Simone Forti: Minimalist Movement


Simone Forti performing in a black and white image from 1976


As a medium that marries form, movement, and visuality, dance is an enormous inspiration for my collections. I’m fortunate to live in a city that is home to world-class companies like San Francisco Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet and, in my own work, to be in creative conversation with exceptional dancers and choreographers.

A visionary choreographer and dancer who began her career in the Bay Area is currently being celebrated at MOCA Los Angeles with her first-ever West Coast retrospective: Simone Forti. Now in her late eighties, Forti first emerged in the Bay Area in the 1950s, studying and performing with avant-garde choreographer Anna Halprin. Later, after moving to New York in the 1960s, she studied composition at the Merce Cunningham Studio and immersed in the Minimalist art movement of the period. With such groundbreaking pieces as Dance Constructions and Huddle, Forti would go on to help define Postmodern dance.

In her work, Forti privileges everyday movements, and as MOCA Associate Curator Rebecca Lowery notes, "finds dynamism in the smallest physical gestures…” In this I find such resonance with my own philosophy, which has always been to create understated but sculptural garments that play a quiet but powerful supporting role in the daily life of each wearer, drawing attention to their form and movement, rather than to the clothes themselves.


A trio of garments in white: dress, sweater, scarf    

Lumiere undyed cashmere wrap dress; Ballerina's cashmere sweater in Ivory; Tissue Weight cashmere scarf in Ivory


Forti, as MOCA notes, is an artist who “forever reframed the dialogue between visual art and contemporary dance.” In the 1960s, Forti’s then-husband, the sculptor Robert Morris, also found inspiration in her work, relinquishing the control of material to natural forces—allowing the weight of gravity, for example, to help form his monumental pieces in felt. This is a phenomenon echoed in my experience last year creating my ShanFeng line. In its making, rather than conforming the material to a preconceived idea or technique, each form was determined by the material. The designs followed the natural flow of the fabric. The material instructed me, and the lesson was one of openness and simplicity.


An exhibition gallery featuring three felt works of Robert Morris

Above: An installation of three Morris felt works in the 2020 exhibition The Perceiving Body at Musée d’art Moderne et Contemporain of Saint-Étienne Métropole. Below: The undyed cashmere that is the foundation of ShanFeng.


Three images of cashmere swatches in the light and wind


As an atelier where our ethos is to elevate women and help them find grace and balance every day, we pay tribute to Forti’s pioneering work to honor the poetry in the body's natural gestures. As Alex Sloane, co-curator of the exhibition, notes, “Forti’s performances are living sculptures."

MOCA presents Simone Forti through April 2, 2023.

Image at Top:  Simone Forti, Planet, PS1, Long Island City, NY, October 1976. Pictured: Simone Forti and Sally Banes. Photo by Peter Moore.