Last week, I attended the press preview for the exhibition Rodarte: Fra Angelico Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). This intimate affair was attended by about a dozen members of the press and consisted of a conversation between Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the LA-based sisters behind the fashion design label Rodarte, and Sharon S. Takeda, LACMA’s Senior Curator and Head of the Costume and Textiles Department. Following this talk, Kate, Laura and I had a quick chat and they were kind enough to answer a few of my questions. But first, a few words on the exquisite exhibition!
Fra Angelico Annunication c1438-1445, Museo di San Marco, Florence
Pitti Immagine (an Italian company that organizes international fashion fairs) invited the Mulleavy sisters to create work for a solo exhibition in Florence during the company’s fashion fair. The sisters visited Florence for the first time to prepare for the project. They recount bursting into tears upon viewing Renaissance treasures which they had only seen in books, prompting their guide to tell them she had never before seen such a reaction from American tourists. This emotional and inspiring trip resulted in the creation of a 10-dress couture collection, which the designers have gifted to LACMA, the first of their work to enter the museum’s permanent holdings. Currently, 9 of the 10 dresses are on view in LACMA’s Italian Renaissance gallery. This collection is inspired by Fra Angelico’s delicate frescoes in the Museo di San Marco (previously a monastery) and by Bernini’s dramatic sculpture Ecstasy of St. Theresa. The delicate pastel-hued dresses look like they might float into the atmosphere except for two, which display bold and grounding star burst designs (the pink gown with the science fiction-like gold armature is an exceptional work of art of such beauty that it nearly brought me to tears!)
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, 1648-1652, Rome.
|Kate and Laura Mulleavy, photo by Autumn de Wilde|
How do you start a collection? What is the first step?
Laura and Kate Mulleavy: “We sketch together, we start with nothing and the visual comes. We sketch in black and white, color comes in right before the piece is made. What’s important is telling the story. This collection is about transcendence, which makes it hard to communicate a narrative.
Which artists do you find yourself coming back to as inspiration in your work?
Kate Mulleavy: Bernini is probably one of my favorites artists ever. I also love John Baldessari and Chris Burden.
Laura Mulleavy: John Baldessari for his choice of color – of not using much color. There’s a simplicity of things you know [in his art]. Art is an emotional and visual process and it’s a great starting point in telling a story.”
Is there a specific work of art in art history which you’re drawn to?
Kate Mulleavy: The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is my favorite work of art.
Laura Mulleavy: Van Gogh’s portrait of his mother at the Norton Simon Museum inspired our last collection. [The painting] is down the street from where we live, we’ve seen it a million times and of a sudden we saw it differently: the acid green and abstraction [of it].