Review: J W Anderson’s ‘Disobedient Bodies’ at The Hepworth Gallery Wakefield

Last weekend I dragged my hungover self to Burley station and spent £2.60 on a train to Wakefield. Not my usual destination of choice for a post-fruity Saturday but the Hepworth Gallery had just opened its newest exhibition and I was desperate to go.

Disobedient Bodies marks the start of The Hepworth’s series of collaborations with artists working outside of the visual arts with fashion designer J W Anderson being the curator of this first exhibition. Over 100 pieces of fashion, furniture, sculpture, dance and photography make up Disobedient Bodies with particular influence being drawn from local artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and their individual take on the human form.

The first and central piece in the exhibition is Henry Moore’s 1936 reclining figure which asides from being representative of my tiredness, set out the theme with the wooden image showing how Moore reimagined the human form – a figurative disobedient body.

Looking past this piece the exhibition opens into the only interactive part of the exhibition- a ‘forest’ of oversized J W Anderson jumpers from the S/S 17 collection. 28 jumpers make up the installation, each one a different pattern, and visitors are encouraged to ‘engage with the materials however they want’. The day before I visited, blogger Susie Lau (@susiebubble) posted a photo of herself on Instagram in the installation where she’d tied sleeves of the jumpers together to create a swing. Then, when I was wandering through, a couple were each trying to pull a jumper over their heads much to the delight of the exhibition guide who ran over to compliment them on their ‘engagement with the material’. Oversized jumpers- they’re fun.

With regards to the representation of fashion as an art outside of the visual art, there’s a lot to see. The rooms of the exhibition are linked together with curtains of J W Anderson designed fabric which blur the boundaries of the rooms creating a more intimate feeling. There’s pieces from Christian Dior, Comme des Garcons, Helmut Lang and Loewe. Jean Paul Gautier’s Cone Dress from 1983 is stretched over a mannequin to exaggerate the form and sits perfectly across from Barbara Hepworth’s Torso. Also featured showing exaggerated form is the Rick Owens duvet jacket from his A/W 17 men’s collection. As described in the exhibition guide, whilst the combination of objects might display a personal logic to J W Anderson, it’s hoped that visitors will make their own connections between the pieces.

Overall the exhibition is well worth the £2.60 train for an interesting afternoon which can either be thought provoking or just a good opportunity to look at some amazing fashion. Also the cake in the gallery café was really good.

Victoria Copeland

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