“This twenty-year survey shows how I am constantly looking for a way to transform myself from consumer to producer, navigating a path between ‘Tourist’ and ‘Purist’ between the literal and the figurative.” — Virgil Abloh
“Figures of Speech,” is more than a retrospective: it’s a guided tour through the artistic evolution of a designer that’s marking our generation. Set in an immersive space designed by Samir Bantal, a Director of the research studio of Rem Koolhaas’s renowned architecture firm OMA, the exhibition focuses on the creative process and collaborative work of the artist-designer. Raised in Chicago, Abloh was trained in engineering and architecture but cultivated an interest in music, fashion, and design. While pursuing a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, the artist connected with a then-emerging Kanye West, joining a fledgling creative team to work on album covers, concert designs, and merchandising.
Abloh’s influence grew and expanded as West’s profile increased, pioneering a new creative discipline that ranges across media; he then began his own fashion brand Off-White, setting the goal of creating the first luxury brand designed and owned by an African American. The name was meant to suggest a post-racial reality, neither black nor white. Connecting his fascination for urban design elements with high street fashion, much of Off-White’s imagery comes from roads, signage, buildings, and uniforms resulting in a unique and innovative fashion language now worldwide recognised. The show entitled “Figures of Speech” refers to the artists’s fascination with language but also sees the works in the show as metaphors that speak for him.
“For me, “Figures of Speech” is an art exhibition rooted in advertising and The projected image.” says Abloh, “Any time an idea takes shape on a particular surface—a photo print, a screen, a billboard, or canvas—it becomes real. This exhibition demonstrates how I wrestle with this concept freed from any one medium, looking for personal and specific solutions.” says Abloh.
The retrospective is divided into seven segments: “Early Work”, “Fashion”, “Music”, “Intermezzo”, “Black Gaze”, “Design” and “The End”.
It chronicles the Louis Vuitton creative director’s earliest years of his practice within streetwear and high-fashion with a spotlight saved for his project Pyrex Vision designs, moving onto his creative process while also touching on Off-White’s men and women collection’s from 2014 to 2019; a third portion looks into Abloh’s creative direction for Kanye West’s production firm DONDA and the art direction behind the rapper’s most notorious albums – with the highlight of a larger than life scale version of the cover art for West’s Yeezus (2013) album.
With a reworking of 10 classic Nike sneakers, several of Louis Vuitton’s signature products, including the classic Keepall bag, Abloh has being able to blow up traditional norms and flip established hierarchies. “Black Gaze” explores his approach to fashion and art through the lens of black cultural experience. When in 2018, Abloh assumed the position of artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, he became one of the very few black designers to helm a major Parisian fashion house. He now uses his high-profile platform to forge a more inclusive vision for high fashion. With the portion of “Design”, covering furniture, painting, sculpture, and shoe design — the spectator get a glimpse of how Abloh embraces many the teachings of modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: transparent materials, emphasis on function, and attention to detail. The final section “The End” presents recent works critiquing the influence of advertising, and how the phrase “The End” is only a figure of speech.
To top off an exhibition already rich in contents and aesthetic, Louis Vuitton has launched an exclusive one-off capsule collection sold on spot encompassing a variety of pieces representative of Abloh’s tenure at the house, including the famous “LV Trainer” sneakers, “Millionares” sunglasses, monogram-printed leather caps and soft trunk bags all in the tonal range of the artist’s signature bright orange.
“Figures of Speech”