Refreshing collections for spring seems to be the M.O. for both the art gallery curator and the fashion designer. In the case of the Fine Arts Center Modern, their passions intertwine with Styling the Modern: Fine Art Meets Fashion.
The gallery will display 34 limited-edition scarves developed by couple Zika and Lida Ascher. The textile designers collaborated in the late 1940s with top contemporary artists such as Henri Matisse, Henry Moore and Alexander Calder to make what they called "artist squares," or silk scarves measuring 9 square feet each.
FAC curator Tariana Navas-Nieves and guest curator Shanna Shelby say the show provides a look into the niche of wearable art. Also, it draws attention to husband-and-wife collectors H. Kirk Brown III and Jill A. Wiltse of Denver; with Shelby's help, they've been assembling Ascher scarves, among other textiles and functional art, for the last seven years.
Navas-Nieves describes the scarves as drawings on silk or rayon, products of intense efforts by the Aschers and the numerous artists with whom they collaborated.
"They refer[red] to them as modern art for daily wear," she says.
The Aschers fled to England from their native Czechoslovakia in 1939 and established a textile design business in London that quickly became famous throughout the art world and fashion industry. The two were innovators with fabric, and their designs were used by such fashion houses as Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent through the 1950s and into the 1980s.
In postwar Europe, there was a distinct lack of color and vibrancy in clothing. The Aschers and a few other textile designers started a movement toward brightness and everyday art in wardrobes. And while the scarves were meant to be worn, in this exhibition they will be mounted on frames, like paintings.
"It's a beautiful object to wear," says Brown, speaking from his Denver office, "but [you see the] full magnitude of its beauty by the way we're displaying it."
He adds that even in their own time, the scarves were considered high art and exhibited as such. Even the single dress in Styling the Modern, a navy and midnight blue piece adorned with figural shapes, by artist Christian Berard, was displayed as artwork.
Brown and Wiltse are unsure about the number of Ascher scarves originally made, due to the expensive and fragile nature of the material. But Navas-Nieves and Shelby say the Denver collectors almost surely possess the most comprehensive collection. Styling the Modern will be the first show exhibiting all of their pieces.
The FAC has planned a fashion show to complement the opening reception on May 2, with downtown boutique LuLu and Veda Salon and Spa. Says Shelby of the show, "The scarves themselves really look like fine art pieces ... but the fashion show reminds us that they are an accessory."