(Artforum Online, Oct 2009)
CENTER FOR COSMIC WONDER
5-18-10 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku
September 4–November 7, 2009
Since its debut in 2000, Cosmic Wonder has carved out a special place in the expansive gray area between art and fashion. Founded by architect-turned-artist Yukinori Maeda (who maintains a separate art practice under his own name), the project has two dedicated spaces in Tokyo and Osaka that serve as hybrid gallery-boutiques. Both present seasonal “collections” that are amalgams of clothing, art installations, and publications.
The entry corridor at “Light Streams,” the current exhibition in the Tokyo center, features a video shot in a Parisian gallery, in which beautiful models dressed in Cosmic Wonder wares “perform” as art viewers with subtly eccentric choreography. In the minimal main space, a few pieces of clothing are displayed on sculptural racks. (The rest are hidden behind the white wall panels or inside a mirrored cube.) The same garments, such as a gold lamé circle dress and a retro prairie shirt, also appear in the photographs that line the walls, captured in the slightly dated antifashion pictorial style popularized by Purple magazine. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, all the photographers are Purple alumni.)
While Henry Roy captures a gold-circle-clad man and woman trekking through a sun-dappled field, Takashi Homma disconnects the clothing from human usage and lays it out in a snowy forest like otherworldly debris. Laetitia Benat’s pictures aspire to portraiture of the apparel (not the girl in it), and Mark Borthwick applies his trademark sun flare to some half nudes in a garden. These works are most interesting when viewed as an extension of the Cosmic Wonder project, which itself is intriguing mostly for its unique definition of branding and endlessly reflexive dialogue between art and commerce. The photos, zines, and installations serve to sell the clothes, while the clothes further propagate the aesthetic of the photos, zines, and installations. Through it all, Cosmic Wonder’s guileless position seems quite simple––chasing the joys of lying down in a sun-dappled forest clearing in a gold lamé dress.