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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Aidekman gets all dressed up with new clothing exhibit

Guest curator Judith Hoos Fox's new traveling exhibit "Pattern Language: Clothing as Communicator" might not be exactly the show for aspiring Prada gurus and Versace connoisseurs. The exhibition, which opened last Thursday in the Tufts University Arts Gallery in Aidekman, strives to be the antithesis of the typical "fashion show" you'd have in mind. Rather than showcase luxurious garb and outrageous prices, more than twenty artists used clothing to leave a mark about the wearer's essence: the human spirit.

"This exhibit is unusual for Tufts," said Jeanne Koles, the Gallery Outreach Coordinator. "It's one of the most ambitious exhibits we've done in a couple of years. When you just look around, the number of objects and various types of objects aren't just pieces on the walls - they're displayed in unique ways and made in unique ways ... It's a holistic approach that makes [the exhibit] really interesting."

Unique is definitely the word to describe it.

The exhibit divides into four categories, and in every part, clothes make some sort of statement about humanity. In the "Everyman" category, for example, one striking piece is a seemingly normal sweater - but with two neck holes. Called "Schizo-Pullover," this piece by Rosemarie Trockel symbolizes the struggle for personality, with the two presumed heads fighting for the limelight. It could also be a convenient knit for conjoined twins.

Moving along in the collection will reveal pieces that draw even more attention. Ever sport those Abercrombie labels in all their glory? Do you believe that "Clothes Make the Man?" The power of advertising takes a whole new turn in The Art Guys' piece of that name: in an ironic parody of the never-ending quest for labels, this project has the tags define the suits. Sporting coats and pants with brand names like "Krispy Kreme," "Altoids," and "Budweiser," the two models can be seen wandering the city streets in the opening video. Parodying that integral daily demonstration of labels on personal clothing, the artists' display makes a powerful statement about today's ad-soaked world.

In addition to their instinctive functions, clothes serve to contain and screen parts of the body. In the "Container/Contained" section, be sure to note the "Camouflage Maternity Dress" by Mimi Smith. The pregnant sergeant's frock with its space helmet belly is quite an eccentric eye catcher. The dress shows the absolute opposite of "normal" maternity clothes, with its glass stomach taking center stage amidst green army patterns. "People try to hide the fact that they're pregnant," said Koles. "In fact, here it is, showing it for all the world!"

In the "(Un)Clothed" section there is no shyness either. In "The Immortal Tailor," artist Alba D'Urbano attempts to redefine the very nature of clothing. Rather than covering the body, her flesh-colored satin frocks have all intimate areas painted on - essentially revealing everything and nothing at once.

There is a place for innovative multitasking, too. In the "Construction/Creation" section, the clothes can create themselves or even self-destruct. Try to resist the temptation to pull the zipper when viewing Galya Rosenfeld's "Object Un-Dress:" it's a gown made entirely out of "one continuous piece of zipper" that somehow holds the shape of a full dress.

"The stiffness is created from the zipper's own tension, without the help of a crinoline," said Koles. In the demonstrative video, a model took about two minutes to unroll the entire outfit. It can also be customized to different lengths just by unzipping.

Among the works in the last section is the aesthetically pleasing "Measure For Measure" by Cat Chow, a 50s-style housedress created completely out of measuring tape. The colorful blend of checkers and numbers appears to be pretty and innocent at first glance; however, it represents "every woman's struggle to measure up," according to the program. Still, this tailored measuring tape concoction is probably the most wearable outfit from the collection with a bright pattern of fuchsia, yellow and green squares.

Perhaps the most important aspect of "Pattern Language" is the emotions and themes that the art evokes: human vulnerabilities, complexes, needs, wants and dreams. "It's not a fashion exhibition," Koles said. "It's about the function of clothing, how human beings use clothing. In a way it's about the body, too."

"Pattern Language" will stay at Tufts until Nov. 13. Afterwards, it will move on to universities in Illinois, California and Minnesota. In the past few weeks, the Aidekman gallery space has actually been redesigned to accommodate this exhibit; this is the first time in recent history that Tufts is involved with a touring exhibition of this magnitude.

Tufts offers comprehensive tours of the gallery with an Art Gallery Guide, available by schedule, as well as individual group appointments. For more information, e-mail or call (617) 627-3094.