Into clothing is transposed the complex, stratified and changeable relationship between personal experience and collective memory, between an intensely-lived past, minus nostalgia, and the future. The relative nature of certainty and outcome encourages us to wander through the future, to look forward, to make plans that are not simply mindless affirmation, but are a vital sweepstake about what is going to happen. You have to dream of growth to be able to grow. –Gabi Scardi
kurimanzutto is delighted to present New Lexicons for Embodiment, the first-ever solo exhibition by Mexican artist and designer Barbara Sánchez-Kane in New York. Navigating the individual, yet intertwined worlds of fashion and art, the artist considers the clothed body as the interphase with which we experience the world and interact with reality, and examines how these clothes contribute to the performance of identity and self-expression.
Sánchez-Kane, who alternatively uses she and he pronouns, is interested in the deconstruction of identities and the duality of the presented self: through her clothes and sculptures, there is a perpetual tearing and fracturing of the structure, voids that seemingly shouldn’t exist, and the recurring repurposing of traditional objects through the destruction of their functionality.
As an introduction to Sánchez-Kane’s practice, the foyer of the gallery will house a pop-up shop of his fashion brand with items from his latest collection. This space will serve as an interlude into the art exhibition, which will in turn showcase her sculptural practice. Many of the works on show are based on a 1920s design treaty (The Koester School Book of Drapes), which ordered that plinths or structures selling goods were transformed into fashionable and desirable vitrines. For her presentation, she has studied these techniques and transformed them into sculptures in their own right. These objects, made from tissue, resemble infinite and organic landscapes where the "desirable goods” for sale are absent. These pieces in Sánchez-Kane’s project tackle the void and the empty space that would normally be occupied by objects and bodies, both materially and metaphorically.
Through the repetition of patterns with slight variations, the artist creates a number of possibilities of “wearable” sculptures. In the fashion industry, molds and repetition, pattern creation and weaving are central to production. The artist takes these ideas and constructs experimental structures that deform, expand and multiply different materials to create what she calls “monsters” that inhabit the gallery space.
Three hanging sculptures made of aluminum were created as a reaction to the dress form fitting system, where mannequins can be modified, enlarged, and stretched to simulate different body types for cloth-making. Sánchez-Kane creates abstract sculptures inspired by this anthropomorphic object, presenting deformed, stretched, and modifiable bodies that use the technology from the fitting system.
Art creates a space for the Sánchez-Kane to disarticulate the elements in the fashion industry with which he does not identify, such as the standardization of bodies through sizes, the ephemerality of tendencies, mass consumption, and fast fashion. On the other hand, fashion is the discipline in which she was trained, and the symbolic space where he organizes her ideas and understands the material world. Through these two lines of thought, Sánchez-Kane translates his observations into sculptural works that exit the fashion arena and reveal their impossibility to function inside it. In addition to the material expression of these observations, the pieces also raise questions about power dynamics that sustain the production, circulation, and consumption process that homogenize identity and marginalize bodies and beauty standards.
New Lexicons for Embodiment / Bárbara Sánchez Kane
Luis Felipe Fabre
I look at Bárbara Sánchez-Kane’s works and a kind of eroticism immediately springs up between us: like me, they await a body that will use and possess them.
What happens to a body dressed in one of Sánchez-Kane’s works?
In the short term, the syntax of its limbs is altered. In the long term, I suspect, its organs will end up changing both function and meaning. Where once was an arm, an ear will grow. Mutant clothes for mutants.
Mutant clothes as an act of resistance against evolutionary biology: a wardrobe for misfits in which all that is functionless and discarded finds its place. Clothes for a less efficient life. Shoes to walk slowly and difficultly toward a different beauty. Clothes for being less productive. Suits unfit for seeking work. A perfect wardrobe for making life more complicated.
But clothes, too, for tying the body to the body and saving it from virtual reality and its avatars. Clothes as uncomfortable as reality itself.
I take it back. I said that Sánchez-Kane’s works await a body that will use and possess them but that was a misjudgment: they await, rather, a body which they themselves may use and possess. And yet this isn’t entirely exact, either.
The thing is that these clothes are unstable; they are in a constant state of transformation. As soon as one speaks of them, they’re already turning into something else. Yes, mutant clothes. No.
Clothes in a state of flux. More than with fabrics, metals, rawhide, belts, Sánchez-Kane works with fluxes. Instead of calling them clothes, we might call these works desire.
The one who wears Sánchez-Kane’s work disappears.
It’s impossible to take a selfie in one of Sánchez-Kane’s works because the one who appears in the picture is someone else. It’s impossible, too, to look in the mirror without missing oneself, without longing for the person one was and whom one has left behind. Wearing one of these garments entails an exercise in unknowing oneself. Clothes that strip the body of its image.
I read the name “Narciso” [Narcissus] tattooed on the abdomen of the faceless model wearing Sánchez-Kane’s work and it terrifies me, since to wear one of Sánchez-Kane’s works means, precisely, to wear Narcissus’ death: it is to drown within oneself only to come back to life as a vampire on the other side of the image: in the mirror that no longer holds your reflection. The name remains, which is to say, the text, which is to say, the fabric, which is to say, the weave.
A bit further up, almost at the height of the chest, in big letters, is another tattoo that reads “Valiente” [Brave].
Not one belt but ten, twenty, a hundred: the metastasis of the one multiplied into the void.
In the monstrous proliferation of belts interwoven around an already absent single body, there stirs the collective monster of the orgy.