New York University’s Grey Art Gallery to Showcase Groundbreaking Italian Designer

April 15 – May 8, 1999

New York, NY, March 1, 1999…As the boundaries between art and fashion continue to shift, Mariuccia Mandelli—the pioneering designer behind the Krizia label—will be the focus of an exhibition at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery from April 15 through May 8. Following the lead of avant-garde artists such as Sonia Delaunay, Natalia Goncharova, and Kasimir Malevich, Mandelli uses fabric like a canvas, and her sculptural creations further blur distinctions between the two worlds. Krizia presents a cornucopia of Mandelli’s groundbreaking fashions, ranging from monastic to glamorous.

Mandelli established her firm—which she named Krizia after a character in Plato’s dialogue on female vanity—in Milan more than forty years ago. Inspired not only by art, but also by architecture, theater, cinema, popular cartoons, and the circus, her designs feature an array of special effects, such as allover pleats, lavish figurative embroidery, and intarsia knits. Integral to her design process is a fascination with cloth and textiles. She has used precious wools such as vicuña, cashmere, alpaca, and camel’s hair, often in contrast with rough linens and diaphanous silks.

Always interested in interdisciplinary collaboration, Mandelli has invited a trio of internationally renowned film designers to curate Krizia: set designers Dante Ferretti and his wife, Francesca LoSchiavo; and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci. All have been nominated for numerous Academy Awards; Ferretti’s and Lo Schiavo’s most recent acknowledgment came last year, for Martin Scorcese’s Kundun. They have also been nominated jointly for Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Pescucci won an Oscar in 1993 for Scorcese’s The Age of Innocence, and was likewise nominated for Baron Munchausen. Her recent costume design projects for films include Cousin Bette and Les Miserables.

Since her debut in 1954, “Crazy Krizia”—as Mandelli has been characterized by the American press—has always been on the cutting edge of fashion design. She was one of the first to embrace Minimalism, showcasing collections that were simple, clean, and sophisticated at a time when fashion had not yet embraced that aesthetic. Her first collection, Spartan in its simplicity and restricted black-and-white palette, won accolades at the 1964 shows held in Florence’s Pitti Palace. In 1971 she turned the fashion world upside down with a line of elegant day and evening shorts that were quickly dubbed “hot pants” by the media. Seven years later, she introduced pleats—used in never-before-seen ways—beginning with an accordion-pleated raincoat. In later collections some of her pleated garments took on architectural qualities, spiraling like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York and Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, while others drew inspiration from the natural world, resembling shells, butterflies, and flower petals.

All the while, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mandelli was creating a veritable bestiary in her knitwear collections. Ranging from leopard prints and zebra stripes to realistic tapestries of the great cats, Krizia’s animal imagery exudes a totemic quality. The exhibition will also feature more recent designs, offering viewers an encyclopedic perspective of Mandelli’s creative vision.

Public Program

In conjunction with the exhibition, NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and the Grey Art Gallery will co-sponsor a lecture entitled “Krizia: Things into Ideas,” by Richard Martin, Curator, The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to be held at the Casa Italiana, 24 West 12th Street, on Thursday, April 15, at 5 pm. For more information about this program, contact Stefano Albertini at the Casa Italiana, 212/998-8730.

The Grey Art Gallery at New York University, located at 100 Washington Square East, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 11 am–6 pm and Saturdays 11 am–5 pm. The Gallery is open late on Wednesday nights, 11 am–8 pm.


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