art: the greatest walks away from her canvas

Jhane Barnes leaves menswear

End of an era

This is like Morris Louis, Agnes Martin, or Piet Mondrian putting away their brushes. (And Jhane Barnes is way better at geometric abstraction than every capital ‘A’ artist who’s practiced it.) Jhane Barnes’ blog post is frank and clear, in part she writes:

I can’t maintain the quality I’ve always offered unless I price myself out of the market. In addition, I put long hours into fashion, but too many of those hours go into non-design work, so the intrinsic rewards I’ve always gotten from designing are also diminished.

I can’t afford a Deborah Butterfield sculpture or a Rothko painting, but I and many others have curated a small collection of beautiful things from the best artist in her field. For $200 you can wear a work of art and make yourself and those around you happy. In a world of 7 billion people you would think she could make a go of it.

She’s been designing menswear for decades and showed no sign of slowing down. Check out her current menswear collection; the shirts look good, then you roll over a shirt like Crashpad or Cypher and marvel at the details in close-up.

Looks good

Looks good

it contains multitudes

it contains multitudes



It’s a simple trick that perfectly fits the scale of a human body in relation to other people, and she’s executed it thousands of times at at a consistently high level that is staggering. In the flesh touching the fabric is an added sensory dimension; the design comes from a computer, but it’s a 3-D construction of strands of fiber. Her design work for panels and signage and carpets is pleasing but doesn’t have that multi-resolution feel of revealing more as you get close enough to touch another person, and loses the innovations in weaving she made in partnership with Japanese mills.

What’s depressing is there’s nothing coming out of men’s fashion houses that is remotely on the same level as her work. Check out the ridiculously boring stuff that a big name like Giorgio Armani is selling for more money. Everyone I have ever met wearing a Jhane Barnes shirt loves it, yet far more people get up every day and put on expensive unimaginative designer clothing that is not in any sense a work of art.

I wrote on her Facebook page

Oh nooes! I have 42 of your shirts and some other menswear including a 1984 blouson that started it all. I feel bad that I stopped buying when my cupboard filled up. Your mastery of expression within the constraints of fabric fitted to the male torso is unrivaled, beyond that you are simply one of the greatest geometric abstraction artists of all time. Thanks for 30 years of daily beauty in my life and the world, and best wishes.

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