quarta-feira, 26 de novembro de 2008


The Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the de Young museum includes a section, "From Sketch to Garment," seen here. (Drew Altizer Photography)

Trying to grasp the revolution that was YSL
By Suzy Menkes
Monday, November 24, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO: The first thought is how current the African inspirations look - dresses woven in raffia, decorated with ball embroideries or with pointed cones at the breasts. Then there is the sharp intake of breath at the date: 1967, more than 40 years before the current batch of designers came up with African inspirations.

Looking at a fashion exhibition of Yves Saint Laurent is a bit like studying the photographs of Man Ray: both in their own fields were artists who did almost everything first and defined the 20th century.

The challenge for the de Young museum in San Francisco, which is hosting "Yves Saint Laurent" (until April 5), is to put this great body of YSL work in context. The death of the designer earlier this year brought many of the couturier's iconic inventions into the limelight: the safari jacket, the tuxedo, the Mondrian-inspired dress.

Yet it is still difficult to grasp that a display of pantsuits, from tuxedos to tweeds, and with a wide range of dates, was part of a cultural revolution. Since the pantsuit has now migrated to a generation of women, like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, who see it as a work tool, the original shock of the new is lost.

And how to re-live the shiver of surprise at Saint Laurent putting black models on a catwalk for the very first time?

Similarly, the layers of French history - light and dark - that lie behind the Schiaparelli-inspired coat with lips embroidery and the fur chubby, referring to the queasy memories of the wartime years, cannot be woven easily into this touring exhibition from the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris.

But visually, the show is a treat, fitting comfortably into the museum space as the sober daytime pieces give way to the drumbeat of Africa, the flora and fauna dresses and a knitted cocoon of a bridal gown - until the show reaches its crescendo: tracing the connections between art and fashion that produced a dress outlined with a Georges Braque bird and a jacket embroidered with van Gogh irises.

A scattering of multimedia screens, including the giant retrospective show at the couturier's retirement in 2002, show how these couture clothes moved with the body. A few more visual props - or even fashion reviews - might have helped a general public understand the importance and the impertinence of YSL.

But the setting of the de Young in Golden Gate Park, opposite the new Academy of Sciences, designed by the architect Renzo Piano to create a "green" environment from planted rooftop to the rain forest inside, brings a fresh perspective.

The de Young exhibition has brought out Saint Laurent's fascination with florals and his exceptional color palette that is the nearest fashion can get to beating nature at its own game.

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