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Selling Sex Exhibition at Shop

I had gone to the SHOW studio hosted exhibition to see the piece by Atsuko Kudo.  Having been a fan of the latex designer’s work since meeting her at a West-London design party at The Convenience Store I was surprised and pleased to see the rest of the space today packed with several more beautiful pieces by other talented artists.  It made for a dynamic presentation that for all its eroticism had a calm, bright, soft and unthreatening air from the start.

The preview show was held at Shop on 1-9 Bruton Place in the whitewashed rooms of the oldest former stable in Mayfair.  The exhibition, entitled “Selling Sex” came out of their well-known film series Object Fetish.  Apparently, in the process of researching they came around to the oft re-hashed issue of how sex and gender become fetishized in fine art, fashion and film and in particular the female gender.  In other words they feel that the imbalance is still there and deserves some dialogue.  In an innovative turn of theme all the works exhibited are by female artists, designers, and photographers.  Turn that question around and it’s now asking—are we empowered? Resisting? Mocking? Or just continuing the ‘male gaze’?

Atsuko Kudo’s  outfit was the first thing I saw when I entered the room and made a full-on impression on me from the start.  The mannequin stood prominently at the centre of the room in a confident and striding pose and decked literally from head to toe in latex.  She appeared to be both sweet and dominating at the same time with a powerful black balaclava hood with a dramatic top pony-tail and connected to the bodice.  The full green-hued skirt gave it a sweeter note but there’s no denying the sex and power behind the elbow-length latex gloves and knee high boots.  I was instantly in love with the delicate lace filigree which when looked at closer were actually dozens of tiny circles with the lace patterns punched out.  The complexity was unmistakable and Atsuko told me that it had taken two weeks of non-stop work to complete as each piece had to be individually placed on the form to hug the body.  The garment is called “Armour for Prostitutes” and there’s no denying the power someone would feel wearing this piece- prostitute or not.

Imagine the feeling of latex on your skin.  It hugs, it clings, and it pays the closest attention to your body that a textile can.  It moulds and caresses your curves and crevices, and not only that but if you think about it in the context of the exhibition, it makes perfect sense.  A woman wearing latex turns the initial gender of latex completely on its head (pun only half-intended).  Latex is usually associated with the male gender simply because of—you guessed it, the condom.  But if latex is worn by a female then she is taking control of that textile and creating her own sexual identity especially if it is in a design by Atsuko Kudo who designs with a softer more feminine silhouette and aesthetic than most latex designers.

Other pieces at the exhibition included the famed horn heels by Aoi Kotsuhiroi that have been enjoying a cult status created by bloggers around the world, curvaceous and fleshy furniture by Charlotte Kingsnorth and the most luxurious looking phallic objects I have ever seen (Rose quartz or ceramic with 9 carat gold anyone?)  Showstudio wrapped up the package with a film screening of “Fuck me” starring Karlie Kloss.  If they were trying to start a dialogue here at Shop, I think they’ve done it as people were discussing the exhibition avidly all around the room.

To see it for yourself visit the space between 11:00 and 18:00 any time from now until the first of June.  To view more of Atsuko Kudo’s work you can visit her website at atsukokudo.com

-April Whitlow

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