Many a fashion designer and artist have shared a synergism that only seems to add texture and greater context to their individual works: Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali, Halston and Andy Warhol, Jamie Reid and Vivienne Westwood, an so on.
Right now and right here in Los Angeles there is women’s wear designer Valerj Pobega artist Mattia Biagi. The former models (yes, they’ve both got looks and talent) met in Milan seven years ago and married in Vegas two years later. Their home is now West Hollywood, but their world is definitely an iced platter of oysters.
Their latest collaboration–which like the pair, is as much informed by the other as their work individually stands apart–is on view for another week at The Brick in Culver City. At last week’s opening, the handsome couple welcomed friends Debi Mazar and husband (and fellow Italian) Gabriele Corcos, Tarina Tarantino and Alfonso Campos, and yours truly, of course, among the packed house.
Mattia is infamously known as the Italian guy who douses every thing in black tar. And that means everything. A visit to the La Brea Tar Pits soon after he relocated to L.A. in 2001 prompted the obsession, and he's had his fingers in the sticky stuff ever since. Fans and foes of his work are equally passionate when talk of him comes up, and, like it or not, work that energizes such emotions is exactly what art should be about.
For this installation, Mattia suspended dozens of white under shirts on clotheslines. “Each shirt represents an individual, and each individual is worth a lifetime of stories,” he said opening night. “Even the single shirt holds many stories.” Although Mattia was referring to how the garment ended up in the hands of the wearer, each piece in the show also shared the tale of being part of the donations to Planet Aid, the charity benefiting from the exhibition (you've likely seen the org's enormous yellow metal deposit boxes in various parking lots and on street corners). The artist and his wife picked through mountains of donations to select those that perfectly fit his vision.
The piece also tells a story of his heritage. “When I was growing up in Italy, the laundry would be hung like this to dry. For me, when I see this, I think of my country. I think of my life as boy there.”
Valerj opted to present her collection with a group of forms and a short film in lieu of a runway show. Axl Rose served as muse for this, her third season, and she distressed leathers and silks to communicate a rock grunge powered by the grinding guitar and thumping beat of Guns N Rose’s “Paradise City.”
“It is about Axel’s spirit of the ’90s. Not what he is now, for sure,” Valerj told me. “My model in the film is like an alien who comes to planet Earth. She is like this Alien channeling Axel Rose.”
Valerj and filmmaker Dan Monick collaborated on the storyline, zigzagging from downtown to Chatsworth to the banks of the L.A. River to convey her fashion muse. The collection, available through the designer’s site, is all hand sewn, hand dyed and hand treated by Valerj herself.
While the fashion community continued to wave the flag that this was L.A. Fashion Week, events such Valerj and Mattia’s straddled the line between acknowledgment and rebellion, of being a part of whatever It was now, and presenting their efforts at an arm’s distance. The event reminded me of the early days of this latest fashion week cycle, some time in 1999, 2000, when designers such as Rick Owens, Michelle Mason, Magda Berliner, Jared Gold and Tara Subkoff staged all kinds of non-fashion fashion happenings in back alleys and on bar tops and in raw warehouse spaces. Sure it was madness rushing around town to make these usually disorganized events. But the inventiveness and passion were at least interesting.
Check out Mattia Biagi and Valerj Pobega through March 31, from noon to 5 p.m. daily, at The Brick Building, 8870 Washington Blvd., Culver City 90232. Admission is free, and a donation of clothes toward Planet Aid is welcomed.
|What wading in the La Brea Tar Pits looks like.|
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