By Marquaysa Battle
Last Monday, I visited the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum after spotting a jaw dropping pink Italian ballgown by Giambattista Valli on my Instagram feed. I had to see if it was as divine in person as it was on my phone.
Wouldn’t this make you want to go?
I ended up staying at the museum for hours because as it turns out, the museum is celebrating its fifth installment of the popular contemporary design exhibition series, Beauty: Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. The exhibit lasts through August 21. For more information: Visit here.
The ‘Beauty’ exhibit is just that—clothing, architecture and other display pieces created with technology or another unexpected mediums such as acrylic, beads and 3D-printers. The purpose of the exhibit is to explore the question: “What is beauty?”
Earlier this month, Jay-Z and Beyonce visited the ‘Afreaks’ collection:
‘Afreaks’ is a collaboration between the Haas Brothers (of furniture fame), who designed the sculptures, and South African bead artists who call themselves “the Haas Sisters”. Their colorful animals reminded me of the giddiness I felt as a little girl when I saw a playground or any place that meant ‘fun’ growing up.
Next up was a dress by Dutch designer, Iris van Herpen that is made of resin and iron. It reminded me of the outrageous capitol fashion in The Hunger Games. The dress was created with a gravity machine that uses, well, gravity and magnetism to pull the materials up like mini spikes on the garment.
A close up of the shoes:
This polythread textile pavilion made me want to kick back and relax, probably because of the soft purple light. The pavilion was created by Jenny E. Sabin out of solar active and drake yarns, meant to absorb light during the day and reflect it at night. Sabin’s polythread creation was used by Nike in 2013 to create their line of lightweight Flyknit sneakers.
I kept returning to these designs by Gareth Pug. The pieces are made with black straws and leather, kind of like the ‘unconventional’ challenges on Heidi Klum’s Project Runway.
The ‘wearable organ pieces were the most puzzling of the designs I saw. When worn in the sun, the armor-like pieces convert absorbed light into consumable energy for the body (like food, fuel and healthy bacteria). The goal is for humans to self-sustain on other planets. Um, ok.
This piece is meant to be worn around the wasit:
This one is made for the back of the head and shoulders:
These nails by Japanese artist, Naomi Yasuda tickled me. Yasuda says she drew inspiration from patterns on kimonos her grandmother tailored, but they reminded me of the wild acrylic nails I saw women wear growing up in North Carolina. It was a pleasant surprise to "see some home" in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
There was quite a bit of fashion at the exhibit. I loved this "optic opulence", by Mary Katrantzou.
Sandra Backlind's "soft armor", aka crocheted dress from her Fall 2013 collection, was adorable:
I adored the clash and compliment of these VLISCO patterns, The dutch wax designs are very popular in West and Central Africa.
I fell in love with this piece even before knowing the touching backstory. Finnish artist Tuomas Markupoika created this chained cabinet by wrapping an actual cabinet in tubular steel, then burning down the cabinet. The result is a shell of metal rings, "a ghost of the original form". The piece was inspired by his grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
The Clock Prototype, a digital clock made by Humans Since 1982 and made of 288 tiny clocks, was the last thing I saw before I left. The small clocks move around for one minute, creating a kaleidoscope visual. Every sixty seconds, they display the new, accurate time. If you love the concept, you can download an app based on the artwork to your iPad/iPhone to have a slice of the design with you.
Take a look:
What did you think of Beauty?