Fash­ion Mosh­ing

Dior Homme fea­tures artist Dan Witz’s iconic paint­ings in its lat­est col­lec­tion.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - Words and in­ter­view by Ian Loh

Dior Homme fea­tures artist Dan Witz’s paint­ings in its lat­est col­lec­tion.

It’s of­fi­cial. The main buzz­word for 2017 is “col­lab­o­ra­tion”, es­pe­cially in this dig­i­tal-driven era where ex­pand­ing “reach” is a top pri­or­ity for la­bels. Dior Homme, for one, has em­braced this “magic” for­mula, which has seen Artis­tic Di­rec­tor, Kris Van Ass­che, team­ing up with vi­sion­ar­ies in their field, in­clud­ing Ja­panese artist Toru Kamei, French painter François Bard, cult di­rec­tor Larry Clark and Ger­man au­dio brand Sennheiser. For this sea­son, he’s sought the ser­vices of Amer­i­can painter Dan Witz, who is known for his photo-re­al­is­tic paint­ings. While it might seem a lit­tle, dare we say, pre­dictable, Witz’s hy­per-re­al­is­tic mosh pit oil ren­di­tions breathe new life into coats, jack­ets, bags and all sorts of ac­ces­sories from the Dior Homme col­lec­tion. We speak to the Brook­lyn-based painter about the sig­nif­i­cance of fash­ion and art col­lab­o­ra­tions.

ESQUIRE: Tell us more about the col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dior Homme. How did it come about? DAN WITZ: Kris Van Ass­che col­lects my work and he was in­ter­ested in the mosh pit paint­ings. When I sent im­ages of avail­able pieces, he reached out to me about a col­lab­o­ra­tion. I was luke­warm about the idea at first, but af­ter ask­ing around, I heard great things about Dior—then we met and got along, and I be­came open to it.

ESQ: You were in a punk band be­fore. How does that in­flu­ence your work now? DW: Af­ter I got out of art school, I played in post-punk type bands for most of my twen­ties. When I “re­tired” from mu­sic and went back to mak­ing art full-time, I was wor­ried that paint­ing would lack the same ex­cite­ment as per­form­ing—that my life and work would be­come too “safe”—and I was wor­ried that I’d lose my “edge” (I know this sounds cliché, but back then, this is how I thought). I’d al­ways ad­mired baroque art and thought all that en­ergy could have a con­tem­po­rary ana­logue. Crowds ri­ot­ing at con­certs seemed like a per­fect so­lu­tion. From start to fin­ish, the whole process of pro­duc­ing these paint­ings turned out to be ridicu­lously chal­leng­ing—which I guess sat­is­fied my need to be liv­ing close to that edge.

ESQ: There’s a great amount of re­al­ism in your work. What’s your paint­ing process like? DW: Af­ter re­cov­er­ing from pho­tograph­ing in the mosh pit, I spend weeks, or some­times even months, puz­zling to­gether the com­po­si­tions with Pho­to­shop. Hav­ing an in­som­niac and ob­ses­sive-com­pul­sive na­ture re­ally comes in handy here. In com­par­i­son, the main event, the ac­tual months-long bat­tle with the paint­ing is some­what rou­tine—or at least man­age­able in a one-day-at-a-time kind of way. I paint tra­di­tion­ally so each fig­ure takes four or five lay­ers from un­der­paint­ing to fi­nal glazes. De­pend­ing on the num­ber of fig­ures, each can­vas takes a min­i­mum of sev­eral months to com­plete.

ESQ: Kris Van Ass­che called you one of the pi­o­neers of street art. In your opin­ion, how has street art evolved over the years? DW: One of the things that I love and find most en­dur­ing (and en­dear­ing) about street art is that it doesn’t have to be re­spon­si­ble to any­one or any­thing. No rules, no fil­ter, no power-on-high. No guy like me hold­ing forth on it with author­ity. That said, these days, to keep street art fresh for me, I’ve found my­self pur­su­ing projects that ad­dress so­cial is­sues that I care about. Back in the late-’70s and the early ’80s, the mere idea of an art form that wasn’t for sale and couldn’t be owned was enough of a sub­ver­sive sub­text to sat­isfy me. But these days, with so many peo­ple do­ing street art, just putting some­thing on the street isn’t as trans­gres­sive as it used to be. Ac­tivism seems like a log­i­cal devel­op­ment for an art form that ex­ists in the public sphere.

ESQ: Do you think dig­i­tal is the next art medium? DW: Last year, I taught a draw­ing class at my alma mater, Cooper Union, in New York. The stu­dents had some com­pelling ideas about what was wrong with the art world and a mys­te­ri­ous op­ti­mism about what the fu­ture would bring. To my sur­prise, it didn’t in­volve so­cial me­dia, or VR, or the pow­er­ful im­age ma­chines that we carry around in our pock­ets. Past that, all fu­ture talk be­came vague, as if they weren’t ready to re­lease what­ever new par­a­digms they were beta test­ing. I un­der­stood their wari­ness. I re­mem­bered when I was a stu­dent there, and try­ing to ex­plain how an un-mar­ketable, un-own­able, non-com­mod­ity like street art was such a healthy al­ter­na­tive to the fail­ing, elit­ist art world that ev­ery­one was so anx­ious to be a part of. So, I guess that’s a long way of say­ing, I don’t know.

ESQ: How do you feel about your work be­ing part of the fash­ion world now? DW: The whole fash­ion show week­end in Paris was ridicu­lously sur­real—even for me. But when all that was said and done, I have to say I was pleas­antly sur­prised at how cool the clothes were. These cou­ture peo­ple are in­cred­i­ble artists. I to­tally ap­proved of all their choices, from the drap­ing and the muted colour pal­ette to the scale. Even the se­quinned suit worked re­ally well. But yeah, it rated as to­tally one of the weird­est ex­pe­ri­ences that I’ve ever had.

ESQ: What do you think is the rel­e­vancy of your work to fash­ion? DW: I’m not sure about fash­ion in gen­eral, but with Dior, we seem to share sim­i­lar ob­jec­tives: an ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to craft, a re­spect for tra­di­tion, and a de­sire to lever­age our art into some­thing that is cul­tur­ally chal­leng­ing.

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