The Artist Wears Prada

Published May 16, 2014

ABOVE: HALAU HULA O NA MELE ‘AINA O HAWAI’I: WHITNEY MUSEUM OF ART (PRESENTED BY EI ARAKAWA AND CARISSA RODRIGUEZ), MAY 11, 2014, AT THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL. PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDSAY KEYS.

Playing with notions of tropical fantasy, paradise as a war zone, and continental drift, artists Ei Arakawa and Carissa Rodriguez created a sculptural and performance-based installation for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. With just a week left of their installation, Arakawa and Rodriguez spoke to us about their Prada costumes, which reinterpret the clichéd floral Hawaiian shirts that dads like to wear to summer barbeques. Coincidentally, Arakawa, Rodriguez, and Prada all looked to Hawaii for inspiration at the same time.

“Prada’s ‘Menacing Paradise’ collection demonstrated how a non-Hawaiian could interpret an idea of Hawaii with a personal sensitivity,” the artists explain. “It played with and betrayed people’s expectations about Hawaii.”

Arakawa and Rodriguez performed wearing shirts from Prada’s Spring/Summer 2014 menswear collection. The vibrant shirts echoed themes presented in Arakawa’s three island sculptures—each one representing Kauai, Hawaii, and Manhattan—and Rodriguez’s monochrome paintings that were created by using Hawaiian volcanic salt.

“Hawaii is a vernacular culture in the U.S. Hawaii questions what it means to be America… with hybrid cultures of diverse immigrants and indigenous people,” the artists continue. “With Prada and fashion, it was easier to make these ideas more immediate, especially with a New York audience.”

Arakawa and Rodriguez’s installation will be on view at the Whitney through Sunday, May 25.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT THE WHITNEY MUSEUM’S WEBSITE.