Image a T-shirt. The picture of a plain white tee, in all probability Hanes, probably involves thoughts: crisp, basic, unassuming. And whereas there may be, in fact, a sure magnificence to the simplicity and timelessness of a standard white T-shirt, it’s nonetheless a bit fundamental. Somewhat unfinished. It’s nearly a clean canvas.
The artist duo often called Clarke & Reilly (David Grocott and Bridget Dwyer) noticed this inventive potential within the construction of a T-shirt and conceived of an exhibition referred to as Blue Collar with the T-shirt at its core. On view now by means of November 4th at LA’s SIZED Studio in West Hollywood, Blue Collar consists of an area with 62 T-shirts hanging from the ceiling. The items on show are hand-sewn from indigo-dyed material spanning three centuries and sourced from numerous corners of the world.
“We simply copied the basic American T-shirt, and that was it,” Grocott informed me bluntly when he and Dwyer gave me a tour of the exhibition simply earlier than its opening. “I’ve all the time deconstructed stuff, and I had this big piece of fabric, and I used to be considering of how I may deconstruct it and make it particular person in every bit. The material lent itself to this basic, fundamental shirt. It’s a really humble shirt, which sort of speaks to everybody.”
It’s the common performance of the on a regular basis T-shirt that underscores the larger theme of Blue Collar as a mirrored image on the American working class, particularly throughout the Los Angeles Garment District. The 62 dangling T-shirts sway and spin slowly from strips of a painter’s drop material that Grocott lower up, creating a way of motion and bustle paying homage to a manufacturing facility or warehouse. In the meantime, a soundtrack composed by Magnus Fiennes pulsates within the background, serving as a kind of sonic poem that options samples from totally different cultures and nationalities. The result’s an eerie, twisted sound that creates pressure among the many floating T-shirts.
“Our course of could be very a lot the concept issues have a lifetime of their very own, and one factor turns into the following,” Dwyer informed me as she elaborated on Blue Collar’s origins. “That’s how David all the time works; that is his nuanced response to the working class in America versus some sort of political assertion. It got here out of strolling round LA and observing all of those those who had been working and making issues occur.”
Even earlier than the absolutely realized idea for Blue Collar got here to Grocott, he and Dwyer had been working with the material in different methods, weathering and tinkering with it and utilizing it in different exhibits. Most just lately, they integrated it into an set up on the Howard Hughes compound in LA.
The material is a surprising amalgamation of utilitarian materials present in England’s Black Nation, the French countryside, and the Northeastern US. These supplies embody sections of bedsheets and previous sacks, peasant cuts, and farming cuts, some with previous repairs and patches, some with embroidered particulars. As soon as stitched collectively, the material was dyed utilizing indigo from India, the US, and Japan by means of conventional dyeing strategies.
With the patina of time, issues grow to be extra lovely.
“This textile has been with us in our apply for about 5 years, and the material spans 300 years,” defined Dwyer. “So these 300 years of material had been all hand-stitched collectively after which dyed with three forms of pigment. Now, we use them in numerous methods, like getting old them out in a discipline. Once we put them out within the discipline to age them, this wasn’t the undertaking.”
To attain totally different weathering results on the material, Grocott and Dwyer stationed numerous sections of it in three separate places on a mountain vary in Northern California. One web site had dappled mild, one other was hyper-exposed, and the third was on a hillside. One portion of the material was bolted round a big boulder that grazing cows butted up in opposition to with their immense lengthy horns. One other was wrapped round massive columns within the solar. The material was then left to face the weather for 3 months earlier than Grocott and Dwyer made the trek again out to retrieve them.
“When David had taken the textiles down from this land, he was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with it subsequent,’” stated Dwyer. “I feel loads of artists work like that; it’s all in regards to the course of. One of many issues that’s all the time in our apply is time wears magnificence nicely. With the patina of time, issues grow to be extra lovely.”
This weathered indigo material isn’t any exception, as the assorted outcomes of the totally different elemental situations vary from an enormous spectrum of blue hues to placing visible patterns like tie-dye-style stripes. So, whereas each T-shirt within the exhibition is sewn identically, they’re every distinctly distinctive. “They’re all naturally totally different as a part of the method,” stated Grocott. “They’re all meant to be particular person.”
The completed product of Blue Collar is spectacular in its personal proper, nevertheless it’s clear that Grocott and Dwyer care much more in regards to the course of and journey than any outcome. For the duo, the act of crafting and creating with textiles is the artwork. “We’ve been actually fortunate to work with individuals who hand dye and perceive methods to convey a material to life. There’s no Dylon or something like that,” stated Dwyer.
“This wouldn’t age like this if it had been a Dylon; if it weren’t an natural, pure material dye, it wouldn’t seem like this,” Grocott went on. “It’s acquired to be an natural factor. It’s acquired soul. You’ve acquired to see the one who’s accomplished it, see the hand that’s accomplished it.”
After I requested the duo what was subsequent for Blue Collar, they appeared fascinated by putting in the present at one other gallery. Nonetheless, one thing tells me they’ll be on to the following undertaking, maybe repurposing the T-shirts, creating one thing fully new. What that shall be doesn’t actually matter, alluded Grocott. “It’s the unknown that’s essentially the most attention-grabbing factor.”