The look is you
50 Orange St, New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Jean Shin: Ensemble: A Collaboration with New Haven Public High School students
(Participating students: Mohamed Badawi, James Barros, Gabriela de Jesus, Wesley Frasier, Kimberly Jowers, Oyin Kolawole, Nicholas Pfaff, Alika Potts, Sarah Rivera, Stephanie Rivera, Arzoo Rohbar, Olivia St. John, Alejandro Velazquez)
As part of Artspace’s sixth annual Summer Apprenticeship Program, 13 New Haven high school students under the tutelage of artist Jean Shin constituted an ensemble that created Ensemble. Taking clothing as a signifier of personal identity, Shin and her student collaborators deconstructed the signifiers and then reconstituted them into a collective artwork. Or, to put it another way, each student brought in an outfit that represented themselves; those items of clothing were cut or torn apart and then used to make artwork. Ensemble utilizes the two facing walls in the main space of the gallery.
Each wall was painted a warm pastel yellow, providing a neutral background canvas. Against the outside wall, the cut pieces of fabric—solid, patterned, a few with text or logos or iconic imagery (Che Guevara, Superman’s "S" symbol—are starched flat against the surface. From left to right, the design reads almost as a color gradient of red through yellow, pink and white to grays that then progress into blues and greens. Some are identifiable as a specific item of clothing—a striped shirt, a blue jeans pant leg with pocket. Attention was paid to varying the sizes, shapes and angle of positioning of the fabric pieces, which keeps the eyes moving over the piece.
Engaging as that part of Ensemble is, the section suspended from hooks at the top of the inner wall is a true delight. Here the shirts, blouses, pants, pajamas and boxers are cut and torn into strips. The disparate articles of clothing are held together with straight pins, forming an anarchic hanging web.
The fabric pieces adhered to the outside wall form a collective work while remaining each in its own place. There is no touching or overlap. The hanging gardens of cotton and polyester, on the other hand, emphasize individuality within an overarching interconnectedness. Or, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all be flattened against the wall separately.
Ensemble is on view through Sept. 16.