Most Influential Art Movements of the Decade

Last month, Artsy identified the most seven most influential art movements of the decade in The Art Movements of the 2010s (Dec 18, 2019) by Charlotte Jansen https://www.artsy.net/series/decade-art/artsy-editorial-art-movements-2010s. Two of those identified by Jansen — the reconsideration of women artists, which the Artsy called “an art history overhaul” and the art world’s embrace of craft — are two we at browngrotta arts have also watched with more than passing interest for the past 10 years.

Ethel Stein Master Weaver at the Chicago Art Institute 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta
Ethel Stein Master Weaver at the Chicago Art Institute 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

The article points to the Guerrilla Girls survey in 2016, which found an unsurprising, yet overwhelming, bias towards Western male artists, which curators and galleries have since been working to address in exhibitions such as Women of Abstract Expressionism. We would add several exhibitions to that list, including Woman Take the Floor, currently at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today at the Museum of Arts in Design in 2015, Ethel Stein’s one-person exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015 and Lenore Tawney’s current four-part retrospective at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin. The article also mentions overlooked women artists already in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have gained representation with blue-chip galleries, specifically, Rose Wylie joined David Zwirner 2017; Luchita Hurtado joined Hauser & Wirth in 2018;  Howardena Pindell joined Victoria Miro in 2019. Carmen Herrera, now 104, started working with Lisson in 2009 and opened a retrospective at the Whitney in 2016. We would add Françoise Grossen who joined Blum & Poe in 2015.

The “return of craft” has brought greater attention to women artists, too. Jansen notes it has placed greater focus on forgotten legends such as Anni Albers, and living talents like Sheila Hicks. In November, Jansen points out, the Whitney mounted Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, on view through next January. Enthusiasm for ceramics has grown, too, she writes, as audiences continue to gravitate towards works by California Clay.

Even Thread Has a Speech by Lenore Tawney
Even Thread Has a Speech by Lenore Tawney is in the Whitney Exhibition Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019. Photo by Tom Grotta

Movement artists Ken Price, Peter Voulkos and Ron Nagle as well as the late Betty Woodman. We’d also point to interest in ceramist Toshiko Takaezu, whose work was included in both Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today and Women Take the Floor.

Installation View of Toshiko Takaezu; Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today and Women Take the Floor at the MFA Boston
Installation View of Toshiko Takaezu; Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today and Women Take the Floor at the MFA Boston. Photo by Peter Russo

“Craft techniques are some of the oldest media in human history,” Jansen concludes, “but this decade has proved there is still boundless inspiration to be found in them.”


Dispatches: Textiles Take Center Stage at the New MoMA, New York, NY

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliff

To much fanfare, New York City’s beloved Museum of Modern Art reopened on Oct 21, 2019 after undergoing major renovations over the summer to expand to more than 40,000 square feet of gallery spaces. 

Magdalena Abakanowicz Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Magdalena Abakanowicz Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

The museum’s Department of Architecture and Design organized the inaugural exhibitions reexamining the role of both disciplines as “integral to the interdisciplinary conversation with the visual arts” — an approach we have ascribed to at browngrotta arts for over 30 years.

Of particular interest to arttexstyle is the textile exhibition titled Taking a Thread for a Walk, which is a whimsical play on Paul Klee’s pedagogical lesson that “a drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” This exhibition is on view at The Philip Johnson Galleries on the museum’s third floor through April 19, 2020.   

