Santa Barbara — The opening night reception for Erik ReeL: Zero Point and Rhonda P. Hill’s Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art brought collectors, artists, and fashion industry enthusiasts, to the GraySpace Gallery in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
Judging by the vibe and comments, the crowd exuded a collective appreciation and communal spirit as they viewed the exhibit. Visitors at this fashion and fine art exhibit were engaged, delighted, and enthralled with the harmonious combination and caliber of these two exhibits. “Wonderful, breathtaking, and a museum quality exhibition” were comments heard throughout the night.
Erik ReeL, exhibiting his first solo show in Santa Barbara in more than a decade, took the crowd by surprise with a range of recent work ranging from 9 x 7 foot paintings to 8 x 10 inch painted studies framed in re-cycled photo frames covered with ReeL’s signature markings. His paintings showcase the depth, talent and unique insights of his artistic perspective. Another work, “Life | Death: Day | Night” was a doubled-sided painting on a hollow door blank hung from the ceiling. Perching on a shelf in a corner was a touch of semiotic art-humor: a small painting of ReeL’s instantly recognizable iconic style in a shrine-like frame titled “Shrine of the Sign” revealing a dimension of ironic self-critique.
ReeL’s wife, Rhonda P. Hill, offers us a glimpse into an ongoing curatorial project dedicated to exposing the work of emerging fashion designers in art-exhibition venues. Our first glimpse, Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art is a detailed execution of museum quality beyond anyone’s expectations. Hill states that “the power of fashion lies in its ability to transform identity and culture.” This exhibition makes a compelling claim for the possibility of fashion rising to the level of artistic expression as valid as sculpture and painting. But Hill does more, giving us ample evidence of how, if art fundamentally creates culture, in an age of identity politics and multiculturalism, fashion clearly wields a unique power in its ability to transform identity and culture within those contexts.
This incarnation of Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art showcases four international designers. A surprise to many were the 14 hand-painted clutch bags painted and signed by the artist, Susan Tancer, recently exhibited at the Boca Museum of Art in Florida and shown here for the first time on the West Coast. The other three designers presented powerful ensembles displayed on the mannequins in the Annex and the main gallery space.
Tingyue Jiang, originally from Hangzhou, now based in New York City, a recent MFA graduate from Parsons School of Design, addresses the globally charged topic of social and ethical issues surrounding mass-produced garments from the perspective of the Chinese worker, in his collection titled People Who Wearing Time. Alena Kalana, whose work presents astounding fabric treatments coupled with sumptuous tailoring and cuts with unconventional textile choices, offered samples of her Tibetan Transplant collection featuring three multi-dimensional sculptural ensembles displaying Kalana’s use of textile upholstery, layering, and her theatrical sense of draping, topped off with over-the-top head pieces. Hera Zhou offers her two ensembles of her The Wave collection, also featuring amazing head-pieces, which was recently exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre. Zhou’s statement says she was Inspired by Katsushika Hokusai’s painting, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (the Great Wave), probably the most recognizable work of Japanese art. The reference is not necessary, nor seems to contribute that much to Zhou’s work; the reality is that Zhou goes far beyond the reference, giving us a totally exquisite, tour de force display of her personal vision fully realized from its redefinition of the lines of the female body down to the unbelievable quality of her pleating technique, sense of depth, layering, and rigid density.
“A great opening, exceptional”, says Charlene Broudy, owner of GraySpace Gallery, who has pointed out that the gallery attendance has been higher than normal since the opening. The exhibit opened on 21 September and is on view through 11 November 2018.
Congratulations to Erik ReeL, Rhonda P. Hill, and the designers Tingyue Jiang, Susan Tancer, Alena Kalana, and Hera Zhou for an amazing show. Fashion and fine art, two mediums that, if executed with the museum-like quality of these two exhibits, can take you through a thrilling cultural experience.
by Marcia Williams