Published: March 8, 2011
The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue, will present “Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay,” from March 18 to June 5. The exhibition features abstract painter and extraordinary colorist Sonia Delaunay’s designs for textiles and fashion in the 1920s through the 1940s, when she was intensively exploring the relationship between fabrics and contemporary art.
In the first major US museum exhibit, the 300 works on view include garments and textiles with correlating designs, fashion illustrations and period photographs.
Delaunay (1885‱979) applied her talents and theories to all areas of visual expression, including graphics, theater and film, interiors, fashion and textiles. She made little distinction between her paintings and her design work, considering all to be part of a practice of bringing art into everyday life.
“Color Moves” surveys the artist’s designs for fashion and textiles, covering two major periods: the 1920s, when she had her own Atelier Simultané in Paris, and the 1930s, when she designed textiles for the fashionable Metz & Co department store in Amsterdam. It brings together exceptional examples of designs, textiles, garments and photographs from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, the Musée de l’Impression sur Étoffes de Mulhouse, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and private collections from Europe and the United States.
Born Sonia Terk in Russia, Delaunay moved to Paris as a young woman and remained there most of her life. In 1910 she married the painter Robert Delaunay, while the two worked closely together on their theory of “simultaneity,” or the sensation of movement and rhythm created by the simultaneous contrasts of certain colors.
The exhibit begins with her experimental “poem dresses” of the 1910s, which represented a synthesis of word, body and movement. The concept perhaps first coalesced for her in the work with poet Blaise Cendrars, whose poems she illuminated with abstract color forms.
The first large gallery will be devoted to the “Simultaneous Boutique,” which opened in conjunction with the 1925 Paris Decorative Arts Exposition, and where Delaunay exhibited garments that were extensions of her painting practice. The fashions are pure geometric forms in rhythmic patterns and brilliant colors that exactly suited the modern spirit. A display of garments from this period will be on view, including driving caps, bathing suits and a coat made for Gloria Swanson.
Black and white photographs of models and famous actresses of the day wearing Delaunay’s creations evoke the glamour of Jazz Age Paris in the 1920s.
The second part of the exhibit will examine her work for the Metz & Co. department store in Amsterdam, which is virtually unknown in the United States.
The completeness of the Metz & Co. collection enables Cooper-Hewitt to show Delaunay’s process, from the initial sketch through the finished product, as she developed her technical skills as a textile designer. Metz & Co. director Joseph de Leeuw also promoted other artist/designers, including Bart van der Leck and Gerrit Rietveld, and one area of the exhibition will explore the mutual aesthetic influences among these important figures.
For information, www.cooperhewitt.org or 212-849-8400.
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