Mike Eckhaus (b. 1987, New York, NY) and Zoe Latta (b. 1987, Santa Cruz, CA) met as students at the Rhode Island School of Design, while studying sculpture and textiles, respectively. They are known for using unexpected materials, emphasizing texture and tactility in their designs, and for incorporating writing, performance, and video into their practice. Through their emphasis on collaboration—with artists, musicians, and others—and an approach that plays with, and against, industry conventions, Eckhaus Latta addresses the crosscurrents of desire, consumption, and social relations. Their work has been featured in Greater New York 2015 at MoMA PS1 and Made in LA. (2016) at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
“As part of the Whitney’s emerging artist program, we sometimes showcase creative figures outside of the visual arts," said Christopher Y. Lew, Nancy and Fred Poses Associate Curator, co-organizer of Eckhaus Latta: Possessed with Lauri London Freedman, the Museum‘s head of product development. “These figures from fields such as fashion, music, architecture, design, and food approach their disciplines in ways that are akin to visual artists, often questioning the systems and parameters that define what they do, speaking to the broader cultural moment, and blurring the boundaries between disciplines."
“Working with Mike and Zoe has challenged us to consider the roles that our Museum spaces play and the objects that are presented. They pushed us to ask broader questions such as ‘How can we reexamine the format of an exhibition?‘ and ‘What is the best way to exhibit an artist’s work?’ said Freedman.
For their Whitney exhibition, Eckhaus Latta will create a new three-part installation that embraces and brings into conversation various aspects of the fashion industry, from advertising and the consumer experience to voyeurism. At the entrance to the gallery will be a sequence of photographs that play on the tropes of iconic photoshoots found in fashion advertisements and magazines. These photographs explore how Eckhaus Latta’s unique aesthetic functions in relation to the highly polished look of the industry's media. The core of their installation will be an operational retail environment in which visitors are welcome to touch, try on, and purchase clothing and accessories designed specifically for the show. This space is made in collaboration with more than a dozen artists whom Eckhaus Latta has been in dialogue with over the years who have created functional elements such as clothing racks, display shelves, and a dressing room. The exhibition concludes with a darkened room, evocative of a security office, which features a bank of screens depicting surveillance footage. Visitors will have a voyeuristic view of not only the rest of the installation, but a glimpse of the tracking and surveillance that so often accompanies the experience of shopping.
Eckhaus Latta‘s fashion designs—for which they are currently finalists for the 2018 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers—explore, in part, identity and reflect the fluid nature of gender and sexuality. While they fully participate in the fashion system, Latta and Eckhaus remain self—aware of their roles in consumer society. Their recognizable designs have featured experimental knitwear; a wide range of materials including lace, rust, and recycled fabrics; and a general approach that supersedes gender binaries. At times, models are sent down the runway wearing clothes that challenge traditional definitions of male and female. Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and Chief fashion critic at the New York Times, wrote that their clothes “are a kind of petri dish of associative splicing,” and that they “grapple honestly with what is on the designers’ minds: questions of gender and difference and the details of fallible beauty...”