Phoenix Art Museum Showcases Minimalist Gowns by Yeohlee

A palette of black and white sheds light on a convergence of fashion and art

Phoenix Art Museum presents Yeohlee | Serra, an exhibition that examines two bodies of work, fashion design by Yeohlee Teng and prints by Richard Serra that emerged 30 years ago.

From March 16 through May 29, a selection of quietly inventive and minimalist black and ivory dresses by Yeohlee will be juxtaposed with monumental prints of dense blackness on a white background by Serra. The exhibition explores the shared concerns that led the two to create, independently and within their separate disciplines, objects of striking visual affinity.

“The close relationship between these evening gowns, cut from a supple, heavy ivory satin jacquard with a black border (1991 to 1993), and the monumental drawings and prints that Serra had created eight years earlier, has been noted before. But the two bodies of work have never been presented together before now,” says Dennita Sewell, The Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design at Phoenix Art Museum. “This exploration is only possible because Phoenix Art Museum has these notable silk-screen prints by Serra in its permanent collection, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art has generously loaned designs by Yeohlee from its collection.”

Yeohlee’s gown series emerged onto the 1991 fashion scene after her work had been widely viewed in Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing Design, a seminal exhibition at MIT Museum. Insiders understood that, for this young designer, fashion design was a larger project, an investigation into volume, form and fabric, as well as ergonomics, movement and style. The challenge of maximizing the use of an entire seven meters of fabric drove the design of the three dresses named Byron, Keats and Shelley. Their shapes and designs were informed by the fabric, a rich heavy ivory silk jacquard with a black border on one side of the fabric. The width of the fabric and border determined the rest. The magic came from the imaginative use of cut and an understanding of the potential of form within the structure of the fabric.

“The awareness of form, volume, material, the magic of numbers and geometry, they are always present in my work,” says Yeohlee. The designer continues to pose design puzzles from her atelier in New York City, which she founded in 1981. Acclaimed for a spare vision that delights in experimenting with the essentials of form, she is praised for clothes that are simple, functional and timeless.

Serra has written of his screen prints: “I invent methods about which I know nothing, to utilize the intent of experience so that it becomes known to me, to then challenge the authority of that experience and thereby challenge myself.”


(left) Yeohlee Teng, Byron dress, silk,
(right) Yeohlee Teng, Shelley dress, silk, Fall/Winter 1993-1994.


(left) Yeohlee Teng, silk cape (shown with evening gown)
(right) Yeohlee Teng, silk cape (shown with evening gown), Fall/Winter 1992–1993.

PHOTOS: Mark Peterman

Yeohlee | Serra

March 16 – May 29

Phoenix Art Museum, Ellman Fashion Design Gallery1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

For more information/tickets, visit


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