Rebranding with art
Fine art and fashion often flirt with each other, but sometimes they invade each other’s space entirely. These contemporary works address commercial production, inviting us to question our conditioning: how did we let the market value of a purse, or something labeled “Gucci,” become so completely unmoored from its actual material worth? Conversely, the same may often be said for art, which inhabits its own price-conscious ecosystem of gallery and collector. Artist Stephanie Syjuco often plays with these concepts, using painstaking craft processes to subvert the typical value chain. In her Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy) Syjuco printed patterns and invited the general public to crochet “homages and lumpy mutations” of designer handbags. The crafters became an unpaid labor force, that parodied fashion factory outsourcing through their willingness, autonomy, and ownership of the resulting product. A later work, Market Forces, further mimicked the production-consumption cycle using hand- screenprinted Louis Vuitton Keepalls that were then “bought” with blatantly fake money, all designed and made by students. That work tackled a side effect of our designer mania, a trillion-dollar counterfeit industry, which uses the same signifiers—gilt hardware, logo, label—to rebrand common goods and attach exponentially higher prices. Thus, we can view Peter Gronquist’s golden Gucci chainsaw as a literal weaponizing of our potentially toxic desire for branded fashion. Equally, Syjuco’s pastiche bags beg the question: why is something mass-produced in a factory worth so much more than a unique, handmade—and maybe more authentic—version?
Stephanie Syjuco (American, born 1974), Gucci Bag from The Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy), 2006, Yarn, buttons Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
Stephanie Syjuco (American, born 1974), Creating Knockoff Logos, The Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy), 2008, Laser print Courtesy of the artist
Stephanie Syjuco (American, born 1974), Production Flow Schematic: Traditional Model of Fashion Production and Consumption; Black Market Stall; Certificate of Inauthenticity, Market Forces, 2014, Laser print Courtesy of the artist
Mark Braham (American, born 1992), Kevin Cradall (American, born 1993), Christina Giancola (American, born 1990), Christian Stewart (American, born 1992) Counterfeit Currency, 2014, Screenprint on paper Courtesy of Tyler School of Art, Printmaking Program
Peter Gronquist (American, born 1979) Weapon of Mass Designer: Gucci Chainsaw, 2008, Steel, spray paint, and logo fabric Courtesy of Cindy Gallop