Designer Sander Lak has been hailed as a rising star in the fashion world: Anna Wintour and Stefano Tonchi sat in the front row of his runway show last year, just a few months before Beyoncé wore one of his dresses on a date night with Jay-Z.
And because every designer worth his salt is pursuing an art collaboration, Lak is now teaming up with New York painter and critic Walter Robinson to create an artwork destined for Miami. The commission will debut in a one-work solo show at a private party at the Webster Hotel next week during Art Basel in Miami Beach. Part of the proceeds from the work’s sale will support RxArt, a nonprofit that fills hospitals’ pediatric wards with contemporary art.
The work itself, Models in the Studio (2017), is classic Robinson: a painting of two women (in this case, Sies Marjan models) on a cheery dark pink bedsheet that he picked up at Pottery Barn. (Another bedsheet painting earned him some love from Martha Stewart, whose sheets he has also used in his work.)
“When I met Walter, it was nice to find that he’s not too precious about his work,” Lak told artnet News. “I see his work as a much higher thing than [what] we do, but he talks about what he does almost as lower than what we do.”
A phone chat with Robinson (who is also founding editor of artnet magazine, a precursor to artnet News) bore that out. “I like taking assignments,” he said of the collaboration, “because I’m kind of a commercial artist.”
Robinson has also contributed a drawing to the sixth edition of a coloring book to benefit RxArt. (Other contributors include MacArthur “genius” grantee Njideka Akunyili Crosby.) Diane Brown, a former art dealer and consultant, founded RxArt 16 years ago and has earned the support of an impressive roster of artists over the years, including Vito Acconci, Julie Mehretu, and Yayoi Kusama.
Robinson and Lak were pleased to discover a common interest in humble materials and everyday subjects. To source raw material, Lak said, “we don’t go to an expensive store and find cocktail dresses for $500, but rather shitty stores where you buy old J. Crew and H&M by the kilo.” Those are just the kind of designers who inspire Robinson’s irreverent paintings, which translate mass marketing imagery into portraiture and still life.
The expressions in Robinson’s new painting do highlight another major difference between high and low fashion: attitude. “High-fashion models have such glum expressions,” Robinson said of the women gracing his new bedsheet painting. “That’s the difference between couture and mass market clothes marketing. The people in my normcore paintings are smiling at you and trying to sell you.”
To translate Lak’s design into a work of his own, Robinson zeroed in on the designer’s exuberant palette. “He uses exotic colors and sophisticated fabrics,” the artist noted. “I tried to capture some of that color sense, and also his really goofy pop touches. A girl will be wearing a stole that looks like it’s made out of a pink shag rug. So it’s a mix of elegance and high-keyed pop.” (Vogue calls Lak’s colors “acidic” and “retina-searing.”)
Robinson was pleased to see his bedsheet paintings—originally created for an exhibition at a nightclub—come full circle and return to a festive setting, albeit a much glitzier one.
“I started making the sheet paintings back in the ‘80s,” he said. “I had a show at a nightclub in LA, so I wanted to make some paintings I could fold up and carry in a suitcase. When I came home, I put the sheets that didn’t sell in a box and they stayed there for 25 years. They lasted really well.”
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