Taking a Thread for a Walk, according to MoMA’s official press release, “looks at how successive generations developed new material and constructive languages from the 1890s through the 1970s, highlighting the flexibility of textiles, a medium that continues to defy easy categorization. The installation ‘takes a thread for a walk’ among ancient textile traditions, early 20th-century design reform movements, adventurous combinations of natural and new synthetic fibers in industrial production, through to the emergence of a more sculptural approach to textile art in the 1960s and 70s. Textiles and the adjacent practices of architecture, painting, drawing and sculpture have long had a close affinity, especially in the 20th century, when there was a concerted move to emphasize the underlying unity of all art forms and to connect modern art with industry and daily life. Woven artifacts appeared at the forefront of ongoing debates around abstraction, the total work of art, and the fusion of art with technology, challenging the widespread marginalization of textiles as ‘women’s work.'” Many of the pioneers in this narrative have been women, chief among them Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Florence Knoll and Sheila Hicks. Also featured are  recent acquisitions by Monika Correa (India), Aurèlia Muñoz (Catalonia), and the French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, making clear the medium’s global relevance.

Upon entering the exhibition, we were greeted by a large scale sisal sculpture Yellow Abakan 1967–1968 by Magdalena Abakanowicz whose monumental works were often misperceived as a “feminine’ craft.” For more than half a century, Magdalena Abakanowicz produced critically acclaimed, poetic sculptures about the fraught and fragile condition of being human, shaped by her experiences growing up during WWII and living through the Soviet domination of Poland. According to MoMA, “Abakanowicz and many artists of the Eastern Bloc were drawn to craft and textile traditions as expressive mediums less regulated by Soviet censorship. Yellow Abakan‘s form is determined by the drape of the textile, which is coarsely woven from sisal, an industrial plant fiber used to make rope. The scarred seams and anatomical appendages lend the work a figural quality, something Abakanowicz continues to explore in large-scale sculptures cast in hardened fiber. Yellow Abakan was among works by several Polish weavers included in

Wall Hangings, a 1969 MoMA exhibition showcasing the work of international contemporary fiber artists. Abakanowicz’ work was first exhibited in the US by gallerists Anne and Jacques Baruch of Chicago. The Baruch’s work with fiber artists from Eastern Europe is the subject of browngrotta arts’ catalog, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection.

Directly across and in stark contrast in size is a beautiful raffia basket by Ed Rossbach Raffia Lace Basket, 1973. Rossbach was a relentless experimenter and according to MoMA “his career began in with ceramics and weaving in the 1940s, but evolved over the next decade into basket making. He is best known for his innovative and playful baskets made from nontraditional materials such as plastic and newspaper.” Rossbach was also featured in our recent exhibition Artists from The Grotta Collection which is now extended online on Artsy. 

linen sculpture by Sheila Hicks titled Cartridges and Zapata 1962–1965
Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Another highlight of the exhibition is a linen sculpture by Sheila Hicks titled Cartridges and Zapata 1962–1965. Hicks is one of the several modern craft and dimensional art artists who are part of The Grotta Collection. Hicks’ work is featured in browngrotta arts’ catalog, Sheila Hicks: Joined by seven artists from Japan, which documents an exhibition Hicks curated at bga in the 90s, one of several bga exhibitions in which Hicks’ work has been included.

Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019
Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Also of interest is a curious framed coptic rounded tapestry from the 6th-8th century titled Christ enthroned by an unknown designer. There is a loom on the left by Anni Albers labeled Structo ArtCraft 750 loom c. 1952 and to the right is a sculpture by Aurèlia Muñoz and Antoni Gaudi’s Study of a catenary arch for the Gaudí crypt at Colonia Güell, 1996. And directly above is a 3-panel digital video projection titled Warping Threading Weaving Drawing, 2014 by Simon Barker and Ismni Samanidou.

Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019
Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Poorly

Another section of the exhibition featured a collection of woven textiles and in the foreground we were delighted to see a mesmerizing wall hanging by Jack Lenor Larsen, Interplay Casement Fabric, 1960, made of rovanna saran microfilamant. An international textile designer, author and collector, Larsen has long played an influential role in textile arts and has been an important mentor and supporter of browngrotta arts. “I think of interior fabrics as something to be in, not just to sit on or look at. Objects are out: the surround is in, and how we feel and relate to space is everything,” Larsen is quoted from 1978 on the MoMA art label. Behind these collections of soft fabrics is Halyard armchair, 1950 by Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner who was commissioned by Lou and Sandy Grotta to design several pieces for their home, The Grotta House. Anni Albers’ popularity is well represented in the exhibition, too, with 18 works ranging from 1926 to 1983 including screenprints, design drawings and tapestry. 

