Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay

Color Therapy

A recent source of inspiration is Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay at the Cooper Hewitt. It’s a survey of textile designs that alternately had me musing upon Corbusier, the Jazz Age and the costumes worn by Grace Jones.

This exhibition is ostensibly about fabric, though furniture and fine art play in as well. I love taxonomies — it’s fun to see how a gouache or watercolor makes its way into a final printed cloth and to see all the possible different colorways of a single design.

Delaunay had a long career ranging from Paris in the teens to Amsterdam and back again. She worked for department stores and under her own imprimatur, in styles that spanned early Modernism. She used cubes and reticulate patterns, leaves, tribal motifs, surrealism (a fried egg pattern in sequins), jazzy zig-zags and dancing squares. Final products include scarves, ties, rugs, swimsuits, long coats and bolts of fabric.

Colors seem to change according to era—there’s the heavy black outline period, lots of cherry red; that red-green-yellow-black combo that seemed to signal modernity. What I liked more was that as the Flapper 20s turn into the Deco 30s, we see more nuances in palettes like these: rust, black, violet and silver; rust, moss and brown; ochre, lapis and aqua.

Whereas it’s fun to immerse oneself into a previously-unknown-to-you artists entire oeuvre, it’s also helpful to for those undergoing a home/apartment renovation to step outside of current trends and look at how color was used in times past. Some of those coats and scarves would actually make a smashing design for a wall covering. I wonder if that’s possible…


Photos: Cooper Hewitt Museum

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter
Mark Chamberlain Painting