Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) presents Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture, running through August 20. The exhibition brings together over two dozen seminal artists working in the 1960s and ’70s who fought for change by sewing, embroidering, quilting, patch-working, and tie-dyeing their identity
“This is our first season to be wholly dedicated to one of New York’s most beloved and celebrated creative fields,” said William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator Shannon R. Stratton. “We’ve selected a group of shows that embrace craftsmanship, cultural commentary, and critical thinking in fashion practices. In keeping with MAD’s dedication to investigating studio ‘process’ in modern and contemporary art and craft, these exhibitions highlight how fashion, as an expanded field of craft, serves as a platform for artists and designers to explore ways of making that champion artistry, expressiveness, and social responsibility—from concept to product.”
Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture displays garments, jewelry, and accessories by American makers who crafted the very reality they craved, on the margins of society and yet at the center of an epochal shift. The works on display reflect the ethos of a generation of Counterculturists who – against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement – rejected ideals of the American Dream that were rooted in consumerism and conformity, and interrogated a political establishment invested in maintaining the status quo. They embraced the vision of a new, homegrown civilization rooted in self-expression, self-reliance, an affirmative connection to nature, and ideas of love and community that deviated from the values of the traditional nuclear family.
“When I was fifteen years old, I found a copy of Alexandra Jacopetti Hart’s book Native Funk & Flash,” said Guest Curator Michael Cepress, “which led me to devote more than half of my life so far to researching a period in history that I find deeply inspiring.” Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture represents the culmination of that research. The exhibition “shares the vital stream of passion, ideas, and artist activists who chose fashion to help create a better world for us all,” said Cepress.