Cocolososays: A Look inside Virgil Abloh’s ‘Figures of Speech’ Exhibit at MCA Chicago

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Virgil Abloh has set the tone for both men’s and women’s street wear with the success of his fashion brand, Off-White. Virgil’s influence in the fashion industry has landed him artistic director of the men’s collection for Louis Vuitton. Virgil Abloh’s training in engineering and architecture transcended into love for fashion, music, and design. Recognizing his work, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago hosts the first exhibit devoted to creative designer and artist, Virgil Abloh. Organized by MCA Chief Curator, Michael Darling, the exhibit showcases Virgil Abloh’s defining highlights of his career with signature collections, video docs, music highlights as well as his collections of furniture, graphics and design.


The “Figures of Speech” exhibit space is designed by AMO director, Samir Bantal, which covers seven areas of Abloh’s work over the past 20 years. Each area includes early work, fashion, music, intermezzo, black gaze, design and the end. The exhibit starts with a “Culture Wall” (one of my fav pieces) which serves as a road map to Virgil’s influences.

Virgil’s early work can go back as far as 2012 when he was an independent designer for Hood By Air. This venture soon birthed his own brand, ‘Pyrex Vision.’ Focusing on graphics and logos embedded into t shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, the Chicago raised designer started something great. Taking things further, Virgil launched his own fashion brand, Off-White in 2013. The brand focuses on men and women’s clothing with different formulas of texts, logos and graphics. Much of the brand’s imagery comes from roads, signs, uniforms and buildings. Diagonal black and white stripes and caution stripes have become the brand’s signature motifs.




Working as Kanye West’s creative director for over a decade, Virgil Abloh’s interest in music has landed him to professionally DJ at Coachella and Lollapalooza. Working for West, Virgil overseen creation behind concert merchandising, stage designs, album packaging and more. The exhibit showcased a large-scale version of Kanye’s Yeezus album art. If you recall, the design included just its name with a single red sticker to enclose the CD. The exhibit also has a set of gold, diamond-encrusted accessories by Jacob the Jeweler that takes you back to era when that’s all hip hop artists wore.

Black Gaze might have been one of arguably the illest part of the entire exhibit. In 2018, Virgil Abloh was in his bag. Being appointed artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh became one of few black designers to lead a Parisian fashion house. The exhibit includes some of his recent ad work for the luxury brand as well as a replay of his 2016 Off-White runway show with “You’re Obviously in the Wrong Place” – a funny, but necessary reference to the film Pretty Woman.

For me, “Figures of Speech” is an art exhibition rooted in advertising and the “projected image.” Any time an idea takes shape on a particular surface-a photo print, a screen, billboard, or canvas-it becomes real. This exhibition demonstrates how I wrestle with this concept freed from any one medium, looking for personal and specific solutions. This twenty-year survey shows how I am constantly looking for a way to transform myself from consumer to producer, navigating a path between “Tourist” and “Purist,” between the literal and figurative. – Virgil Abloh

Virgil’s design practice covers architecture, furniture, painting, shoe design and sculpture. With his practice, he has linked with furniture company IKEA, luggage brand Rimowa as well as collaborative work with Nike. The world famous shoe brand asked Virgil to redesign ten of the company’s most famous shoe styles. This birthed zip ties, labels, collages and transparent materials emphasizing the construction of the shoe. The shoe display also features prototypes of unreleased designs from Off-White x Nike.


The End of the exhibit features recent work from Virgil and ultimately emphasizes “figures of speech.” Virgil redesigns one of Louis Vuitton’s most signature pieces. The Keepall bag’s new version features heavy ceramic link chains, such which have appeared throughout the new men’s collection. The chain represents people’s enslavement to luxury brands.

Church & State: a special “Figures of Speech” pop up store which also serves as an another extension to the exhibit. The store features a variety of items, most exclusively for the MCA. Items also include sold out Off-White items which have been re-released and reinvented exclusively for the pop up store. limited edition pieces as well. Design collaborations include Tom Sachs, Some Ware, Brenden Fowler, Futura and more. You can also grab a copy of Virgil’s “Artwork” book for your collection too.

The exhibit runs from June 10 – September 22. Tickets can be found online at as well as advance tickets for $15. Check out a few more exhibit pieces from the space below.

Last modified: July 31, 2019

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