23 April 2012 by Paul Dempsey
You see, beyond the raids on pop culture and mischievous gender-bending he's best known for, this career view also outs JPG as, well, a bit of a geek. Religious imagery sits side by side with patterning that seems obviously inspired by PCB or chip layouts. There's an interest in the structure and re-engineering of the human body in his obsession with corsets (though nor is he a 'size 0' designer).
But it's his further co-option of technology that sets him apart. He's always used and then flipped new ideas and media to promote his products and worldview. He industrialises his perfumes in baked bean cans, scatters LEDs within designs, and, in the UK at least, it was video (and specifically the delightfully outrageous Channel 4 series Eurotrash) that put him on the map. For the de Young exhibit, JPG lavishes on a shedload of today's multimedia technologies to great effect.
For example, it opens with a typically arch tribute to the greatest 'imagineer' of them all, Walt Disney. Mannequins have film projected on facial casts that chatter and sing in basically a demented (and very funny) take on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
Elsewhere, the influence of France's great sci-fi bande desinee Metal Hurlant pours out, but for me, the most striking image is his costume for Victoria Abril's tabloid TV journalist in Pedro Almodovar's 1993 satire Kika.
It integrates all the tools of her dubious trade. She has a camera helmet, touch screen controls on one sleeve, a microphone on the other and (Lord help us) camera lights in her bustier. And apart from that last element, nearly 20 years later, I've seen people today adopting a similar get-up (with far less panache, obviously) as today's vloggers, prowling the aisles of a consumer electronics show. The mediannequin is now with us.
This is design that reflects the things and techniques that engineers use, and also how end-users exploit them. It's also an absolute hoot. If you are headed to the west coast, set aside your prejudices (and dump the pocket protector) to take a chance of being both challenged and amused. In a 35-year career, JPG's been doing mash-ups before the term was even coined.
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From The Sidewalk to the Catwalk runs at the de Young Fine Arts Museum until August 16, 2012.
Posted By: Paul Dempsey @ 23 April 2012 05:09 PM General
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