Sheila Hicks Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column
Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Wait, there’s more! On the sixth floor of the museum is another exhibition Surrounds: 11 Installations, showcasing for the first time 11 watershed installations by living artists from the past two decades, all drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition includes Hicks’ monumental Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column (2013–14) that “playfully and subversively challenges notions of architecture as permanent, solid, and tectonic.”

Be sure to go and see this abundance for yourself. Taking a Thread for a Walk is on view through April 19, 2020. The MoMA is located at 11 West 53 Street, New York. Open daily from 10am to 5:30pm. For more information, visit MoMA.org


Who Said What: Sheila Hicks

“One color is easy, two colors are a confrontation and three it really gets complicated.” Sheila Hicks

If you want to see Sheila Hicks‘ work, you can visit the new MoMA in New York: Taking Thread for a Walk, the Art Institute of Chicago: In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists at Mid-Century or the Boston Museum of Fine Art: Women Take the Floor.


Dispatches: One Month, Three Museums

We don’t get the chance to see art exhibitions in person as often as we’d like. So we were quite pleased last month to be able to grab some museum time between closing our last exhibition, The Grotta Collection and prepping for our annual spring event, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades.

The banyan tree in front of the Norton, Claus Oldenberg’s sculpture in the background.

We found ourselves first at the Norton Museum of Fine Art in Palm Beach, Florida. The museum has been newly and elegantly renovated. Viewers first see an extraordinary banyan tree incorporated into the entrance. Inside there are exhibitions of the Museum’s permanent collections and a specially commissioned work by Dale Chihuly. We were pleased to see the traveling exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern. The exhibition addresses how the artist proclaimed her progressive, independent lifestyle through a self-crafted public persona, using her art, her clothing, and the way she posed for the camera. Early on, she fashioned a signature style of dress — much of which she created herself — that dispensed with ornamentation, which evolved in her years in New York—when a black-and-white palette dominated much of her art and dress—and then her time in New Mexico, where her art and clothing changed in response to the colors of the Southwestern landscape. After locating in the Santa Fe, an amazing array of photographers visited her and solidified her status as a pioneer of modernism and contemporary style icon. In addition to O’Keeffe’s paintings and clothes, the exhibition included photographs of the painter by noted artists Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, and others. You have through February 2, 2020 to see it: https://www.norton.org/exhibitions/georgia-okeeffe-living-modern.

Tom beneath Dale Chihuly’s Sealife Persian Ceiling

Two weeks later we were able to visit the new Westport Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly the Westport Arts Center) to see its inaugural exhibition of two works by remarkable artist Yayoi Kasuma. Part one, Where the Lights in My Heart Go, one of Kasuma’s mirrored boxes, is a work with two distinct characters. While its mirrored exterior both reflects and appears to merge with its surroundings, punctured with small holes it becomes, on the inside, a fathomless space punctuated by dots of daylight.

Inside Yayoi Kasuma’s Where the Lights in My Heart Go at the Westport Museum of Contemporary Art.

Where the Lights in My Heart Go draws parallels with the ritualistic aspect and formality of Japanese culture, MoCA explains. To enter, visitors must bow their heads, humble themselves in preparation for what they are about to experience. As one’s eyes adjust slowly to the play of light across its perforated walls, an ever-changing constellation reveals itself. Kusama has referred to the effect the work produces as a “subtle planetarium” – a space in which to ponder the mysteries of the physical and metaphysical universe. Different for each viewer, Where the Lights in My Heart Go also changes with each fresh experience of it. It is immeasurable yet intimate. Kusama’s art may possess a kind of universal language, but it speaks to us one by one. Our moments inside the artwork were truly magical — we were so pleased to have that experience before it closed.

