by Susette Martínez Monter
Translated by Lillian Guerra, Ph.D.
Art and Fashion was originally conceived as an extension of the eternal dialogue between the art of painting and that of fashion design, two visual forms of expression that through time immemorial have followed similar paths, one with the end of gallery display and the other with the more utilitarian purpose of purveying a style of dress. This project assumes the challenge of attempting to transcend the barriers that separate fashion from art, producing in the process an effect of high artistic value, one in which both forms of expression acquire the same level of excellence, complementing and enriching one another mutually.
From Antiquity, painting has served as the primary vehicle for the reproduction of all forms of dress and accessorizing. This special “relationship,” reinforced by the increasing presence of professional portrait painters in the royal courts [of Europe], remained constant until the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, when the emergence of photography began to supplant, little by little, although never entirely, the painted portrait. Yet, there is a marked difference between painted representations of the clothed human figure in the plastic arts and the special craft of dress design, or representations of a particular mode of dress in and of itself. It was only in the Twentieth Century, a period of revolution and conflict, when painting and fashion design entered a phase of constant exchange and interaction.
In 1910, a shock of color and visual imagery hit Paris [with the arrival of--???—la versión original no tiene sentido] Russian ballet troupes on the scene. After that, fashion design would never be the same. It was in this period that the great innovator Paul Poiret, who in turn was greatly influenced by the post-impressionist art of Gauguin, created a new style of fashion and established a studio where the great modernist painters Paul Iribe and Raul Dufy would created images in cloth. In the years prior to the World War I, one of the projects circulating among the futurists of the period proposed the fusion of art and daily life. In fact, one of this project’s promoters, Sonia Delaunay, began to create dresses with what were called “simultaneous”prints, that is, printed images that meshed with the decorations of domestic interiors, employing geometric structures and luminous colors. The influence of such designs remains transcendent, as represented currently in the works of Paul Smith, Alianto and Jonathan Saunders.
En the 1920s and 30s, together with Dalí, Gabrielle Chanel conceived designs for the work “The Bacchanal”. Chanel’s association with the world of visual arts inspired her to create such pivotal designs as a muslim silk dress based on the “The Birth of Venus” by Boticelli, decorated with pieces of [bisutería?] in the style that would become typical of Chanel under the direction of such designers as Christian Bérard and Elsa Shiaparelli. Other key works include a dress of [harapos?], both real and faux, a hat configured in the shape of a shoe and a dress made of boxes, all inspired by the surrealism of Dalí.
With the modernist movement having transpired and the era of postmodernism beginning to emerge in full swing, fashion’s future seemed destined to acquire the characteristics of technoculture as borrowing across disciplines increasingly eliminated borders of all kinds and different manifestations of art merged with a cacophony of languages and enlivening styles that signaled not only the practice of experimentation, but also the appropriation of the past and the revelation of a certain historicism. It is in this context that Ives Saint Laurent for the House of Dior took the stage. From that point forward, the world of design drew closer once again to that of the plastic arts, searching the painted imagination for sources of inspiration to craft new designs. Initial sources included Goya, Velázquez and Zurbarán, to which Saint Laurent turned following the example of the master designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, who had been working with colored textures as if he were himself a painter for many years. In 1965, Saint Laurent crafted dress designs according to the ideas suggested in the works of the abstract cubist painter Piet Mondrian. Beginning in 1966, he redirected his designs toward the pop art imagery of the U.S. artist Andy Warhol, then Picasso in 1979 and subsequently, Braque, Matisse, Van Gogh, etc. until his retirement from fashion.
Now that artists of all disciplines and fields have assimilated concepts derived from postmodern theory, one can see a marked expansion of the points of contact and convergence between Art and Fashion, making one inseparable from the other in the great houses of Haute Couture as well as the studios of many independent designers. Relevant examples include Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto. Indeed, the movement to project art across and through objects with supposedly non-artistic ends has taken hold in Cuba as well.
In 1974, Casa de las Américas, invited ten painters to create scarf designs for manufacture in the textile mill of Ariguanabo. In addition, Portocarrero, Mariano, Jorge Alberto Carol and Lesbia Vent Dumois as well as designers such as José Luis González and Lina Nunez conceived mages that later emerged in important collections known for their use of artisanal forms of decoration. Undoubtedly, TELARTE represents the most important and broadest collaborative project between the fields of art and design during these years. Organized and managed by the Governing Council of the Plastic Arts and Design under the Ministry of Culture for over ten years, the project aimed to connect Cuban painters, designers, photographers and artisans into a creative network that would aid the production of national textiles and improve their aesthetic qualities. At its height, the project grew to involve over fifty of our artists. Adelaida Herrera, Fayad Jamís, Leandro Soto, Sandra Ceballos, Frómeta, Carol, Tomás Sánchez, Nelson Domínguez and Mendive are only a few of the artists who have seen their designs transformed into textiles.
From 1984 to 1987, CONTEX organized CUBAMODAS, a series of events featuring the exhibit of collections such as the “Exotic Birds”of Patterson, the “Territorial Waters” of Martínez Pedro, the abstract painting of Flavio Garciandía and the digital art of Luis Miguel Valdés, all of which were printed onto woven stretches of cotton, according to the designs of Raf Cobian, Martha Verónica Vega, Lorenzo Urbistondo, Delita y Eduardo de Armas. In the midst of this creative effervescence of the 1980s, the painter Gilberto Frómeta presented the fashion show “Ferns” in the Galería Habana, an event that transformed a beautiful colonial plaza into a unique catwalk for the display of high fashion: there, the Belgian designer Dan Beranger offered designs painted by the master Cuban artist Manuel Mendive.
In the Nineties, Ileana Mulet, emerged on the scene in FIART with “Song to Nature”, a performance piece that combined poetry, music, fashion and painting. At the turn of the Twenty First Century, the Festival “Multiple Prints” featured the designs of Mercy Nodarse with lithographs by Liang Domínguez in the front gallery of the exhibit “Serious Diversions,”a show in which eighteen painters relied on various forms of woven materials as the basic foundation for expression of the plastic arts.
Recently, Zaida del Río has decorated gowns and accessories with the female form, flowers and birds, all painted in Chinese black ink over linen cloth, a technique inspired by the designs of Ismael de la Caridad.
In October of 2000, with the opening of the International Ballet Festival, the Museum of la Casa de la Obra Pía became the staging ground for a unique exhibit: eleven Spanish designers presented works inspired by the paintings of the Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia, a concept that served to launch the Cuban version of Art and Fashion, inaugurated this past November in conjunction with the VIII International Biennal of Havana and winner of the Special Recognition Award in the IX International Artisans’ Fair. This artistic project seeks to demonstrate to the public the relationship between different forms of art from a perspective that is both intimate and innovative, revealing in the process, a creative production in which the work is not only reconstituted by its context but transformed and integrated into the surroundings that define it and that reinforce its message.
Painters and designers of different styles and generations such as Agustín Bejarano, Flora Fong, Carlos Guzmán, Eduardo Yánez, Julio Velásquez, Liang Domínguez, Nelson Domínguez, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Zaida del Río, together with a number of designers, artisans, silversmiths and tailors who have collaborated in the task of making a unique form of art and of ensuring that this art may advance the culture and values of the men and women of today. We are deeply grateful to all of them.
Susette Martínez Monter
Rafael H. Méndez González
[translation by Lillian Guerra, Ph.D., Yale University]