The Parallels Between Geoffrey Mac’s Collection and Lucio Fontana’s ArtWork
By: Michael Spicher
After winning season 18 of Project Runway, Geoffrey Mac established his line and released a collection called “Midnight Rider.” Drawing from his younger years, Mac finds inspiration and reimagines the 90s club kid scene with this collection, but also brings in hints of fetish-style clothing. With the mesh tops and other pieces with vibrant colors, it is not difficult to see these influences.
Yet Mac elevates this inspiration by adding a degree of sophistication to his looks with traditional, though altered, blazers and suit pants. He pushes the envelope without letting it fall off the edge. In addition to Mac’s stated inspiration, there is an unintentional and enthralling similarity between his new collection and the work of Lucio Fontana, an abstract artist who worked in the 50s and 60s.
Lucio Fontana founded a movement known as Spatialism, and he sums up a motivating idea: “Man is becoming less and less responsive to fixed, motionless images.” His series of works, “Spatial Concepts,” consisted of monochrome canvases that he cut one or more times with a knife to produce slashes in the middle of the canvas. The slashes create an added dynamism.
Mac, in his new collection, has a similar effect with blazers and pants that he calls ‘slash blazers’ and ‘slash pants.’ While it is unlikely that Mac had Fontana as inspiration for this collection, it’s surprising that no one has noticed these obvious parallels between Fontana’s “Spatial Concepts” and Mac’s “Midnight Rider.”
Mac’s website states: “[Midnight Rider] aims to break down the taboos surrounding fetish style clothing, and bring a sense of exploration to the evening wear scene.” Part of his exploration is to make the garments appear to have been cut; the slashes add an unexpected texture. Even though we assume that Mac carefully constructed the slashes into his garments (to prevent further tearing and fraying), rather than cutting them with a knife, the effect is visually similar to Fontana’s slashed paintings.
On the surface, they have almost the same aesthetic, even down to some of the colors. (I’m thinking especially about Mac’s red wool slash blazer and Fontana’s red canvases.) Utilizing mostly black, red, and white, Mac assembles pieces that seem to be mostly traditional garments, like blazers or dress pants. But, beyond the slashes, he adds an unsettled feeling by mixing in mesh and also styling the male models with details like a metal band-aid on the nose bridge of one.
In a similar spirit (75 years ago), Fontana wrote in his White Manifesto: “Society suppresses disparate energies.” He presumably applied this notion of suppression to art as the traditions tried to keep all the genres separate.
And Fontana wanted to transform (or even end) the art of painting, which he at least transformed by turning a usual two-dimensional object into a three-dimensional one. You may rightly wonder how, since the painting is still a painting, right? But the added slashes force the viewer to wonder about what happens behind the canvas, when they usually wouldn’t care. The negative space created by the slashes becomes part of the work.
It is similar to Mac’s slash garments. The slashes create another dimension beyond the surface of the garment, another texture. There’s a clear symbolism here that connects Mac and Fontana. Both want to change society in particular ways. Fontana used visual art, while Mac uses fashion. Reflecting on his childhood, Mac has described how the society in which he grew up tried to suppress him because of his differences, and he wants to make clothing that challenges these notions directly.
Now we might ask for reasons why Fontana decided to slash his otherwise minimalist paintings with a knife. There are at least two main reasons. First, the slashes derive from the core ideas of Spatialism. Rather than a static, flat surface, the slashes add movement, dimensionality, and dynamism to the appearance.
Second, and more ideological, Fontana wanted to highlight the end of painting. He wanted to move art beyond (partially by combining) the traditional, disconnected art forms, such as two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional sculpture. The slashes in the suits by Mac are similarly dynamic, and Mac has also conveyed his desire to move men’s fashion beyond the traditional. Fontana slashing paintings and Mac adding slashes to his suits demonstrate how both took traditional forms and transformed them with seemingly simple slashes.
Different genres of art frequently influence each other. One can simply consider the different types of music, painting, and film all under the name of Expressionism. Despite fashion often being presented as almost frivolous compared to visual art largely due to its ephemerality, they have a history of influencing one another.
The influence is sometimes direct and intentional, but it can also be subconscious as might be the case here. Either way, Mac and Fontana offer us slashed garments and paintings to help illustrate the transformation of these traditional items into something new, which the keen observer can hope that this transformation might extend beyond the work.
Maybe the lesson is: If you want to change society, try slashing a few things here and there.