Nick Cave’s Tondo, from Weather Report at the Aldrich Museum of Art.

Also on exhibit is Kusama’s installation Narcissus Garden which originated in 1966, when the artist first participated, albeit unofficially, in the Venice Biennale. This expansive and immersive work comprises mirrored spheres displayed en masse to create a dynamic reflective field. In Venice, Kusama installed the spheres on a lawn in front of the Italian Pavilion. Signs placed among them were inscribed with the words ‘Narcissus Garden, Kusama’ and ‘Your Narcissism for Sale’. Kusama, dressed in a kimono, remained with the installation, offering individual spheres for sale (at $2, or 1,200 lira a piece). This succès de scandale was both revolutionary – a comment on the promotion of the artist through the media and a critique of the mechanization and commodification of the art market – and deeply connected to history, evoking the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection (and paid the price for doing so). Tom and I found the exhibition so engaging we went right home and watched the documentary about the artist on Amazon Prime: Kusama: Infinity. Narcissus Garden is on view through February 16, 2020 https://mocawestport.org/experiences/.

Eva LeWitt’s Untitled (Mesh A–J),at the Aldrich Museum of Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut

Our last stop was at the Aldrich Museum of Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut. There are three exhibitions there well worth seeing, including a colorful site-specific installation, Untitled (Mesh A-J) by Eva LeWitt. “LeWitt’s sculptural practice explores the visual interconnection of color, matter, shape, light, and gravity. Using materials she can control and manipulate with supporting and opposing attributes – rigid/pliable, opaque/transparent, airy/substantial, and handmade/machine built – LeWitt creates exuberant configurations that vaunt a buoyant physical agency,” says the Museum signage. Zoë Sheehan Saldaña has mounted an exhibition of 50 of her hand-made artifacts, There Must Be Some Kind of Way Out of Here, curated by Glenn Adamson.Even her most elaborate undertakings, such as a reverse-engineered Strike Anywhere match or a hand-woven terrycloth towel, masquerade as objects you might toss away thoughtlessly, or stick in a drawer and forget. Underneath these acts of artistic camouflage lies a deep well of conviction, a drive to take full responsibility for things.”

Weather Study, Jitish Kallat from Weather Report at the the Aldrich Museum of Art.

We were most captivated, however, by Weather Report, a group exhibition curated by Richard Klein. Weather Report brings together that work of 21 artists and three researchers to explore the ways that our immersion is the atmosphere — what can only be considered the most remarkable feature of our planet — has influenced visual culture in the 21st century. The range of ways in which they depict weather phenomena is remarkable. In Fly to Mars 2 by Jennifer Steinkamp the artist has created a video version of the axis mundi, the mythic tree at the center of the universe. Nick Cave created a series of images based on Doppler radar images of cataclysmic weather and brain scans from black youth suffering PTSD from gun violence, presenting gun violence as uncontrollable as a hurricane. In Wind Study, Jitish Kallat has “drawn” with soot, blown by prevailing winds, making a statement about winds and wildfires worldwide.

The exhibitions are all open for a few more months (April, May and March, respectively). From more information, visit the Museum’s website. http://aldrichart.org


Lenore Tawney Gets Her Due

We have been delighted to see a select group of contemporary fiber artists receiving well-deserved recognition in the last few years including Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Sheila Hicks and Faith Ringgold. Lenore Tawney is an important member of this growing list. Seems like you can’t turn around this fall without seeing her work in a major exhibition. She’s the subject of a retrospective as well, the first since the 90s and we say — it’s about time!

Lenore Tawney, Floating Shapes, 1958; linen, silk, and wool; 49 x 42 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

You can see Tawney’s work in Talking Thread for a Walk at MoMA, Women Take the Floor: Beyond the Loom: Fiber as Sculpture / Subversive Threads at the Boston Museum of Fine Art and Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 at the Whitney Museum in American Art in New York. She is featured in Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus at the Art Institute of Chicago and bauhaus imaginista at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland. You would also have seen her work in Alison Jacques’ and Michael Rosenfeld’s booths at this year’s Art Basel in Miam.

