Isabel Toledo, fashion designer known for her interdisciplinary collaborations and her clothing Michelle Obama, died at the age of 59 -ARTnews


Isabel Toledo.

Isabel Toledo.


Isabel Toledo, a fashion designer who broke the rigid boundaries of her industry and counted First Lady Michelle Obama among those who wore her clothes, died. She was 59 years old. The cause was a breast cancer, her husband and collaborator, the artist Ruben Toledo, said at the New York Times.

Among the couple's most recent collaborations, an exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts was closed last month. For the show titled "Labor of Love", the Toledos spent two days exploring the vast collections of modernist art of the DIA, among which the famous Detroit Industry Murals by the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, a series of 27 frescoes made in 1933, illustrating various modes of industry of the Ford Motor Company.

The murals "are such a celebration of the choreography of work, work, people who combine their energies to achieve something big," said the couple in a joint interview with Artforum. "In the murals, Diego approached the race elementarily, almost cosmic: people are neither" white "nor" black "or" brown ", but essential components of an important life force, extremely diverse and deeply creative. "Color Code", a series of works made for the exhibition, they showed folded linen fabrics that respond to Rivera's work. According to the artists, the "Color Code" articles focus on "how gender and race have been militarized in contemporary culture".

As part of the exhibition, the artists made several interventions in the galleries of the permanent collection of the museum, with the aim of merging the fields of design and art. Such work, Synthetic cloud, includes 11 dresses with transparent corsets and blue skirts made of layers on layers of tulle. The fabrics seemed to float above a stacked green sculpture of Donald Judd, a brightly colored canvas by Frank Stella, and so on. Other clothes, like an all black dress with a long, dramatic veil resembling a Goya portrait, were installed in a gallery lined with European paintings.

"Isabel's first move was to dress the museum," Ruben said. Artforum. "Literally. In response, not so much to specific works of art as to the entire space, including its history, staff, curators and visitors who browse it all the time. Isabel approached DIA as a living entity. "

Ruben & Isabel Toledo, Synthetic Cloud, 2018, Installation View at Detroit Institute of Arts.

Ruben and Isabel Toledo, Synthetic cloud, 2018, installation view at the Detroit Institute of Arts.


Maria Isabel Izquierdo was born in 1960 in Camajuani, Cuba, a small town in the center of the island. His family emigrated to the United States in 1968 to settle in New Jersey. She would meet Ruben Toledo, whose family was also Cuban, in a Spanish class a few years later.

They will become longtime collaborators and create their own collaborative studio, Toledo Studio, in 1984, the year of their marriage. Their studio would avoid the divisions and traditional hierarchies that usually kept separate artistic forms. Together, they would create clothes, sets, etc., while being immersed in the art scene of downtown New York, counting among their friends Andy Warhol, Halston, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The first Toledo collection was presented at the legendary Danceteria Club.

Over the years, Isabel Toledo has been considered by many to be a cult figure in the world of fashion. "I would wear a drag for Isabel, if she drew me a dress," said couturier Narciso Rodriguez once WWD. Toledo was creative director of the Anne Klein label from 2006 to 2007, created a collection for positive-looking brand Lane Bryant and, along with Ruben, created the costumes and sets for the Broadway 2014 musical. After midnight.

But Toledo became famous in January 2009, when Michelle Obama wore a two-piece set designed by Toledo for the inaugural parade of President Barack Obama. Among his many distinctions, including the DIA show, are a solo retrospective at the FIT Museum in New York in 2009 and an appointment to Tony for the making of After midnight. In 2005, Smithsonian's Smithsonian National Design Museum in New York awarded Toledo Studio its National Design Award for Fashion.

"The company's main goal is to infiltrate its ideas into everyday life," said Cooper Hewitt at the award ceremony. "Ms. Toledo's appreciation for machinery, convenience and comfort, combined with Toledo's instinctive approach to art, create playful, incisive and extremely surrealistic observations of fashion, beauty and life.

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