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SAN FRANCISCO — From Ross Lovegrove’s Brasilia lounge seats to Zac Posen’s full-length spring 2004 Raffia gown, objects that exude glamour are the focus of a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exhibition.
“Glamour: Fashion, Architecture and Industrial Design,” on view through Jan. 17, strives to define the G-word and how the evolution of this ideal affects the culture as a concept attainable for the masses, but still is devoted to decorative touches, high drama, customization and excess.
The glamour of cars, clothes and construction echoes throughout the show.
In one room, a Rolex paved with diamonds twinkles under a glass case. In another, museum goers examine a photo of Gordon Bunshaft’s 1963 Yale University Library, characterized by an ornament-repeated exterior, before facing photographs of the similar-yet-different Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada Building in Tokyo, a five-sided box enclosed in a diamond-patterned glass skin.
Excess, of course, can come in various forms, from the spare beauty of a Jaguar E-Type to a decadent fashion statement. Architectural curator Joseph Rosa points out the metal mesh and yellow sequin-speckled, full-length evening gown from Paco Rabanne’s 1965 collection that is now, like most vintage fashions, part of the archives of Lily et Cie in Beverly Hills.
“From a distance, it looks like abstraction,” Rosa said. “When you get closer, you notice these pieces all repeating themselves to make up the body of the dress. Serialism, mechanistic assembly, the relentless gridding of the surface makes up the dress. And excess is there, as well.”
With technology, function no longer dominates design as it did among the Modernists, who disdained the idea of glamour, at least for the time. “With a computer, filigree becomes structure,’’ Rosa said. “For the Prada building [Herzog & de Meuron’s design in Aoyama, Tokyo], the perimeter is the structural and all the vertical support is concealed within the elevator shaft and the stair area.”
Form first, function second, seems to be everywhere. Architect Hernan Diaz Alonso’s design for the Landmark Tower/U2 Studio Project in Dublin could be a building in the shape of a dragon or an abstract form that vaguely resembles flames.
Of the 107 objects on exhibit, some 27 haute couture pieces from the last 50 years illustrate the range and changing views of glamour. They share an aura of objects beyond our everyday existences. Among the standouts are Yves Saint Laurent’s 1960 crocodile bomber jacket, an Eighties Thierry Mugler white latex suit and a 2004 Jonathan Saunders dress that creates the illusion of tattooing.