60 Years of Tights

Image credit: Turiya Magadlela, Walking Towards God in Green, 2019

The current Gossamer exhibition at the Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate, brings together 22 artists who all work with the medium of tights or stockings.

Curated by artist Zoe Bedeaux, the show includes work from early-twentieth century pioneers Man Ray and Louise Bourgeois through to contemporary talents Enam Gbewonyo and Ma Qiusha.

2019 marks 60 years of tights, with the world’s first commercial pantyhose developed by Glen Raven Mills hitting the shelves in 1959. According to the gallery, the garment was created by Allen Gant Sr. and his wife, Ethel: “’How would it be if we made a pair of panties and fastened the stockings to it?’ Allen asked Ethel. She stitched some crude garments together, tried them on, and handed the products to her husband.”

Allen brought his wife’s experiment into the office, and with the help of his colleagues Arthur Rogers, J. O. Austin, and Irvin Combs, developed what they later called “Panti-Legs.”

As a material that has been constructed to function around intimate parts of the female form, the use of tights in art is complex. The exhibition explores the power that gossamer has: one that is visible yet invisible, a liberating force, but also an objectifying one. It asks how considerations of Race, Gender and Sex are bound up in nylons.

Zoe Bedeaux: ‘What appears to be folly on the surface is extremely complex and deep. Tights represent the skin we are in and opens up a myriad of worlds and underlying socio-political subtexts. It is my hope that these will be the portals through which the viewer will journey. It has been such an exciting process curating a show that brings together these extraordinary works that explore the alchemy of hosiery.’

Gossamer is at the Carl Freedman Gallery until December 2019. For more information visit Carl Freedman Gallery.

Read more about the history of tights in A TIGHT SPOT, Tights from Robin Hood to Mary Quant, Selvedge Issue 86 Renaissance

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