Yassin Haute Couture
17 January 2018 - 7 April 2018
In this multimedia exhibition, Raed Yassin immerses viewers in a plethora of images, sounds, lights, forms, memoirs culled from pop culture, where he laces facts, histories with fiction to invoke a romanticized representation of the past and simultaneously conceal deep personal wounds. The artist has been tailoring the ideas behind this particular oeuvre for almost a decade, with the project taking several twists and turns before finally reaching fruition. Most of the works in this exhibition are thus showing for the first time at Marfa’ Gallery, as part of an ever-expanding opus.
For several years, the artist attempted to paint a complete portrait of his deceased father, Samir Yassin, using fiction, forgery, lies and rumors, as elements integral to his practice. The works in this exhibition focus specifically on the period when his father was working as a fashion designer in Beirut and abroad, garnering fame and international acclaim. In-part archive, fiction, and in-part recreated objects and materials, the works draw us into the designer’s thought process, those who wore his creations, the unseen realms of his imagination, and the annals of memory attached to the fabric of fashion itself. The artist connects threads of several stories by digging up a past that doesn’t want to be uncovered, one that is constantly eluding him, obscured by ghosts that inhibit him from seeing it clearly. As if to reveal a treasure lying at the bottom of the pit, the artist tries to discern secrets that his father carried with him to the grave, assuming the role of undertaker and of voyeur. In his theoretical treatise, Archive as Burden, he disregards the casualness of visual information within archival documents, to rather plumb what lies behind veiled truths.
Using fragments of rumors collected from long lost relatives, the artist begins to build a dramaturgy of obsessions that mirror his own, as if inherited from father to son. Stories of Erotica, intrigue, and deceit converge dramatically in a text that recounts the life and times of Samir Yassin, the great designer. The neon work Obsessions illuminates the fusion of transmitted narratives, but at the same time alludes to the generic name of a perfume or cosmetic brand. In the same vein, the second light piece Azya’ Yassin recreates the facade of a couture boutique, as if to deliberately confuse the gallery space with a shopfront display.
In the series Princess of Oblivion, photographs of Fadwa Harb, one of his father’s first models, show her wearing several dresses intended for his wealthy client, a Saudi princess. In a bout of pure jealousy, the beautiful princess was poisoned and killed before she could wear the custom-made garment that Fadwa modeled.
In Proposal for a Proposal, the artist embroiders different possibilities for dresses on photographs of a soon-to-be bride that could have worn them. The designs are based on his father’s stories and how he might have imagined these designs. The creative urge is incarnated as a string of alternatives, the end result of which no one will ever know.
In the series Playmate of the Month, the artist finally uncovers the hidden treasure he had been looking for, namely his father’s raw fashion sketches, meticulously hand-painted on the bodies of naked Playboy magazine models. This discovery also answers Yassin’s questions about his personal preoccupation with outdated playboy magazines, and explores the erotic life of images that circulated around Beirut in the 1980s.
The video work “I Hate Theater, I Love Pornography” delves into the relationship between father and uncle, and how their fantasies and fetishes overlap upon images of cheap erotica. In another corner, a stuffed parrot “The Pimp” – a sculpture and sound piece – chirps out the notes of a saxophone solo, reminiscent of cues for sensual encounters in film.
In addition, the found polaroid photographs by Samir Yassin have been collected in a book titled The S.Y. Model Collection. This book will be launched alongside the exhibition and will have a limited number of editions available.