Rei Kawakubo’s eye has led to a multitude of Comme des Garcons collaborations with artists. The fact that all imagery put out by the brand is so tightly controlled by Kawakubo, who is so often attracted to the unconventional, has resulted in an image back catalogue that is like no other fashion house.
To celebrate 40 years of this strong vision, Dover Street Market has been transformed to accommodate Comme des Garcons’ “Printed Matter” exhibition. This encompasses images from the short lived SIX magazine (published by the brand between 1988-91), direct mailings and ad campaigns. Over the six floors of DSM boxes have been constructed that blend seamlessly with a particular area, be it the entrance or a till point but they also cannot help but grab your attention as all facets of the boxes, inside and outside and even facing the ceiling have been covered with blown-up prints of Comme’s printed matter.
Dominating these boxes is the work of Argentinian collective Mondongo. Meaning either tripe stew or intestine in Spanish, Mondogo are Agustina Picasso, Manuel Mendanha, and Juliana Laffitte, who are all fans of the stew and together they cook up different art alchemies, describing themselves as “three witches stirring it up in a cauldron.” As opposed to inaccurate prophecies though, these witches experiment with unconventional materials like plasticine, dried pulses, cheap biscuits and painstakingly construct pieces that depict anything from Little Red Riding Hood to sexual encounters. Together with the textures they create, each piece has sinister and often sexual undertones that cast a bleak eye on the world. Somehow chunky lobs of plasticine and glossy biscuits only serve to highlight the almost sickeningly visceral qualities of the subjects.
A similar thematic strand can be seen in another CdG collaborator; Amie Dicke whose illustrations of faces of flowing lines conjure up nightmarish visions of facial disintegration. Ruth Marten, a recent collaborator, produces 18th century-style engravings that focus on hairy creatures. Tabaimo gives a different perspective to manga illustration, by portraying dark scenes of Japanese everyday life. Iconic ad campaign images by Jim Britt and visuals by Paolo Roversi can also be seen.
Still, it is Mondongo that steal the show and you wonder what relevance do their images bear to Comme des Garcons seeing as they are not direct collaborators, working with the fashion that Kawakubo creates. Perhaps it’s the shared affinity between Mondongo and Comme des Garcons that Kawakubo is trying to communicate by adopting their work in her corporate imagery.
Printed Matter at Dover Street Market on until November 22nd.