki Hishinuma’s semi-sheer “Blouse” is punctuated by a pattern of puckered mounds of fabric. In a case next to it, sits a group of ceramist Rudy Staffel’s Light Gatherers, small ceramic vessels whose luminosity matches the delicacy of Hishunuma’s blouse. Both men push, stretch and pinch their materials as they explore their limits.

In another stellar pairing, Hishinuma’s ragged-edged, patched together “Laminated Dress” – which appears to be made of lustrous silks, but is actually polyester laminated with urethane – is matched with one of wood turner Rude Osolnik’s lustrous, natural-edged bowls whose surface appears to be much the same mash up as Hishinuma’s dress.

I could go on and on about other marvelous pairings, such as fashion designer John Bartlett’s cheeky “Cannabis Smoking Coat,” which is constructed of cut-out cannabis leaves that somehow resemble the cramped triangles in woodturner Alan Shut’s bowl “Too Many Triangles.” Or the similarities between fashion designer Issey Miyake’s “Rhythm Pleats Blouse” and the lacy “Untitled” bowl by wood turner Lindsey Dunn.

But there is much more going on here. The unspoken connection between all the pieces and their makers is innovation. Every craftsperson and designer featured has been on the leading edge – and many still are.

The exhibit makes savvy use of the collection – no mean feat in these austere times – while showcasing how astute the museum has been in it’s fashion and craft acquisitions.


“What’s New: Fashion and Contemporary Craft,” Cincinnati Art Museum, Eden Park. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Through Jan. 19, 2014. www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org


















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