More expansive, however, is the comprehensive look at Tawney’s work and continuing influence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Tawney’s life’s work, dating from circa 1946-1997, is the subject of a concurrent four-exhibition series, Mirror of the Universe, through March 7, 2020. The exhibition represents the most comprehensive presentation of Tawney’s work since 1990.

Lenore Tawney, Written in Water, 1979; canvas, linen, and acrylic; 120 x 120 x 120 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney
October 6, 2019–March 7, 2020Anchoring the series is an evocation of Tawney’s studio underscoring the relationship of the artist’s space to her creative practice, entitled, In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney. The aim, according to the Center is to, reunite a selection of her key works—weavings, drawings, and collages—with objects that once populated her revelatory work spaces to reveal her processes and inspirations, exposing relationships and dissolving boundaries between the material surroundings she constructed for herself and the art she made there. Tawney’s studio was acquired by JMKAC from the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. The represents an example of the John Michael Kohler Art Center’s very interesting commitment to ongoing preservation and presentation of artist-built environments. 

Ephemeral and Eternal: The Archives of Lenore Tawney 
September 15, 2019–February 16, 2020 Tawney developed a deeply personal visual vocabulary intertwining language with found images, feathers, flowers, and stones. Illuminating key moments in the artist’s career as well as her everyday life and close friendships, Ephemeral and Eternal: The Archives of Lenore Tawney will explore the correspondence, journals, artist books, photographs, audio interviews, and ephemera drawn from manuscript collections at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. 

Lenore Tawney, (left) The Judge, 1961; linen; 124 x 14 in. (right) The Bride, 1962; linen and feathers; 138 x 13 in. Courtesy of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, 2018, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Even Thread Has a Speech
September 1, 2019–February 2, 2020 Even Thread Has a Speech is a group exhibition that will explore Tawney’s lasting impact on eight contemporary fiber artists with new, site-specific installations commissioned by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as well as 2-D and 3-D works. Artists in the exhibition include Indira Allegra, Julia Bland, Jesse Harrod, Judith Leemann, kg, Anne Lindberg, Michael Milano and Sheila Pepe. 

Cloud Labyrinth
August 18, 2019 – January 19, 2020 A study in contrasts, Cloud Labyrinth comprises thousands of individual, tiny threads suspended from a canvas panel or “ceiling.” Although composed in a strict square grid, the diaphanous work is yielding, responding to any atmospheric movement with a slight swaying. The piece was created in 1983 for the Lausanne International Tapestry Biennial in Switzerland, and has not been shown since 1999. The work exemplifies the evolution of Tawney’s practice into the complete dissolution of the loom while maintaining an unmistakable connection to weaving.

Lenore Tawney, Shield IV, 1966; linen, beads, and shells; 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Lenore Tawney, who died in 2007 at age 100, was a pioneering artist who created a body of innovative woven work that helped to shape the course of fiber art during the second half of the 20th century. She studied sculpture with Alexander Archipenko, drawing with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, drawing and watercolor painting with Emerson Woelffer, and weaving with Marli Ehrman. In the 1950s, Tawney moved to New York to dedicate herself to her art, becoming one of the first artists to apply sculptural techniques to weaving, pioneering a new direction in fiber-based practices, and by extension, in contemporary art. Tawney is equally known for the collages, sculptural assemblages, drawings, and postcards that she began during the 1960s and continued to create throughout her long life. 

