Bodies@Work: The Art of Ruben and Isabel Toledo

Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) is pleased to present Bodies @ Work: The Art of Ruben and Isabel Toledo, on view October 8, 2016 through June 18, 2017. This unique exhibition reveals the creative collaboration of fashion designer Isabel Toledo and artist, designer, and illustrator Ruben Toledo. Their lifelong partnership in art, design, and life springs from the complex interplay of two individuals, two aesthetics, and the push and pull of their distinctive, yet complementary, visions and energy.

“Creativity has roots in the natural consequence of problem-solving that occurs during our process of making. The accumulation of an idea becomes the BODY OF WORK,” said Ruben Toledo. “In this exhibition our intention is to freeze the moment when an object becomes a work of art. By dressing the space with our visual language, visitors can sense our daily dialogue in the art of design, graphics, fashion and all other elements we experience as art. We freely exist in our universe aware and open to the joy and friction of cross pollination. This exhibition is an opportunity for us to share our combined alphabet of ideas and visual vocabulary.”

“We are especially pleased to be working with the Columbus Museum of Art and honor the legacy of our dear friend Charles Kleibacker,” said Isabel Toledo. “He was the Museum’s adjunct curator of design and one of the most inspiring and inquisitive minds we ever met.”

CMA invited the Toledos to transform the Geraldine Schottenstein Gallery, part of the Museum’s new Margaret M. Walter Wing, into an evocative installation that invites visitors to explore the individual artistic development and the creative flow between the two.

“The Museum is thrilled to collaborate with Ruben and Isabel on this distinctive, new exhibition,” said Nannette V. Maciejunes. “Bodies@Work will feature immeasurable creativity and incredible vibrancy and is a perfect fit for a museum like CMA that celebrates creativity and the creative process and values the role that artists play.”

The exhibition features Isabel’s remarkable designs that combine innovation of form, material and structure with a keen practicality and Ruben’s vibrant drawings and paintings that range from abstractions to astute social commentaries. In addition, objects from their studios will provide a rare, intimate view of their collaboration.

At the heart of the exhibition are two 25’ long worktables, which each hold key elements of their personal practice. On Ruben’s table, a giant roll of 45” wide paper is pulled across the table to reveal an endless series of drawings and watercolors. Isabel’s table is a diary of patterns, objects, techniques and materials, anchored at one end by the Singer sewing machine given to her by her father as a child, gloved in black velvet. The artists will take full advantage of the X’ tall glass façade overlooking the north entrance by creating an installation that will be visible as visitors approach the Museum.

The Patricia M. Jurgensen Sculpture Garden will also become temporary home to a ‘flock’ of Ruben’s Black Bird sculptures. Inspired by surrealism and Alexander Calder, Ruben Toledo first created the half-bird, half-woman mannequin form for Ralph Pucci, an icon of mannequin and interior design. Pucci originally used small-scale versions of the sculptures for jewelry and then reimagined the mannequins in full-size.

Ruben and Isabel’s families emigrated from Cuba to West New York, New Jersey, in 1967 where the two met as teenagers. Today they live and work in an historic building in the center of Manhattan, focusing their boundless energy on many projects and partnerships from lipstick for MAC, to a clothing and fragrance line for Lane Bryant to ceramic tiles with Ceramica Bardelli to book cover designs for Penguin Classics. Isabel’s gown and coat design worn by Michelle Obama for the 2008 Presidential Inauguration is considered an icon of modern elegance.

Photo Russell Johnson