A Review by Jeffrey Horsley
Pink: the History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color explores the colour pink and its multitude shades and cultural meanings. Organized by Dr Valerie Steele, Director, The Museum at FIT, Pink interrogates the history, materiality and cultural meanings of a colour that, as the exhibition guide points out, ‘provokes exceptionally strong feelings of both attraction and repulsion.’
Arranged through the main FIT gallery spaces, the show begins with an assaultingly garish installation of toys aimed at girls and young women, highlighting the stereotype of pink as a feminine colour. The first room continues this theme and presents women’s garments in pink from the 1850s to the 1990s. Near the entrance a ruffle-tiered dress from 1857 is placed adjacent to a black and white man’s outfit, underlining the feminization of pink in the 19th century.
The second room examines the meanings of pink further and demonstrates that pink has been a colour featured in men’s and women’s clothing, subcultural style and high fashion, western and world clothing, adult and children’s garments. The erotic nature of pink is explored alongside a subversive potential demonstrated by experimental ensembles and counter-cultural garments.
Presented in the darkened FIT galleries, beautifully spotlight against glossy black podia and slatted black/pink walls, the visual impact of the exhibition is immediate: an almost overwhelming vista of pink in every shade and texture. It takes a while for the dazzled eye to adjust and focus on individual ensembles and groups of outfits. The exhibition’s message is clear and its encouragement to reconsider contemporary, gendered readings of pink irresistible. Beyond the cultural analysis, the monochrome focus of the show also invites the visitor to consider the garments’ materiality in depth; fabric, texture, surface, transparency, grain, weave, decorative technique all appear amplified.