Finding Rei Kawakubo in-between emptiness and space

NEW YORK CITY – Widely recognized as one of the most important and influential designers of our time, Rei Kawakubo has defined and transformed the visual language of fashion and media.

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between is an exhibition and a book celebrating Kawakubo’s blurring of the divide between art and fashion, transforming customary notions of the body, beauty, and identity since the founding of Comme des Garçons (‘like some boys’) in 1969.

The work of the Tokyo-based designer can be read as Zen koans or riddles intended to baffle, bemuse and bewilder. ‘I like to work with space and emptiness,’ said the designer in 2000 – ‘in-between’ the two. In this way, she reveals an aesthetic sensibility that lies within an unsettling zone of visual ambiguity and elusiveness.  

The exhibition, which opened this week, examines nine expressions of duality and ‘in-betweenness’ in Kawakubo’s collections: Absence/Presence; Design/Not Design; Fashion/Antifashion; Model/Multiple; High/Low; Then/Now; Self/Other; Object/Subject; and Clothes/Not Clothes.

Defying binary logic or classification themselves, her clothes expose the cultural – and therefore artificial – nature of conventional dichotomies. Kawakubo’s art therefore generates meaningful mediations and connections in the ‘in-between’, offering new possibilities for creation and re-creation.


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