An Exercise in Style: Narciso Rodriguez Exhibition at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum

An Exercise in Style: Narciso Rodriguez Exhibition at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum

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Abel FL Berriz

When I see Narciso Rodriguez’s designs, a word comes to my mind: architecture. The form, the colors, and the drapes remind me of perfectly well-erected buildings. Simple, but beautifully shaped. Clean, yet intricate. His structures and textures not only cover the body; they lift it, as elegant sculpture should.

Everybody wants to look good. It has nothing to do with spending hours in front of a mirror. It’s just a natural desire of being beautiful. When you stand in front of the designs displayed in the exhibition Narciso Rodriguez: An Exercise in Minimalism, at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum located on the Florida International University campus in Miami, you can’t help but picture yourself under those garments, looking beautiful.

It has to do with the sober elegance of minimalism. If you think Rococo is pretty, you’re definitely in the wrong century–unless you manage to make your way as a new Liberace. But if you love the elaborated modesty of Japanese art, unpretentious yet powerful, then you’re in the right place.

It is Rodriguez’s first solo show and the first time a major museum presents an exhibition by a living fashion designer. And in a visit to the Frost, you can easily acknowledge why they chose him for such a novelty. If a designer can shape style and turn it into a piece suited for a museum, it’s Narciso Rodriguez. His black & white simplicity, the flashes of sporadic color, the elegant use of pastels, the appropriation of textures, and the masterful cadence of shapes are those of an artist deep into the concepts of minimalism.

The exhibition, co-curated by Alex Gonzalez, Creative Director of ELLE Magazine, and Klaudio Rodriguez, of the Frost Museum, features a timeline of the work of Narciso Rodriguez, from his 2005 spring collection up to his latest. Forty garments and purses, displayed in combination with works by artists like Carmen Herrera, Antonio Llorens, Lygia Clarke, and others, compose an exhibit that is a trajectory of Rodriguez’s life as fashion designer, and a personal tribute to the art he loves.

Rodriguez’s work simply transcends fashion. The pieces featured flow perfectly with the paintings and sculptures that complement the exhibit. Rodriguez’s designs owe much to Cuban painters and Brazilian architects–he’s a declared fan of Oscar Niemeyer’s. But his couture is beyond a mere appropriation or a reference to others. His work, despite influences, stands by its own merit. It is, perhaps, that way of building up a garment, as if it were a tridimensional painting, what makes his designs unique. They are not meant to be dressed, but inhabited. His 1996 wedding dress for close friend Carolyn Bessette Kennedy is still a reference for what a wedding dress should be.

Fashion dies out quickly with the seasons. From time to time styles overlap, return, mutate, evolve, and revolve; but the pieces themselves fall into oblivion. Notwithstanding, Rodriguez’s designs are temporal and universal, and his Exercise in Minimalism is not just a collection of fashion dresses, but a proper exhibit of an eternal art.

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