ID Boutique / Tokyo at Contemporary Arts Center, North Adams, Massachusetts (1999)

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This review first appeared in Asian Art News, 9(5), page 110 in 1999.

ID Boutique / Tokyo at Contemporary Arts Center

You want Jackson Pollock? You’ve got it. You want Yves Klein and Tatsuo Miyajima? You’ve got that too. The collaborative team of ID Boutique/Tokyo from Japan offered star imagery in fashion form in their seven-work exhibition Great Masters Series.

The husband-and-wife team of Junichi and Mutsuyo Kusaka and Y Sasaki, all in their 30s, joined forces in 1995, combining their fine art and fashion backgrounds to create ID Boutique. Since that time, their work has been exhibited in Tokyo, and last year the trio were included in the Taipei Biennial (1998). For Great Masters, the clothing artworks refer to influential artists’ work and movements, and can be interpreted as calls for exercising individuality. At the same time, the art embraces 20th century artistic hierarchies, and perhaps questions them.

The combination of art and fashion forms raises issues about the function of clothes of both to the wearer and the viewer, and the works address issues of art as consumables—both economic and visual. Further, the dual function of artwork as the artful clothes, and its display format, raises questions about the installations of “vernacular” fashion design objects versus artistic ones.

With this Pop Art-esque and kitsch sensibility, the work raises these issues. The cultural context works for the art as well. With stock visual images of Japanese salarymen and school uniforms—the clothing artworks offer an extreme, alternative, and “paste-on” version of fashion-conscious individuality and tribe consensus. But it isn’t resolved. It shows the absurdity of paste-on fashion—and art—where expression is a selection of a trademark-oriented other—an art-chic “designer” label. While these juxtapositions may have been fueled by being centered within a specific Japanese context, the issues raised have a pervasive, universal character.

Great Masters has certain media-oriented strengths. Its contributes to the fashion and art dialogue like that approached by Yasumasa Morimura, Issey Miyake, and Yohji Yamamoto, and the 1990s Pop Art sensibilities of Mariko Mori and Takashi Murakami—as well as these interest distributed internationally. The cultural language makes the connections easy to navigate, and the artwork is easy to approach for anyone familiar with the basics of 20th century art history.

The viewing was also well-placed. On view during the high-profile launch of the nearby Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), the timing of the show in somewhat art-isolated North Adams, provided maximum exposure to arts professionals and journalists trekking to the new art temple. You want Great Masters? Well, first go to MASS MoCA, and then ID Boutique offers an easily consumable twist.