2 days ago
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
My interest in men's clothing pales in comparison to my mentors and friends of the cloth. They play in the bigs, while I'm content to sit in the stands, hoping to pick up a dropped pearl of wisdom, if not actively back sliding in the sale racks at Land's End. A dandy I am not.
Few public dandies exist. There are strivers, artists and actors seeking attention for their current project, but to become a true dandy, a lifetime commitment and unwavering eye is necessary, Tom Wolfe qualifies, few others.
The master was the late great Richard Merkin, writer, artist and until his death, longtime faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design. Richard is being honored at RISD as the inspiration for their current fashion exhibit Artists/Rebels/Dandies, now through August 18th.
"The iconic painter and self-professed dandy Richard Merkin MFA 63 PT, who taught at RISD for 42 years before his death in 2009, actually inspired the show, according to Curator of Costume and Textiles Kate Irvin and Assistant Curator Laurie Brewer. They lovingly describe him as “an exemplary artist/rebel/dandy persona who placed equal creative emphasis on his painting, illustrations, journalism and, of course, raiment. Merkin knowingly broke the rules of the game in his art and his dress, enthusiastically exploring the outer limits of convention while staying within its bounds.” A section of the exhibition is devoted to the late professor and helps tie together the show’s broader look at the “unity of art, life and clothing,” as Irvin puts it.
"The exhibition includes more than 200 suits, hats, shoes, shirts and other objects – from Merkin’s closet and those of celebrities such as Fred Astaire, Andy Warhol and John Waters – that probe the strong aesthetic and artistic drive behind each dandy’s approach to personal presentation. It steps back in time to explore the sophisticated style of Beau Brummell (1778–1840) – who purportedly polished his boots with champagne – and travels forward to contemporary examples of artists who exemplify both the revolutionary and at times romantic spirit typical of a true dandy. Beautifully tailored garments are featured alongside portraits, photographs and fashion plates depicting the larger-than-life personalities who wore them, including literary icons like Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Tom Wolfe."