10 June 2011

Paper Clothing at the Legion of Honor

A couple of weekends ago V and I trekked out to the Legion of Honor, mostly to see Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, an exhibit of costumes made out of paper and "inspired" by a wide range of clothing from the past, from the Florence of the Medici to the early 20th century House of Worth. Many of the local museums have what seems to me an excessive number of exhibitions featuring Clothing for Rich Women. I was hoping that seeing them made out of paper would make them more interesting. I do understand and accept that fashion is art and so forth, but to me it's sort of like Sanskrit in that I understand that it is significant, I admire people who master it, I would kind of like to master it myself, but realistically that's just not going to happen.

It's a long trek to the Legion of Honor from the east bay, involving BART and then a bus ride. There are several buses you can take, but this time we took the 38 Geary, which has a reputation as the craziest of all SF bus lines, but which was surprisingly calm on our long bus ride. The Legion of Honor is at one of the tips of the San Francisco peninsula, and the views are spectacular. The museum itself has its charms, but I never visit there without wishing some of the robber barons had tried to buy respectability through more extensive purchases of more impressive Old Masters.

Mentioning the Holocaust Memorial right after the Museum Cafe doesn't make the place seem less random. We strolled up the gently sloping hill to the Legion, through the golf course surrounding it, which, again, adds to the randomness.

The views are striking whether it's sunny or foggy. We had a little of both the day we went. You can see the fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge below.

V was fairly disappointed in the exhibit. I enjoyed it more, but that had a lot to do with her company; if I had spent the day getting to it by myself, the shrugs would have set in much sooner. I did enjoy all the colors, and initially the workmanship, since I myself can't fold an origami crane without its looking as though it flew from Chernobyl. I was puzzled by the gauzy material used for veils and suchlike, and then read on a label that it was lens-cleaner paper. I wasn't sure that wasn't cheating on the whole "made out of paper" thing. Then I started feeling that, however carefully she was folding and hemming the paper, the decorative painting was a little too slapdash.

And the whole "inspired by" thing started to seem more of a convenience than anything else, allowing for too much cheating: there's a dress "inspired by" Botticelli's Flora in the Primavera, and de Borchgrave's version had about a quarter of the flowers on it, and they were sloppily painted. That's when I thought, well, enough of this. Also by then the rooms were quite crowded.
I ended up mostly wondering how exactly you get people to pay you for making large-scale costumes out of paper. That is the sort of life skill I have never been able to figure out.

I did enjoy the colors though.

Above you see a pigeon perched on the head of a trumpeting angel.

There was also a copy of the Magna Carta on loan. When we first came across it there was a couple standing in front of it, staring intently. They were having a long conversation about the parchment and the script and how it was written and what it meant, and they prefaced each remark by saying, "Well, I don't really know for sure, but. . . ." And they weren't being modest, the way people sometimes are when they really are expert but don't want to crush the uninitiated. They really didn't know, and were going off on extensive but unfortunately dull and unamusing flights of fancy, planted in front of the Magna Carta even though it should have been clear there were people milling around waiting for a glance up close.

The best exhibit, which we didn't even know was there until we happened into that room, was an elaborate mosaic floor created for a Roman villa and recently discovered in what is now Lod, Israel. It's delightful and a view of the charming menagerie was worth the trip.

Pulp Fashion closes this weekend. The mosaic floor is there until July 24. El Cid (above) is on guard at the slope leading to the museum entrance for the duration.

UPDATE: Up until, oh, ten minutes ago (thank you Lisa for correcting me) and despite (or because of) seeing banners advertising this show every day for months, and of course actually attending the show, I was certain it was called Pulp Fiction rather than Pulp Fashion. Oops! Actually I think Pulp Fiction makes sense, since the creations are "fictions" not just in the usual sense that clothing is a costume but in that they're not really meant to be worn and are recreations of past clothing. So I think my name is more clever, but alas not accurate.


sfmike said...

To add to the randomness, the land on which the museum, memorials, and golf course stands was once the public cemetery for San Francisco in the 19th century. The green on the first hole of course is protected by a Chinese maesoleum, and if you're at all sensitive to spirits, the place is chock full of them.

pjwv said...


Click above for SFMike's own entry on this show, which has more on this point.