Helmut Lang at Sperone Westwater Gallery; Art made from the remains of his archives
Shredded sentiment reincarnates in sculptural supremacy at Sperone Westwater Gallery this month. Since 2005, Lang's retirement from his namesake brand has brought the world drips and dabbles of artistic abstraction in his familiar aesthetic. Categorized as an "emerging artist" at the age of 58, Helmut Lang serves up a secondary dose of sedentary sculpture--this time in the limelight of Manhattan's Lower East Side. The exhibit, suitably titled Helmut Lang incorporates fossilized fragments from his former archives, conceiving art "with a certain history, elements with irreplaceable presence and with scars and memories of a former purpose. [source:Gallery Press Release]" Keep reading for the details...
Fossilized fabric-- So many bits and pieces trapped in the sentimental shrapnel
Beyond the obscure, black-slitted entryway of Sperone Wastewater, over 200 pieces of Lang's hard-earned handiwork occupy two floors of gallery space. Focused on both memorializing a former identity and fueling the freshness of a new vision, remnants of Helmut Lang's séance de travails--survivors of a 2010 Soho studio fire--have been repurposed into forms of fossilized fragments, wrought with multiple meanings. "I was very serious about art, and I didn't want to be the goalkeeper of my former legacy. So they had to go," notes Lang, "I don't like to throw things away, but I also have the ability to end chapters of my life."
Cardboard Boxes + Masking Tape + Paint = Art
In an age where artists are pining for collaborations with notable fashion labels, Helmut Lang rides the opposing tide, furthering himself from the fanfare of fashion and finding solace in solitary art. The product of 6,000 to 8,000 archival pieces taken through an industrial shredder is a roomful of nuanced nostalgia. The mixture of minced media is displayed in poles of 10 to 12 feet high, propped against gallery walls; in some places (if you look closely), you can spot fully recognizable swatches and style tags! Amid the mostly monochrome styling, two light pink poles, a yellow one and a handful of red ones pay tribute to Louise Bourgeois, Lang's longtime muse.
View from above; 6,000 to 8,000 archival pieces were shredded and combined with hang tags, buttons fasteners, resin and paint
The back room houses a series of resin + pigment-pressed wall sculptures frozen in delicate relief patterns. Upstairs, the exhibit continues with layered relief pieces made from die-cut cardboard that has been compressed and belted with tape, and draped with paint. In stark contrast to the long tubular structures, the wall pieces are flat, sharp and stout. Of the simplicity, Lang states, "I didn't want it to be overproduced. There's a rawness and an organic quality."
Abstract... Junk or Genius?
Stepping into the gallery, my first impression was surprise, at the strange sculpture and birch like tubes. As a fashion designer, Helmut Lang was my go-to for edgy, stylish pieces; I expected structure, refinement and sharpness. Yet after taking a closer look, I can appreciate the irreverence towards commerce and homage to the abstract--the permeance of creativity, the transience of fashion in deconstructed glory and the subsequent re-construction of an understated history. If you happen to be in town, Helmut Lang will run from January 8 to February 21st at Sperone Wastewater, 257 Bowery.
View towards the entrance from the back of the gallery
2 pink poles in tribute to Louise Bourgeois, a muse of Helmut Lang
Predominance of black--representative of Lang's traditionally monochrome and minimalist aesthetic
Layers of fabric... or layers of cardboard?
Perfect, Imperfection... complete with cracks and air bubbles
10-12 foot long poles
The tubes are created by filling long, ribbed aluminum tubes with archive remains + resin and baked in the sun
Reminds me of a bifurcated sea cucumber