April 21, 2016

Helmut Lang at the Dallas Contemporary

An designer is reborn as an artist.

Persistence paid off for Dallas Contemporary executive director Peter Doroshenko.

About five years ago, while flipping through a German magazine, Doroshenko first discovered the sculptures of Helmut Lang, the man who was once behind his eponymous fashion label. Two years later, he saw Lang’s art in another magazine, and contacted him but never heard anything back. Then, Lang’s gallerist, Angela Westwater of Sperone Westwater in New York, contacted Dorshenko and invited him on a studio visit with the fashion designer-cum-artist, which led to the exhibition “Burry,” currently on display at Dallas Contemporary through August 21.

Lang—who has been working as an artist for the last decade of his career—created sculptures of sheep skin for “Burry,” stretching it over frames, creating a coarse surface, then coating it with tar, gold and silver leaf and white paint. “This deals with second skins, and I think that was always something he dealt with on a one to one when he was in the fashion industry, is creating second skin,” says Doroshenko, who also curated the exhibition. Other sculptures in the exhibition dangle from the ceiling, appearing like black vinyl, or even animal innards. “They have almost an intestine or skin quality to them, where it’s almost like a science-fiction movie, commented Doroshenko. Two black sculptures on the floor resemble rectangular pools filled with tar. The pieces have an almost primordial feel, coated with a layer of gloss.

I think what he’s doing is playing into the big basic sensibilities of what he’s always done, which is kind of pulling back, having something there, but not giving the story away,” says Doroshenko. “Telling a personal story, using materials in a creative way, and really pushing the way art is installed and presented to and viewed by the public.”

And how does Helmut Lang the artist differ from Helmut Lang the fashion designer, who was famous for his minimalist designs? “I think it’s the same person,” says Doroshenko. “I think one person stopped making the first skin and started making the second skin. One chapter ended and another chapter began.”

The Details: “Burry” by Helmut Lang is on view at Dallas Contemporary, 161 Glass Street, through August 21.