When a studio fire nearly incinerated former designer Helmut Lang’s archives in February 2010, the artist was inspired: Lang says, “I became intrigued by the idea of destroying it myself to use as raw material for my art.” Subsequently, he’s shredded some 6,000 pieces from two decades of acclaimed work in fashion. With the fragments—feathers, metal, bits of denim and fur—Lang created a series of 16 columns, the contents of “Make It Hard,” Lang’s solo show at East Hampton’s The Fireplace Project [opens tonight], organized by Neville Wakefield.
Lang left his Prada-owned namesake label in 2005 to pursue art full-time. “I shredded all pieces with neither remorse nor preference. Once a decision was made it was not hard to do,” Lang says. The methodical destruction is ongoing, and will continue over the coming months.
The stalactite-like forms of “Make It Hard” reference the natural world and the power of human industry. Set in uneven rows, the white floor-to-ceiling structures are filled with support material like cement and plaster, and so are white and look like birch trees. The odd swirl of pink plastic hints at the works’ formal elements.
Intact clothing from Lang’s past remains in select fashion and contemporary art collections around the globe. Lang donated pieces between 2009 and 2010 to designers and international museums. And though Lang has shredded the majority of his work in fashion, his creative output will continue to stimulate artistic dialogue. “I have been asked to collaborate with fashion houses using my artwork, which I will probably do.”