“After the last two years, we’re craving magic,” creative director Ian Griffiths explained backstage in the moments after presenting the sartorial fairytale that was his Max Mara autumn/winter 22 collection, Modernist Magic. With the world seemingly trapped in an evolving carousel of crisis, Griffiths created a playful wardrobe that encouraged us to escape everyday existentialism by channelling the work of one of the foremost abstract artists and designers of the 1920s and 30s, Sophie Taeuber-Arp.
After her multidisciplinary practice had been overlooked for over forty years, a long overdue recognition of Taeuber-Arp’s pivotal contribution to modern art as we know it today was held at Tate Modern last autumn. It was the first exhibition Griffiths explored as we all adjusted to the post-lockdown new-normal. “What I recognised in her work was the ability to fuse modernism, which is about rationalism and pragmatism, with a sense of folkloristic fairytale magic,” he told British Vogue back in February.
From embroideries and paintings to carved sculptures and edited magazines, puppets to mysterious Dada objects, Taeuber-Arp continually combined traditional crafts with the vocabulary of modernist abstraction, transforming the familiar into the otherworldly. In her gifted hands, even the most everyday of objects were imbued with a sense of magic and mystery. “The hastily improvised costumes and marionettes she designed for her most famous work, King Stag, radiate joyful energy, kinetic spirit and theatrical panache,” the show notes explained. “They are fully formed fairytale characters imbued with a charm that lies somewhere between the robotic and the animal.” In all the hues of a Taeuber-Arp tapestry, the Modernist Magic collection delights in the dualities between playful and practical, mini and maxi, micro and macro, form-fitting and oversize. Inspired, LN-CC enlisted Glasgow-based multidisciplinary artist Lola Dupre to playfully reimagine our Max Mara shoot with one of the standout new faces of the autumn/winter 22 showseason, Tiana Mohammed.
At Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Taeuber-Arp and likeminded avant-garde artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, and Guillaume Apollinaire met nightly. In reaction to the horrors of war, their performances, recitals, readings and publications were a creative call-to-arms that combined to form a new movement, Dada. “Revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War, we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts,” artist Hans Arp later explained. “While the guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all our might,” he added. Dada’s subversive and revolutionary work presented alternate visions of the world and reminded us all of the transformative power of creativity. A century later and the world needs another reminder.
“I love the accessibility of Dada and how rebellious and surreal the imagery is,” Lola Dupre explains as she talks us through her evolving practice. Growing up in a house decorated by prints from Hannah Höch and George Grosz, she began emulating dada at the kitchen table. Today, her portfolio references the movement alongside the digital distortions of today’s tech-shaped world. “Dada often defies definition and rationality,” she adds, “you can make of it what you wish and your interpretation of it can change to match your mood or fashion so to speak.” Accentuating the magic and mystery of the collection, Lola’s dada-inspired visuals appear in conversation with the honeyed hues, luxurious weaves and cocooning silhouettes. Whether then or now, wardrobe or artwork, the everyday can be magical.