A comprehensive monograph co-published by the University of Chicago Press accompanies the series, featuring essays by Glenn Adamson, Kathleen Nugent Mangan, Karen Patterson, Mary Savig, Shannon R. Stratton, and Florica Zaharia: https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/L/bo45997885.html

For more information: https://www.jmkac.org/exhibition/mirror 


Art Assembled: New This Week November

The month of November was one for the books. Between our new exhibitions — The Grotta Collection and Art and Text — and the holiday buzz, there was never a dull moment around here. Toward the beginning of November, we shared pieces from Mariette Rousseau-Vermette. One of our favorites was a wool and fur piece that dates back to 1974. Crafted of wool, muskrat, white fox and beaver fur – it’s no wonder this piece immediately draws one attention when walking into a room. Rousseau-Vermette draws inspiration from nature and working with natural materials – whether they be old or new, as they support an evolution to unite tradition with high technology.

Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, 233 & 362mr Wool & Fur
wool, muskrat, white fox & beaver fur, 88″ x 44″, 1974

Another artist we were pleased to exhibit at the gallery was the talented Kari Lønning. New for our last exhibition was her Triple Weave, Taming Nature pieces. Lønning is best known for her double-walled constructions and jaw-dropping complex-weaving processes, which she refers to as her “hairy technique.” She works extensively with graphic patterns, using both bold and subtle color schemes that provide the most beautiful art outcomes. For these works she used a new material, akebia vine. The vines are consistently thin and very strong, they are perfect for making baskets,” says Lønning.

Kari Lønning, 69kl Taming Natureakebia vines, rattan, encaustic medium, 15.25” x 8.5” x 8.5”, 2018

Later in November, we also premiered Hideho Tanaka’s Emerging 008. This stunning art was crafted from Japanese carbon ink, inkjet print, collage cotton cloth and Japanese tissue paper. Tanaka’s interest in creative forms, that emerge in time and space and yet also metamorphose and disappear, is evident and admirable.

Hideho Tanaka, 30ht Emerging 008, Japanese carbon ink drawing, inkjet print, collage cotton cloth, Japanese tissue paper, 14.5” x 18.325” x 1.25,” 2016

Last, but certainly not least, we were delighted to exhibit Jiro Yonezawa‘s work. We featured Yonezawa’s Meteorite, made from bamboo, steel and urushi laquer and it is breathtaking. Yonezawa is known for his award-winning bamboo vessels and sculptures. For Yonezawa, bamboo basketry is an expression of detailed precision. Each basket embodies the contrast of disciplined formality in technique and natural freedom. With each art piece, there is an element of intrigue and an element of complexity that represents what lies beyond form. Representing a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in current times.

Jiro Yonezawa, 90jy Meteorite, Bamboo, steel, urushi laquer, 9” x 15” x 11”, 2019


Books Make Great Gifts 2019 Edition

From Tapestry to Fiber Art: The Lausanne Biennials 1962-1995

We’ve gathered another year of varied and interesting book recommendations. Gyöngy Laky recommends From Tapestry to Fiber Art: Lausanne Biennials 1962-95 by Giselle Eberhard Cotton and Magali Junet of Fondation Toms Pauli, Lausanne, Switzerland, a book bag recommends as well. “The book describes and illustrates the worldwide exuberance of an art movement that burst, with new energy, onto the world stage of avant garde art in the 1960s and 70s,” she writes.  “The title might fool a reader into believing that the artwork within is traditional weaving, but the cover shouts the excitement to be found within its pages. Nearly 6,000 miles away in Berkeley, California, my artist friends and I were inspired and energized by the sculptural works the Biennales Internationale de la Tapisserie presented at the Musee Cantonal des Beaux Arts.  Not only were many of the works exhibited monumental, they were also breaking with traditional forms and expanding what this astoundingly flexible art medium could be.” The first of Laky’s friends to be included in one of the Biennales, she recalls, was artist Lia Cook. Several years later, in 1989, Laky’s seven-and-a-half-foot high sculpture, That Word, was exhibited in Lausanne. It’s now housed in the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco.

