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J. Morgan Puett, Wholesale: To The Trade Only, 1985-1997

Alexander Gray Associates
508 West 26th Street, 2nd floor, 212-399-2636
October 18 - December 16, 2006
Reception: Wednesday, October 18, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Georgia native J. Morgan Puett emerged in the mid-1980s as a fashion designer. Her distinctive style, which drew from sources that explored the history of garments, were hand-made, crafted of hand-dyed natural fabrics, often in wrinkled, informal states. Her quirky SoHo retail space was heralded for its evocative environment—a bewildering combination of store, art installation, architectural remnant, and factory. Models rode a salvaged merry-go-round for fashion shows, the whirr of sewing machines provided a soundtrack, celebrities mingled with artists, and clothing shared shelf space with antique farm equipment. The Wooster Street space was abuzz with activities, including art exhibitions, poetry readings, concerts, tarot card readings, as well as memorable manicures provided by critic Rhona Lieberman. It effectively served as an ad-hoc center for New York’s creative producers. This multifaceted studio-cum-store drew comparisons to Warhol’s Factory for its spontaneity. In retrospect, Puett anticipated the changed landscape of SoHo, with its entertainment-oriented retail and brand marquees such as Prada, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Apple.

Puett closed her Wooster Street store in 1997, and archived all of its contents-from dresses and patterns to financial records and shipping receipts-most of which was preserved with natural beeswax. This Pompeian action was the subject of a 1998 exhibition at the Centre d’Art contemporain Kunsthalle in Fribourg, Switzerland. In her installation at Alexander Gray Associates, Puett critically revisits this material at a timely moment, when the lines between the art world and luxury branding are collapsing.
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