In the quest for protection, contemporary inventors and artists alike have created wildly inventive devices for modern protection that fuse practicality, fantasy, paranoia, and fashion. This exhibit explores recent “armor,” from the fantastic to the practical, in a collection of objects that reveal the obsessions of the age.
Amour d’Armor: Fear, Fantasy, and Fashion in the New Age, explores the need for protection in modern society.
Curators: Robert S Mattison, Metzgar Professor of Art, and Ida Sinkevic, associate professor of art.
Amour d’Armor: Fear, Fantasy, and Fashion in the New Age resulted from a conversation several years ago between Lafayette art historians Ida Sinkević, a medieval art scholar, and Robert S. Mattison, an expert on modern art. Sinkević was in the early stages of curatorial research for an exhibition currently at the Allentown Art Museum, Knights in Shining Armor: Myth and Reality, 1450-1650. Knights explores the popularity of arms and armor in the art and daily life of the Renaissance and baroque periods. As they started to identify examples of modern “armor,” Sinkević and Mattison discussed the possibility of cocurating an exhibition at Lafayette, scheduled to correspond with the Allentown exhibition. Amour d’ Armor presents the work—from the fantastic to the practical—of contemporary inventors and artists in a selection of objects that reveal the obsessions of our age. As the exhibition took shape, they wondered if objects each selected would be influenced by their differences—medieval vs. modern art as a focus of study;
European vs. American; younger vs. older, and especially, female vs. male. As a result, instead of writing a joint essay for this brochure, each wrote a separate essay to see if those differences would inform their viewpoints.
Exhibition brochure: amour-de-armour
Joseph Beuys, Felt Suit, 1978, felt with wooden hanger, from edition of 60, 66 x 30 inches. Courtesy of GRIFFIN Contemporary, Santa Monica, California.
Ralph Borland, Suited for Subversion, 2002, nylon enforced pvc, padding, speaker, pulse-reader, circuitry, 47½ x 31½ x 23 5/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Kathy Bruce, Plague Robe, 2007, installation, bamboo, dyed Japanese rice paper, wire mesh, glass, bee’s wax, lavender, lavender oil, bergamot oil, gloves, boots, size variable.
Bill Burns, Fire Helmet, Safety Blanket, Flotation Device No. 2, Leather Work Gloves, Welding/UV Goggles—rectangular version, Hard Hat, from Safety Gear for Small Animals, 2003 to present; Handkerchiefs with embroidery; seven watercolors of safety gear, watercolor and pencil on paper, 10 x 7 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
ChemBio Shelter, Inflatable Shelter, prototype, 8 x 10 x 11 feet overall. Courtesy of ChemBio Shelter, Inc., Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Cat Chow, Heavy Metal, 1999, 72 x 26 x 16 inches, stainless steel and brass rings. Courtesy of the artist.
David Gothard, Ruby-Throated Warrior, 1997, mixed media, 9 x 9 x 15 inches; Reluctant Man-O-War, from Ink and a Brush with Death series, 2007, ink and watercolor, 28 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
HJC Helmets, CL-X5 Arena, Motocross Helmet, molded polycarbonate composite shell, with interior padding. Courtesy of Michael Andretti Powersports, Phillipsburg, N.J.
Tanya Marcuse, photographs from Undergarments and Armor series, 2005, platinum prints, 4¾ x 3¾ inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Martha Posner, C’s Corset. Unfamiliar Skin Series, 2006, wire mesh, beeswax, synthetic hair, pigment, 18 x 15 x 12 inches; Child’s Dress, Unfamiliar Skin Series, 2006, wire mesh, beeswax, synthetic hair, pigment, 32 x 18 x 21 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Jeremiah Sullivan, Neptunic “C” Sharksuit, 2005. Courtesy of Jeremiah Sullivan, Neptunic Sharksuits, San Diego, California.
Angie Waller, Armored Cars: Protecting Yourself from Ballistic Attacks, 2007, video, 7 minutes 8 seconds. Courtesy of the artist.
Tobias Wong, Ballistic Rose Brooch, 2004, ballistic nylon, velvet leaves, and silver pin, 5” diam., Courtesy of Tobias Wong and CITIZEN: Citizen
From press release:
“The exhibition explores the need for armor as a means of protection in non-military spheres of our own society,” says Sinkevic. “More precisely, it draws upon the never-ending popularity of the myth of medieval knights and their armor and explores how that myth has been transformed by the need for protection from a wide variety of agents by artists of our own age. It will present the Lafayette community with an excellent opportunity to examine artistic responses to a wide range of dangers, real or imagined, and to witness a series of widely inventive devices.”
The exhibition includes manufactured objects that address some of the dangers of contemporary times, including the “Neptunic C Sharksuit” to protect divers from sharks; a dirt bike helmet; and the portable “ChemBio Shelter”which can be quickly inflated to protect the inhabitants from chemical or biological agents. The “ChemBio Shelter” was developed by Ed Roscioli, in response to what he felt was an inadequate suggestion on the part of Homeland Security to stock plastic and duct tape. Angie Waller examines the car armoring business in her video, “Armored Cars: Protecting Yourself from Ballistic Attacks.”
Tobias Wong’s “Ballistic Rose Brooch” is a piece of jewelry – a flower made of ballistic nylon – to protect the heart of the wearer. Ralph Borland’s “Suited for Subversion”(2002) is padded to protect its wearer during street protests and is based on protective garb actually worn by Italian protestors. Bill Burns also presents his series o f“Safety Gear for Small Animals.”
“Burns’s work plays on our natural love for small furry creatures and our interest in miniatures. Our first response of whimsical disbelief about the miniature work gloves and safety goggles leads us to more serious questions about deforestation and environmental pollution as well as other ecological and social concerns,” says Mattison.
Sinkevic, curated Knights in Shining Armor: Myth and Reality, 1450-1650 for the Allentown Art Museum, recognizes the ongoing interest in armor throughout the ages. “Lafayette’s exhibition is organized to complement the exhibition that I have curated for the Allentown Art Museum, Knights in Shining Armor, thus providing continuity to the subject of armor by illuminating its never ending appeal for artists of our own age,” she says.
Mattison believes the exhibit explores both the fantasy and reality of armor in this modern era. “This exhibition captures both the fantasies and fears of the post-9/11 generation. It is tied to our contemporary history and how we view our age,” say Mattison. “The exhibition combines fashion, engineering, and art. Often we cannot tell which objects are intended for practical use and which are artistic tropes,” he says.
In conjunction with the exhibit, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, professor of history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and curator at the Higgins Armory Museum, will present the Carol P. Dorian ’79 Memorial Lecture in Art History 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, 2007 in the Williams Center, room 108. The lecture is entitled “Martial Arts of the Medieval Knight.”