Fashion and food to die for

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Installation view. "African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style" at the Fowler Museum at UCLA

The Fowler Museum at UCLA is known as a treasure trove of exhibitions and artifacts with an emphasis on the arts and culture of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. For those of you who haven't been there yet, now is an excellent time to discover this Los Angeles cultural gem hidden in plain sight.

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"African-Print Fashion Now" at the Fowler Museum
Courtesy of the Fowler Museum

The Fowler's current exhibition African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style informs and, I would say, seduces visitors with a highly dramatic presentation of samples of archival and contemporary fabrics; dozens of gorgeous tailored dresses and suits; black-and-white studio portrait photographs; and several works by contemporary visual artists. All of the above has been drawn from the Fowler's collections, private loans, and the archives of the Dutch textile manufacturing company Vlisco.

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Installation view of "African-Print Fashion Now!" at the Fowler Museum

Every time I come to the Fowler, I expect to see and learn something that I haven't been exposed to before. And, in addition to that, the smart presentation and elegant design of their exhibitions lingers in my memory long after I leave the museum. The impression one gets is that of being on a theater stage, with each dress and costume commanding attention and exuding star power.

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Installation view of "African-Print Fashion Now!" at the Fowler Museum

Among the traditional samples of African fashions, there are a number of simply fascinating examples of cutting-edge haute couture by international designers who use African print fabrics with its typical dense patterns and bright colors. There are a couple of jackets and pants on display that I simply would die to wear.

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(L) Omar Victor Diop (b. Dakar, Senegal), "Portrait of Aminata 3," 2013
Courtesy of Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris
(R) Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. Enugu, Nigeria), "Nyado: The Thing around her Neck," 2011
Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London

Among the several original artworks on display, there is one that particularly grabbed my attention: a large mixed media figurative work by Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby. You see a female figure, possibly the artist herself, who wraps her arms around her Euro-American partner. She's wearing a dress by Nigerian designer Lisa Folawiyo, while her partner wears the typically American jeans and T-shirt. I was delighted to learn that the artist now lives in Los Angeles and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

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Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent (2016)
Courtesy of the Orchard

If you've been lucky enough to see artists working hard in the midst of the inspiring chaos of their studios, then you will probably agree with me when I compare these artists to restaurant chefs cooking in the midst of their hectic kitchens. Last Friday, I heard Joe Morgenstern, KCRW's film critic, give a mouth-watering review of the feature-length documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. After hearing his review, I rushed to the movie theater to see this documentary. It turned out to be a spellbinding story of the celebrity chef who, even to his friends, remains enigmatic. But boy, the moment you see his hands touch the food, you cannot help but think of an artist with a paintbrush creating a masterpiece. Yummy!



Benjamin Gottlieb