Los Angeles

View of “Susan Cianciolo,” 2018. Photo: Brian Forrest.

View of “Susan Cianciolo,” 2018. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Susan Cianciolo

Overduin & Co.

View of “Susan Cianciolo,” 2018. Photo: Brian Forrest.

“RUN 12: God is a Jacket” was Susan Cianciolo’s first exhibition in Los Angeles since her 2016 survey of works from the 1990s to the then present at 356 S. Mission Rd. There, her kits—Fluxus-inspired cardboard boxes packed with handmade clothing and ephemera—featured prominently. Here, Cianciolo offered another means of retrospection in framing the show through RUN, the label she managed between 1995 and 2001. A willfully inefficient production system, predicated on improvisatory and seemingly ludic collaborations involving friends and family members with varying technical skills, it yielded eleven collections. Now comes the twelfth, the titular RUN 12: God is a Jacket, 2018: a suite of thirty-four ensembles of emphatically aggregated found textiles and discrepant materials, ready to wear but presented dangling limp on hangers nailed to the walls of the main gallery. The question, as Sarah Chow posed it to the artist in a letter-cum-press release authored for the occasion, is: “How, now, should we consider your past work in the context of fashion?” This query was structural to Cianciolo’s mode of subversion when she was actually working in fashion—designing DIY kits so that a wearer would also be a maker—and nearly two decades later, the point remains an important one, on which the present show somewhat literally hung.

Yet if Cianciolo’s return to RUN within the gallery reflected upon the connection between past projects and current labor, it also did so through a language of objects—horizontal sculptures, tacked-up collage panels, and a room-scale installation—germane to its setting (perhaps the better to complicate not only the “ontological status of previous collections” as per Chow, but also that of the sanctioned art- work). Indeed, these things were arranged in the first room. Lying on the floor were the four so-called patchwork geometries, mélanges of swatches patterned with little candy canes, or more monochromatic, recycled clothes, and towels in various states of unraveling. Placed on the floor, these composites additionally served to offset the assemblages set atop them. This magpie aesthetic extended to the nearby collages, gridded and taped arrangements that set fragments of papers, drawings (many by Cianciolo’s daughter), notices of studio workshop events, book covers, and much else into relation through proximity and also through the interpersonal kinships that they everywhere admitted. This initial gallery’s layout culminated in The Altar, 2018, a large wooden platform accessed by stairs and festooned with prayer flags cut out of fabric remnants; a plastic bag; a mailer for Highlights magazine; and a card reading CHRIST LOVES YOU.

View of “Susan Cianciolo,” 2018. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Having to pass through all of this before coming to the jackets, dresses, and swimwear reframed the latest collection, to be sure. So, too, did the digital video playing off to the side, its sounds emanating from a black-curtain-clad room. The earliest piece on view, When I Saw Your Frist Eye I Love You, 2016, was a fifteen-minute loop that asked less about clothes than about what their bearing solicits: Various scenes of people wearing Cianciolo’s creations establish conversation-driven vignettes about falling in love, where Cianciolo’s clothes are props in a performance of mutual recognition. Within eyeshot, and anchoring the ensembles themselves, was Geometry, 2018, an empty stage set left from the opening performance. All that remained were pillows cradled by plastic sheeting and arranged in a circle around a topless table, beside which sat vessels of flowers and herbs. Absence there met anticipation in the surrounding clothes that have yet other bodies to enfold. Cianciolo has in the past described her label’s creations as “costumes”; this staging changed her claim only in quality, not in kind. The collection became its own material history and the basis for still other possible continuities, some assumedly far from fashion or art, even as they burrow within them.

Suzanne Hudson