Suzanne Lovell Inc

Culture

Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” at the MCA Chicago

September 14, 2019

Virgil Abloh stands in front of the “Culture Wall” he designed at the MCA. Image courtesy of: Complex

The air in Chicago is buzzing this summer surrounding the prolific work of designer Virgil Abloh. “Figures of Speech”, curated by Michael Darling of the Museum of Contemporary Art, is the first solo exhibition for Abloh, who is originally from Rockford, Illinois.

Prototypes from Abloh’s collaborations with Nike that never made it to production. Abloh deconstructs shoes and reimagines them to challenge the way we look at footwear. Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Currently the CEO of fashion brand Off-White and the Men’s Creative Director at Louis Vuitton, Abloh has had success in many of his pursuits. His creativity finds expression not only in fashion, but also furniture design, art, architecture, and music. His streetwear is globally coveted, with limited edition releases and store openings generating crowds who are willing to camp over night for his latest sneaker.

“Any time an idea takes shape on a particular surface – a photo print, a screen, a billboard, or canvas – it becomes real.” – Virgil Abloh. Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Abloh’s education in Architecture at IIT is visible still in the MCA’s 20-year survey. The process that he refers to as “prototyping”, where ideas are tested and re-worked over many interations is the foundation of any design education. In this way, one idea may lead to many different concepts. For Abloh, design is equally about the rigorous problem solving process as the final product.

An enlarged album cover Abloh designed for Kanye West’s “Yeezus” album (2013) takes the centerpiece in the “Music” section of the exhibition. Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

The exhibition is carefully curated into 7 different parts. “Early Work” shows Virgil’s earliest forays into streetwear, followed by “Fashion” that showcases Off-White collections from 2014-2019. “Music” displays Abloh’s cover art for Kanye West’s “Yeezy” album as well as Abloh’s own productions as a DJ. “Intermezzo” speaks to his inspirations from architecture and design. “Black Gaze” looks at fashion from a black cultural perspective,. “Design” shows Abloh’s work with furniture design and “The End” exemplifies the power of advertising.

Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Photography and installation from the “Black Gaze” portion of the exhibition. Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

What he finds himself returning to in his work across these many disciplines is the idea of advertising and brand. His observation is that the power of advertising drives culture; “everything from an election, to what you’d have for lunch”. His analysis of advertising transcended the MCA during June at the pop-up Louis Vuitton store that was unmissable with a neon orange facade on West Loop’s Randolph Street. The vibrant brick walls were stamped with the oversized Vuitton Logo and within the gallery-like store, neon orange LV pieces were presented as works of art. The store’s rapid opening and extremely limited stay on Randolph Street certainly proved Abloh’s thesis of the power of brand and advertising as people flocked to the store to soak up the excitement surrounding the upcoming Fall/Winter 2019 collection.

The gallery-like space in the West Loop Louis Vuitton pop up store. Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Abloh’s design studies across many media and the analysis of brand and advertising prove to him that society, and therefore art, design, music and fashion are capable of changing the world for the better.

Limited edition Off-White clothing made for the exhibition at the MCA, available in the museum store called “Church & State”. Image courtesy of: Suzanne Lovell Inc.

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