See Off-White's latest face masks, and how 9 artists reinterpreted them
Photographer video artist Olivia McKayla Ross, image-makers Chicco and Tigre, architect Felice Grodin, multidisciplinary artist Cary Fagan, visual artist Karol Sudolski and visual artist Ruohan Wang give their personal take on the new Off-White™ face mask
Every day before leaving the house, we perform a mental check of what we need: “Telephone? Check. Keys? Check. Wallet? Check." For the past few months, however, a new item has been added to the list: "Mask?"
Life has radically changed in 2020, and what we’re wearing is no exception. The arrival of a new accessory -- the mask -- beckons the birth of a whole new aesthetic. But a change of perspective can also introduce a new way to express personal style. If you’re happy, one can tell now simply from your eyes. We’re communicating our “smile inside” instead.
Today Off-White™ unveils a new capsule of face masks, released in two drops throughout June and July 2020. In the spirit of sharing art and ideas throughout the global community, the brand is working with i-D to unveil this collection of masks through an interactive campaign. We’ve enlisted nine creative talents from all over the world to interpret each mask within the collection through their own medium and aesthetic.
For the very first selection of Off-White face masks we’ve been working with three creatives that we love and we’ve been following for a while: Wooya (Seoul), Good Neighborhood Collective (Milan) and Andy Picci (Paris). For this second drop, six new artists give their personal take on the new Off-White™ face masks: Olivia McKayla Ross (NY, USA), Chicco and Tigre (China), Felice Grodin (Florida, USA), Cary Fagan (USA), Karol Sudolski (Poland), Ruohan Wang (Cina). Here is how they’ve interpreted Off-White face masks, using their own skills to personalise the new necessity.
Olivia McKayla Ross (@cyberdoula) is a New York-based video artist, programmer and poet. A digital native, she defines herself as a "cyber doula", particularly interested in critically questioning our relationship with technology, tearing the digital veil of Maya. She has been programming since she can remember, organising hackathons and workshops with the collective Black Girls Code (@blackgirlscode). She’s also been cultivating a strong artistic practise, across filmmaking, music and photography. Her digital creativity has a hybrid essence, much like the artwork she’s created for Off-White™ -- an ode to the mythology of the cybernetic priestess, who wanders in the depths of the internet to bring peace and break the oppression of the algorithm; a face mask as her armor. The repetitiveness of the music reflects the lockdown’s suffocating routine. This is juxtaposed with a sweet and delicate harp. Even in a moment when everything seems difficult, we can still search deep and find our “smile inside”. This is what Olivia believes in.
Chicco (@chicco.jiang) is an image-maker born and raised in a coastal city in the province of Guangdong, China. Tigre (@tigrezhang) is a Chinese photographer with a background in painting and sculptor. In 2013 both felt the need for a change of scene and moved to Italy, unaware that they would meet in Siena and attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples. Together they began exploring video making and discovered their greatest shared passion: the dark room. Restless, two years later they decided to start a completely new life in another city: Milan. For them, wearing a facemask is nothing new, as they explained to us, because of the pollution, and for this reason they have known its value from the beginning. A face mask to them means safety, protection and respect. And this simplicity is the basis of their artwork for Off-White™.
Felice Grodin (@felicegrodin) is a digital artist based in Miami with a background in architecture. Her work is a fusion of the many years of theoretical studies she’s undertaken and the unique cities in which she’s lived in the process. Events like San Francisco’s earthquakes, Miami’s hurricanes, New Orleans’ floods, Venice’s high water and New York during 9/11, have left indelible impressions on her. So she came to reflect on the concept of vulnerability, entropy and resilience in her practise, but also on the profound contradictions of our world, which is simultaneously global and territorial. Transiting between digital and analog methods, her ultimate medium is space. All of this is channelled into her Off-White™ facemask rework. Now that we must move wearing a mask at all times -- a life-saving device for ourselves and for those who share the space with us. “Once upon a time, jeans were just jeans -- they were merely functional. Perhaps, the mask is where our personal aesthetic matters at this moment,” Felice says. “Masks -- visually in place of our mouths -- may potentially say many things.” Her project for Off-White™ begins with her AR installation Felice Grodin: Invasive Species (2017-20).
