Helmut Lang Tears It Up
The fashion world (especially of the Internet variety) worked itself into a tizzy this month when details emerged about Helmut Lang’s latest art exhibition. The much-missed designer was planning to turn back to his own work—with a shredder.
For Make It Hard, which opens today at East Hampton’s Fireplace Project, Lang went into his archive and literally shredded 6,000 vintage pieces from his namesake label to re-create them as sculptures. The scraps, mixed with plastics, metals, furs, skins, feathers, and hair, became floor-to-ceiling columns (above). Lang acolytes bemoaned the loss of so much irreplaceable fashion; Women’s Wear Daily wondered if the designer (left) was trying to erase the past. But the unsentimental Lang disagreed. “No, this is not an effort to erase the past,” he told Style.com. “It is a circumstantial effort in favor of new creative endeavors.”
“In 2009-2010, I donated a large volume of my body of work in fashion to the most important fashion, design, and contemporary art collections worldwide,” Lang went on. “After a fire in the building where our studio in New York is located, which could have destroyed the rest of the archive, and after going for months through the pieces to see in which condition they are, I slowly became intrigued by the idea of destroying it myself to use it as raw material for my art.”
If the destruction of 6,000 pieces of Lang is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the label faithful, they ain’t seen nothing yet. The designer hinted that the show, curated by his friend Neville Wakefield, is “basically a capsule version of a much larger show to come.” (He also reaffirmed that he’ll be working only in art, and not returning to fashion.) “You have to work hard and you have to recognize when [fashion] evolves into something interesting and be able to let go of it when the work is interesting enough to fight you back,” Lang shrugged. “I’m familiar with that procedure…It was a cathartic experience, which led to an interesting and positive energy.” Title notwithstanding, “once the decision was made, it was actually not that hard.”
Make It Hard runs July 22 through August 8, 2011, at The Fireplace Project, 851 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, N.Y., www.thefireplaceproject.com.