Fall 2017 Comme de Garçons "Shirt" collection, featuring prints made with images by painter and School of the Art Institute professor Candida Alvarez Credit: Photos courtesy of vogue.com

“Vibrant camouflage” might sound like a oxymoron, but the concept has recently catapulted Candida Alvarez’s paintings into Paris Fashion Week. The School of the Art Institute professor was one of the artists chosen to collaborate with Comme des Garçons on its Fall 2017 “Shirt” and “Homme Plus” collections—no small feat considering the iconic status of the Japanese brand founded by Rei Kawakubo, who herself picked six of Alvarez’s works after seeing them online. Her paintings and drawings are mixed with other fabrics, creating an effect Comme des Garçons is calling “new camouflage.”

But Alvarez’s images themselves often resemble camouflage patterns. “I am engaged in finding reproduced or original images, which I overlay with conceptual strategies to keep the process interesting,” the artist says. “It is this process that turns them into a form of camouflage, burying their true identity. Rei Kawakubo saw that, was excited by that and used it to build on it as the designer. She understood the work.”

You can see Alvarez’s works in their original form beginning Saturday, when the first major exhibit of paintings by the Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican-American artist opens at the Chicago Cultural Center’s second-floor Claudia Cassidy Gallery.

The show kicks off with a talk between Alvarez and the exhibit’s curator (and her fellow SAIC faculty member), Terry R. Myers, at the Claudia Cassidy Theater from 2 to 4 PM. Then on Saturday, May 6, from 6:30 to 8 PM, Alvarez will be joined by Queens-born photographer Dawoud Bey for a discussion of New York in the 80s. And on Thursday, May 11, from 5 to 6 PM, Alvarez and Myers will host a gallery talk in the Cultural Center’s fourth-floor Exhibit Hall.  

“Candida Alvarez: Here” 4/29-8/6, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630, free.