Design for Living
Feast your eyes this month on a world of vibrant artwork, Japanese animation, haute couture, and… house dresses?
by Ingrid Skjong and Anne-Marie Guarnieri
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games; The House Dress: A Story of Eroticism and Fashion by Elda Danese; Ryan McGinness Works: Paintings, Sculptures, Sketches, Drawings, Installations, Editions and Other Stuff; Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity by Kohle Yohannan.
The country’s leading purveyor of Japanese culture since 1907, Japan Society knows the ins and outs of what its country has to offer—from the austere to the offbeat. Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games, opening March 13, delves into the latter with a bonanza of Japanese anime, manga, and video games. Held in a series of rooms designed by Tokyo-based architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow, Krazy! (a riot of color and detail) features the work of six anime artists, eight manga artists, one sound artist, and two video-game designers. All in all, 200 pieces encompass everything from anime films and sketches to first-edition comic books and concept drawings. (A highlight? Excerpts from 1988’s Akira, which introduced the West to the typical anime figure.) There are also anime soundtracks to listen to and evidence of how manga, which took the concept of traditional silk paintings and woodblock prints combined with stories to a whole other level, has made it so big. Crazy? Maybe a little. But in the best possible way. Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, 212-832- 1155; japansociety.org.—INGRID SKJONG
“There are those who would argue that Valentina and Mainbocher are the only real couturiers America has produced,” quoth Vogue. A bold statement by any measure. But Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity by Kohle Yohannan (Rizzoli)—a profile of the Ukraineborn designer as famous for her dubious back stories as for her stunning creations—sets out to prove it. Her designs, heavily inspired by ecclesiastical vestments (nuns’ habits in particular), were precisely crafted from flowingly easy fabrics like wool and jersey and favored by the likes of Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn. The clothes were comfortable, chic, and the first ones to elbow in on the overarching predominance of Paris fashion houses. But her history was equally buzz-worthy. Theories about her origins abounded—a Russian spy, a dancer, an exiled duchesse, a social higher-up raised in a convent—and she was a master at reinventing herself throughout her 30-year career. Intriguing, to say the least.—I.S.
Intricate, mathematical, modern—those are but a few of the adjectives appropriate to describe the work of Ryan McGinness, the New York-based artist whose large-scale acrylic-on-canvas paintings contain so much detail, so much color that they often appear to vibrate right on the wall. Ryan McGinness Works: Paintings, Sculptures, Sketches, Drawings, Installations, Editions and Other Stuff (Rizzoli) catalogues his output, including interviews with fellow creative souls (musician David Byrne, writer Tom Greenwood), and outlines his process (very organized). “Communication does not always have to be straightforward,” he tells Greenwood. “Poetic work that allows for slippery interpretations is very interesting to me.” “Ryan McGinness Works,” an exhibit in conjunction with the book, is on display through April 4 at Deitch Projects, 76 Grand Street, 212-343-7300.—ANNE-MARIE GUARNIERI
Depending on who’s wearing it, the simple house dress— schmatte, veste, vestaglietta, depending on your heritage—can be sweetly humble (All in the Family’s consummate housewife Edith Bunker) or eye-poppingly sexy (hellcat Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice). The House Dress: A Story of Eroticism and Fashion by Elda Danese (Marsilio Mode) is a history of the dress and its place in the pop culture canon, including its surprisingly large role (often in the service of keeping the heroine’s bosoms at a good heave) in Italian cinema. Danese, a fashion design instructor at the IUAV University of Venice, writes like the academic she is: “The idea of cultural and social backwardness, conveyed yet again by the house dress, is reinforced by the image of a woman who has no control over her body....” But it contains plenty of easier-to-digest factoids too. Consider this the definitive book on the subject.—A.M.G.