Cary Fagan (@cary.fagan), is an Arizona-born and Houston-based multidisciplinary artist, who has already collaborated with artists such as Solange and A$AP Rocky. Since his father gave him his first camera, he has never stopped documenting the world around him. He defines himself as "a simple man with dreams, chasing them and living them." In other words, he’s a "Visual connoisseur". For Off-White™ he has not created a classic artwork, but an audiovisual performance, inspired by his previous experiences with sculptural art and product design -- two central elements in his artistic practice. His goal is to reflect on the precarious balance on which our society is based. Applying this vision to a face mask was a creative challenge for Cary, who fell in love with the object during a residency in Japan: “Wearing a mask you have to rely on eye contact and body language to communicate, and it allows you to explore new ways of interacting with others,” he told us.
Defining Karol Sudolski (@youaremyanchorpoint) is quite difficult, since he does so many different things. The title that best suits him is visual artist, but the only way to really understand who Karol is is to study his creative output. Born in Poland and raised in the mountains of Northern Italy, he’s lived and breathed videogames and MTV since an early age. He settled in Milan 10 years ago and has since become a 3D and AR artist; a bit by chance, he says. Thanks to his works, he has proven that when digital art and traditional creative fields are blended together, anything is possible. The absence of boundaries is the leitmotif of his artistic practice, and the starting point to his rework of the Off-White™ face mask. During the quarantine, he dreamed of reaching a grass lawn by bike and lying there for hours. His artwork conveys a positive outlook; one which overturns the idea of the face mask as a limit to our identity or freedom. “It makes me feel protected, emotionally and physically. And I find that people wearing masks on the street are funny, but also mysterious and sexy," he says.
Ruohan Wang (@ruo_han_wang) is an illustrator, painter and visual artist born and raised in China to a family of architects. Drawing has always been part of her life, until she decided to make a profession out of it, combining art and design in one discipline: illustration. It was whilst studying and living in Berlin that she developed her signature, straightforward aesthetic. Her Off-White™ face mask rework is a celebration of the symbolic, as well as practical, value of this device: it allows us to overcome difficulties as a community, to protect each other and to face uncertainty. So, we see the artist's logo interacting with Off-White™’s key symbols on a mask -- which is placed into a daily context to normalise the bizarre. The motto "I look good" is a suggestion to make a virtue of necessity, to transmit encouraging vibes through the eyes and the mask.
Wooya (@wooya_91) is a Korean illustrator and cartoonist with a melancholic air about him. At the moment, his artworks are making us feel a little seen with such an emo vibe. The face mask isn’t a new accessory to him: he has been wearing it for over seven years in order to feel covered and safe in public. Now, everything has changed, and the face mask has acquired a new symbolism, as a means of expressing our personality, as well as -- of course -- a tool to protect ourselves from the virus. The reference of his reinterpretation of Off-White™ face mask is “the night sky in Seoul, that is never completely dark because of the light pollution,” he says. “It has coloured shades because of the multitude of neon lights; if a falling star passes, it leaves a pink wave, and it’s a symbol of optimism and hope. Make a wish!“
Jon Bronxl is a photographer and art director working with design and fashion, while Andrea Colacicco is a creative and digital artist who works with graphics, animation and video mapping. Their reinterpretation of the Off-White™ face mask seems to tell us that we are always interconnected, as human beings and as part of nature. Even if everything has changed and “it is difficult to decode the emotions of who we meet, we must think as a community to secure the future."
Andy Picci (@andypicci) born in Switzerland and based in Paris, has made himself known over the years for his surreal and dreamlike 3D lettering, and his out-of-this-world Instagram filters. During the quarantine he transformed his Instagram feed into a sort of a collective diary, expressing through his creations the ups and downs that we all experienced during the lockdown. His reinterpretation of Off-White™ face mask is in keeping with his surreal imagery: “On an emotional level my artwork refers to the Masked Philosopher. So the mask, which in the past was a symbol of dissimulation and limitation, today is an opportunity for freedom, to express intimate and uncomfortable thoughts without fear of the judgment of others.”