proenza schouler gets abstract at the whitney for autumn/winter 15
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez present a loose, experimental autumn collection within the Marcel Breuer curves of the Whitney Museum.
There's something inherently subversive about showing a "downtown" collection uptown. So the Whitney, about as far uptown as you can get, was the perfect spot for Proenza Schouler's boundary-crashing autumn/winter 15 collection. This season, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez explored the intersection of tradition and innovation at the heart of the New York School of abstract impressionist painters.
With its undone strips of fabric, cutaway bandage wraps, and hazy prints, the collection implied a sort of looseness in keeping with painters like Helen Frankenthaler and Franz Kline. After a series of collections exploring the notion of ladylike propriety (perfect coats, knee-length skirts), this outing felt like a controlled departure. At the risk of corniness, it was a bit like an accomplished musician trying a jazz improvisation. What would happen if we slashed the skirts and necklines? And if we sliced this metallic knit from side to side? According to Jack after the show, this experimentation was a means of "creating freedom to the clothes."
Although he said that they rarely used the "s" word, Jack acknowledged that the slashing resulted in some real sexiness. Hip points and chests were revealed, and the girls walked with a fierce warrior-like confidence. Animal skins were all over, from calfskin coats meant to evoke the spatter of an Ellsworth Kelly to delicate edgings in fur and feather. This raw sensuality was extended to the casting, which featured ultra-natural women, and even one man.
As the Whitney prepares to move downtown, there's real emotion in experiencing a show in its former space, one that has held some of the best exhibitions in the city since the 1960s. In building this collection, Jack and Lazaro were looking at images of proper, fur-bedecked mid-century women peering curiously at modern art. As Jack explained, "We thought that mix of the viewer and the maker was an interesting one." So what will we be looking at in the next fifty years, and what will we be wearing? Our guess is that Proenza Schouler will help answer that question.
Text Rory Satran
Photography Kate Owen