Having studied fashion design, textiles are inherent to Susan Cianciolo’s artistic practice. Her unique patchwork garments have been featured by big names in the fashion industry, including Vogue and Barneys, for the past 20 years, but only recently did the art world also begin to accolade her work. In 2016, she was included in MoMA PS1’s high-profile exhibition ‘Greater New York,’ which showcases some of the most exciting talents in (as the title suggests) New York’s greater region; had her first solo show at the Chinatown gallery Bridget Donahue; and was included in the 9th Berlin Biennale. Last year, she was one of 63 artists in the Whitney Biennial.
For the Whitney Biennial, she recreated Run Restaurant, which first debuted as a month-long pop up restaurant in 2001 at Alleged Gallery. In the original performance-cum-installation, the artist established a small Japanese eatery, offering $10 vegetarian lunches. She designed the interior, dressed the tables and handmade each staff member’s uniform—all of which was for sale. She even did most of the cooking herself. This time around, she transformed the Whitney’s restaurant, Untitled, with her collages, mobiles, tablecloths and staff uniforms, and collaborated with the in-house chef to conceive a special menu. Additionally, she curated a series of performances to take place while visitors dined that included poets, rappers and a band she discovered on the subway.
In a way, Run Restaurant Untitled acts as a summation of Cianciolo’s oeuvre, which spans drawing, film, performance, tapestries, collages, mobiles and, of course, garments. Whether seen from a fashion or art historical point of view, her exhibitions and individual works challenge conventionality, always inviting a sense of play and interaction. Her garments could hardly be mass produced and would never successfully standup to daily wear and tear, while her tapestries—sometimes joined by her daughter’s drawings—beg to be touched and installations require active participation. For Cianciolo, art and fashion are not mutually exclusive, nor are they to be held on high pedestals; rather, the two forms of creative output are conjoined to engender aesthetic and, perhaps more importantly, social experiences.
This article is part of our BLINK series, which introduces the practices of artists around the world. To read more BLINK articles, click here.