Designing the Second Skin: The Work of Giorgio di Sant’Angelo 1971-1991

On view for a short time only, is the exhibition Designing the Second Skin: The Work of Giorgio di Sant’Angelo 1971-1991.  Housed at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson galleries at Parsons school of design, this student-curated show will be up through December 14th.

Giorgio di Sant’Angelo pieces in Museum collections; Left: Dress, 1971.  The Museum at FIT, 91.254.25;Right: Ensemble, 1968.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998.493.348a-f.

When conjuring the work of di Sant’Angelo (which has received a fair amount of attention in the last few years with a monograph exhibition of his garments presented at the Phoenix Art Museum in September of 2011, and a graduate thesis devoted to the designer at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2009), the first image that comes to mind is the iconic Franco Rubartelli photograph of Verushka, barefoot and poised in the desert sun, arms outstretched clasping the ends of a vividly colored and fringed skirt.  The volume of fabric and the saturated nature of the textiles reflect the intensity of the glowing terrain, rooting the model in the earth.  Yet, she still maintains an illusion of weightlessness, appearing as if she might leap into the blue expanse of the sky at any moment, harnessing the power of the winds, rather than allowing them to simply sweep her away.

Every aspect of this photograph cues the definitive elements of di Sant’Angelo’s work: a love for color and a devotion to experimenting with textiles, an appropriation of elements from ethnic dress (which the designer clearly represents as an admirable homage), and most particular to the Parson’s exhibition: a graceful awareness of the symbiosis between dress and the movement that a vehicle like the human form provides.

Installation shots, images courtesy of Worn Through.

This small and precisely curated exhibition chooses to focus most sharply on works from di Sant’Angelo’s oeuvre that highlight this interest in the human form and his promotion of dancewear elements within high fashion, most notably through his use of textiles such as lycra and nylon, and embrace of silhouettes such as the bodysuit.

Installation shots, images courtesy of Worn Through.

The opportunity for graduate students to curate a show on their own without the support of a large institution, is a tremendous learning experience, especially for those that might wish to pursue independent curatorial projects in the future.  While museum internships provide invaluable opportunities to learn about object care, research techniques, and how different roles function as part of a larger organizational structure, I firmly believe that all students wishing to pursue a curatorial career should have the experience of working on a small-budget exhibition project at least once during their education.  The process of seeking and acquiring loan objects, designing the exhibition space, dressing mannequins and handling objects, and even painting walls and sourcing or building display elements are all extremely practical additions to the foundational research and writing skills that are integral to any exhibition.

Located close to Union Square, the Arnold and Sheila Aronson galleries at Parsons are easily accessible, and I highly encourage those who are in the area to make time for a quick visit to the show to support student research and exhibitions.

Installation shots, images courtesy of Worn Through.

Here’s the press release via Fashion projects:

Parsons presents the first New York exhibition of the work of designer Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, an innovative Italian-born American designer from the 1960s through 1980s who explored the ways in which garments truly become the wearer’s second skin. Playing with texture, transparency, and newly discovered fabric technology, Sant’Angelo examined the relationship between exposure and concealment. A highlight from the exhibition is a nude sequined jumpsuit worn by Naomi Campbell and featured in an editorial shoot for Harper’s Bazaar in 1991.

The works on view are drawn from the Parsons Fashion Archive—a collection of nearly 10,000 garments, including a number of pieces donated to Parsons by the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Sant’Angelo works were originally donated to the Met by Parsons faculty member Martin Price, Sant-Angelo’s design assistant and partner, who has been an instrumental force in keeping Sant’Angelo’s spirit alive.

Event Details:

Designing the Second Skin: Giorgio di Sant’Angelo 1971-1991
Dates: Tuesday, December 4 to Friday, December 14
Opening Reception: Tuesday, December 4 from 6 to 8 PM
Gallery Hours: Open daily from 12 to 6 PM, open until 8 PM on Thursday
Location: Parsons The New School for Design, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, 66 Fifth Avenue

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