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October 2018- Dallas

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47 agreed. Roughly two years later, "Balenciaga in Black" — with its crates of museum- worthy haute couture dating from 1937 to 1968 — made a mad dash across the pond. Conceptualized by Veronique Belloir, director of haute-couture collections at the Palais Galliera, "Balenciaga in Black" isn't a casual display of pretty dresses. Balenciaga is often referred to as the architect of fashion — the couturier's couturier. "He was a master tailor," says Jennifer Casler Price, the Kimbell's curator for Asian and non- Western art. "There are tailors, and then there are dressmakers. The tailors are really the ones who can construct a dress." The exhibition of 115 monochromatic dresses, hats, and necklaces, highlights Balenciaga's full artistic and architectural process, from structure and construction to final product, in a way often lost in a mess of color and pattern. With an all black presentation, distraction melts away. One is forced to focus on the craft; the eye is drawn intently to detail, shape, and form. "This is a show of dresses done as we would do a show of a great sculptor, a great painter, or a great draftsman," Shackelford says. "It has a subject and a point of view. You could do a show about Van Gogh and the color yellow — and it would be organized just like this." Perhaps no part of the exhibition exemplifies Balenciaga's skill as a sculptor of textiles more than five toiles on display at the entrance, surrounded by the designer's own sketches. "You can see his method," says Casler Price. "The toiles are marked with chalk, and there are little notes. And, because these were patterns for dresses that were going to be made in black, the toiles are black muslin instead of the regular ecru beige." It's all a reiteration that this is not a story of flashy fashion, but rather one of timelessness and purity. Today is a different time for fashion, one of fast trends and cheap, disposable clothing. "Balenciaga in Black" begs the question: Even within the top couture houses still producing hand- sewn garments today, what is the future of craft in fashion. Who are the true artists creating fashion today. I n Spanish, there are two words for black — a subtle concept that led Balenciaga through his exploration of the tone. "One refers to matte black, and the other refers to shiny black," Casler Price says. "One references death and mourning, and one references royal regalia. Balenciaga liked to play those two kinds of black off each other, both in the different fabrics he used and also in the embellishment he loved; the feathers, and sequins, and embroidery, and lace." One cocktail dress, circa 1967, is a magnificent example of Balenciaga's playful side. Plastic pailettes and glass beads are painstakingly embroidered atop a seemingly simple frock. One vignette of the exhibition deals entirely with transparency, with a number of pieces made in exquisite black lace. The most heroic pieces on view, however, are Balenciaga's revolutionary cabbage dress — a column gown with a voluminous tufted bodice that doubles as a hood and a cape — and the famous envelope dress, which it's said was once purchased by a client and promptly returned after its wearer learned that it was far less than functional in the ladies' room. Balenciaga was as strict as he was academic — a devout Catholic who referenced everything from priest regalia to historic Spanish dress. To highlight his scholarly approach and reinforce his impact as an artist, the Kimbell organized a tandem show with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, "Goya in Black and White," a showcase of artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes' works on paper. "You walk out of Balenciaga and into black Goya prints," Shackelford says. "Seeing Balenciaga and concentrating on the notions of reflectivity and contrast between dark and light and on the different colorations of black, and then seeing Goya's exhibition of prints … We're making an equivalency between the two. We're giving Balenciaga and Goya the same weight." When paired side by side, parallels between a Spanish couturier and a Spanish painter are easy to draw. In many respects, this is a deep homage to the father of couture — an elevation of his status as an artist. "Balenciaga is a sculptor and a painter," Shackelford says. "He was visionary in a way that I don't think exists anymore. We needed to do something like this. He is the master." "BALENCIAGA IS A SCULPTOR AND A PAINTER. HE WAS A VISIONARY IN A WAY THAT I DON'T THINK EXISTS ANYMORE." — George Shackelford Cristóbal Balenciaga dress, summer 1956 Cristóbal Balenciaga toile for a leather coat, summer 1962 Cristóbal Balenciaga cocktail dress, 1960 PHOTO © JULIEN VIDAL/GALLIERA/ROGER-VIOLLET; PHOTO © PIERRE EVEN

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