May 16, 2019

Labor of Love at the DIA @ Hyperallergic

DETROIT — The first thing that makes for a harmonious match between fashion-art duo Ruben and Isabel Toledo and the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts is the shared baseline value of beauty rooted in labor. The majority of the DIA’s world-class collection was funded by the rise of the automotive industry — articulated most literally in the famed interior frescoes by Diego Rivera, the Detroit Industry Murals — and the Toledos have similarly built a bespoke fashion empire out of working-class Cuban immigrant roots. Their intensely collaborative process, combination of art and design, and hands-on attention to materiality shine through in Labor of Love, an ambitious and unprecedented exhibition of original garment works, interspersed with and responding to pieces on display in the DIA galleries.

“Looking at all the galleries and at all the art that’s collected [at the DIA], one of the things we kept saying is that it’s got an angle or an eye for design,” said Isabel Toledo, during a walk through the exhibition with press. “There’s a lot of pieces in here, maybe because of the car industry, that felt like design.” The pair spent days wandering the collection before settling upon nine pieces to inform six satellite installations scattered throughout the museum’s galleries, in addition to a special exhibition space.

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