Robert Rauschenberg was a pioneer in collage, but he didn’t do fashion. Well, unless you consider putting a tire around a stuffed goat as accessorization.
He did owe some of his collage sensibility to his mother, who was a professional seamstress. Cutting out paper patterns was something Rauschenberg did from boyhood.
His collage breakthroughs in the 1950’s incorporated photo transfer processes that put mass media into art in a new way. And in recent years, his imagery has had its impact on fashion and fabric.
My friend Joan Schulze, often called “the Rauschenberg of quilts,” also does paper collages. Beginning in the 1970’s, she challenged the conservative quilting world by replacing some of its traditional geometric patterning with photo transfer imagery. At quilting conventions, her talks even provoked boos and ire from the traditionalists in the audience.Joan also does paper collages. In a recent series, Schulze focuses on fashion, which has often appeared as one element in her quilts. These small works are collaged from magazine photos, paper, printing, and fabric. Gemma Fanning is a young British designer who dyes and screenprints her fabrics by hand. “My collection was based on the J.G. Ballard novel, Crash, and his ideas towards the sexualisation of the motorcar,” she told Sophie Benson, a UK designer, writer, and stylist. “The starting point of my research was aimed at trying to incorporate the sexualised features from cars and transferring them into garment shapes.”
Interestingly, Rauschenberg once did transfers (including a portion Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque) using a car as the image surface.
Rauschenberg was the first artist to make the jumble of media images central to his work. Cutting-edge fashion seems to suggest that we’re not just immersed in a wash of fragmented images, we’re wearing it.