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Behind the Seams

As I have already admitted, the Ando Gallery is my favorite gallery in the museum. So it was thrilling to see the transformation it's undergoing in anticipation of Material Translations: Japanese Fashion from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (opening tomorrow). This exhibition marks several milestones: the first time pieces from the School's Fashion Resource Center (currently celebrating its 25th anniversary) have been shown in public and the first time contemporary fashion has been presented within the museum's Asian Art galleries. It's also the first true collaboration between the Fashion Resource Center and the Art Institute; it was jointly organized by Janice Katz, the Roger L. Weston Associate Curator of Japanese Art at the museum, and Gillion Carrara, Director of the Fashion Resource Center.

We invite you to get a first look at some of these garments that blend characteristics of contemporary Japanese fashion—like irregularity and a deconstructionist technique—with an undeniably avant garde sensibility. Pieces range from Issey Miyake's pleated top and skirt that take on sculptural qualities when worn to Yohji Yamamoto's dress secured completely by black enamel safety pins. The exhibition also includes garments by Junya Watanabe and Rei Kawakubo, among other designers.

The presentation also includes a video installation by contemporary artist (and professor at the School) Jan Tichy. This site specific piece uses light to dramatically alter visitors' experience of the gallery, according to Katz creating a "3D orchestration of light." The light will illuminate and play off of the 16 wooden columns that are one of the architectural hallmarks of the space, ultimately producing an environment that enlivens the gallery, but also encourages contemplation.

For those of you familiar with exhibitions in the Ando Gallery, this might seem a departure, but as Katz pointed out to me, there are many similarities between traditional Japanese art and contemporary fashion. Both have strict attention to detail, widespread use of asymmetry, and a strong focus on materials. Both embrace the inherent characteristics of their chosen media, but also push them to the limit.

Enjoy a preview of some installation photos and if you're interested in hearing more, Katz and Carrara, along with Caroline Bellios, Assistant Director at the Fashion Resource Center, will join forces for a lecture that explores the intricacies of Japanese fashion on Thursday, January 10.