The kit—an entity both functional and performative—forms the basis of Susan Cianciolo’s exhibition at Bridget Donahue, “if God COMes to visit You, HOW will you know? (the great tetrahedral kite).” Situated on quilts in neat rows, the cardboard kits contain dolls, clothes, drawings, photographs, paintings and more compiled by Cianciolo, a post-punk fashion designer turned multimedia artist. During the heyday of the DIY ‘90s, her crudely stitched garments and make-your-own-denim-skirt sets became popular with the Barney’s crowd, but Cianciolo soon broke with the industry to pursue an independent artistic path synonymous with zine-like publications such as Purple and index. Today the kits become scores for collaboration with a heavily matrilineal bent: some of the quilts on which they rest are made by Cianciolo’s mother and grandmother, while her seven-year-old daughter creates popsicle-stick assemblages and other treasures. (Peers like director Mike Mills also contribute.) Affinities emerge with feminist craft and Fluxus, but equally with the spiritually inflected kitschy art of Thomas Lanigan Schmidt and decadence of the late Jack Smith, whose version of Hamlet she costumed for a 2012 production in Frankfurt.
Pictured: Susan Cianciolo: Deluxe Accessories Kit, 2001-10, silk triangle bag, glitter, paper, cotton tapestry necklace or wall-hanging, dye and acrylic on canvas sneakers, cotton woven shawl, cotton bow tie, two-sided offset printed poster, Run 11 Shiseido makeup bag on cotton patchwork textile with fabric by Mike Mills, 4 by 25 by 30 inches. Photo Sam Franklin. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York.