Jun 23, 2011

Aesthetic Thursday: Alexander McQueen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Dialectic of Beauty, Alexander McQueen Struggles with Deconstructive Aesthetics



Dress, The Horn of Plenty, autumn/winter 2009–10

If you are in New York City between now and August 7, 2011, check out the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Exhibit"

The exhibit boasts an ample retrospective on the deceased fashion designer's life works, dating back from his seminal graduate student collection inspired by Jack the Ripper to his most recent posthumous collection.

Jellyfish designs, macabre mixture of duck feathers and leather masks, spray on dresses, and kinky "bumster" design pants, the McQueen exhibit is a touching tribute to a man who certainly obsessed over dichotomies, divergences, and the question of the beautiful.

One showcase in particular attracted my attention. Entering the room one sees a glass box with the fashion pieces. There is a mirror reflecting the audience members. The mirror fades away. A video of a McQueen fashion show flickers on the wall. A cube opens up on all four sides crashing to the ground. Piercing monotone music erupts. Like the sound of a train engine. Once the cube opens up you can see  in the center is a nude figure with a contorted ashen face. She represents the image of ugliness itself contrasted with the beauty of the fashion design surrounding her. The video installation fades away and we are left as spectators looking upon our own beauty.

Founded on McQueen's insistence to marry romantic ideals with the grotesque, the pieces displayed at the Met provide a convincing glimpse into the artistry of a man who was obsessed with dialectical opposition. I could not help but think of the playfulness of each piece. What is really beautiful? How does art lead to reflections on death? How is the way we adorn ourselves through fashion a reflection of a romantic desire to return to nature?


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