This week saw a screening of a new fashion film by TOME at London's Hayward Gallery amongst their current exhibition of work by Ana Mendieta. The designers, Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin were asked by the gallery to create a piece in response to the show after it was announced that their S/S14 collection was inspired by the artist.
The importance of the exhibition should not be under estimated. Ana Mendieta is an artist whose life and work has been largely overshadowed by her death. In 1985, Mendieta died after falling from a window of the Manhattan apartment she shared with her husband Carl Andre. Andre was tried for her murder, but later acquitted due to a lack of evidence. While the case failed, the murder and scandal lingered on. With her death shrouded in mystery, Mendieta's story rather than artwork, became the focal point of remembrance. Jane Blocker in particular made her disappearance the subject of her 1994 publication Where is Ana Mendieta as a means to examine the emission of female artists from the art historical canon.
In her life time, Ana Mendieta's continued aligning of the female body with the earth garnered widespread criticism as being essentialist feminism. However, this exhibition re stages her work in a new light. Gender politics were of course central to Mendieta's practice and the show highlights her complex treatment of the subject. She used pagan and shamanistic imagery as an antidote to the male centred, industrially produced minimalist work she was surrounded by. She researched these subjects intensely and chose symbols specific to particular cultures; often the Cuban Taino culture from which she was removed when her family emigrated to the USA. Her inclusion of these subjects can be more closely linked to the French masters like Matisse and Gauguin than her feminist contemporaries, and address a number of additional political and formal concerns. Particularly evocative are her Blood Sign pieces for which she covered her arms in paint and dragged them down the surface of a canvas. The piece mocks the objectification of the female body in Yve's Klein's Anthropometries when he used naked women as paint brushes for his signature blue tone.
It is amongst this seminal artwork that TOME screened their fashion film. Immersing their latest collection amongst the undergrowth on models wearing a palate of pinks and pale flesh tones, the designers pay tribute to the artist that influenced their designs. It's not the first time the team have drawn on 20th century feminist art for inspiration, they credited Georgia O'Keefe as the muse for their previous collection. By engaging with audacious, self assured and historically established female artists, TOME are creating the kinds of garments I'd like to wear.