‘Charles James: Beyond Fashion’ examines the work of the mid-century American couturier through his unique design process. Sixty-five of James’s most notable designs are displayed in two galleries, each paring the sensual experience of the finished product with the rich, messy technical work that lies beyond the surface. An integrated system of optical scanning and display devices analyze fhe form and structure of the garments, slowing the gaze and rewarding careful study.
The large first-floor gallery features fifteen of the exuberant ball gowns from James’ mature period of the 1950s. The dresses are spaced apart on individual platforms, cast in a dramatic light on one side and a more clinical gaze on the other. The view from the gallery entry emphasizes the sensual properties of the gowns; their sculptural forms are highlighted and appear frozen in motion across a ballroom floor. The reverse view unfolds detailed analyses of each dress using 3D scans, 360 photography, X-rays, and microscopy. Video cameras and digital projectors mounted on robotic arms scan the artifact and narrate its special properties in a dynamic 3d animation.
The smaller ground-floor gallery comprises a broad range of James’ tailoring, arranged in an undulating swarm in the center of the room. Four ceiling-mounted robotic boom arms perform a [voyeuristic] choreography, tracing contours, revealing microdetails and narrating formal devices beyond the reach of visitors.
In slow-moving super-magnified abstraction, live video projections unpack the drapes, folds, spirals, and cuts with which James interpreted and refigured the female body.