Cotton and Junet are joined by other contributors who, together, give a thoughtful and well-researched view of the development of this art form from the early Biennales to present day.  “Reading this book and viewing the illustrations will provide an understanding of how this movement became so dynamic and why it continues to be so today,” Laky predicts. “Holland Cotter is quoted from a review in 2014, ‘The major art critics are acknowledging what artists have always known, that textile materiality with all its gravity, responsiveness and connections to life and loss holds tremendous capacity to speak to issues of our human condition.'”

Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics, and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution


Earlier this year Princeton Press solicited an image of Wendy Wahl’s Branches Unbound, aninstallation at the Grand Rapids Arts Museum 2011, for the cover its forthcoming book by Maurice S. Lee. Wahl writes that she received her copy of Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution and, “I am completely delighted. My not-quite-natural trees of deconstructed Encyclopedia Britannica volumes are a fitting image for a book with chapters titled Reading, Searching, Counting and Testing. The author’s historically grounded exploration of the 19th and 20th centuries’ intersection of literature and information offers new ways to think about the 21st century digital humanities.

The Songs of Trees
The Overstory by Richard Powers


We received four recommendations from Chris Drury: The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell, The Overstory by Richard Powers, Underland by Robert MacFarlane and The Wisdom of Wolves by Elli H Radinger.

Underland by Robert MacFarlane
The Wisdom of Wolves

I’m really enjoying The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair at the moment, reports Laura Thomas.

The book offers insights into the economic and social dimensions of clothmaking―and counters the enduring association of textiles as “merely women’s work.”

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth


Stéphanie Jacques is reading A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth, a novel in which the main character is a woman who is also a textile artist. “You follow her,” she says, “in her creative process and in the difficulties with her neighbors.” Jacques also recommends Hisako Sekijima’s Basketry: Projects from Baskets to Grass Slippers.

Basketry: Projects from Baskets to Glass Slippers

“Not really a new one ;-),” she says, “but for me this book is a gift to get back to basketry in the spring.” 

The Buried: An Archaeology of The Egyptian Revolution

“My favorite book this year was The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler,” writes Mary Merkel-Hess. “The author is well known for his previous books about living in China. In 2011, he moved to Cairo with his wife and infant twin daughters to learn Arabic and write about the Middle East and soon found himself caught up in the Arab Spring. This book is about that political upheaval but also a very human story about living in Cairo, exploring ancient archaeological sites as well as navigating the political unrest of modern Egypt. I had the great good fortune to visit Egypt for several lengthy periods in 2007-8 and this book explained much about a culture that I found fascinating, baffling and at times, frustrating.”

Mrinalini Mukherjee

were two books that we were pleased to add to browngrotta arts’ library this year. First was Mrinalini Mukherjee by Shanay Jhaveri. Mukherjee’s work, which is on exhibit in the new galleries at MoMA, was not exhibited in the US until after her death in 2015. As the book notes explain, “Within her immediate artistic milieu in post-independent India, Mukherjee was an outlier artists. Her art remained untethered to the dominant commitments of painting and figural storytelling. Her sculpture was sustained by a knowledge of traditional Indian and historic European sculpture, folk art, modern design, local crafts and textiles. Knotting was the principal gesture of Mukherjee’s technique, evident from the very start of her practice. Working intuitively, she never resorted to a sketch, model or preparatory drawing. Probing the divide between figuration and abstraction, Mukherjee would fashion unusual, mysterious, sensual and, at times, unsettlingly grotesque forms, commanding in their presence and scale.”

Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe

The second was Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe, Karen Patterson, Editor. The book notes, explain that Tawney was known for employing an ancient Peruvian gauze weave technique to create a painterly effect that appeared to float in space rather than cling to the wall. She was known, too, for being one of the first artists to blend sculptural techniques with weaving practices and pioneering a new direction in fiber art, in the process. Tawney has only recently begun to receive her due from the greater art world. She is currently the subject of a four-exhibition retrospective at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. This book accompanies the exhibition and features a comprehensive biography of Tawney, additional essays on her work and two hundred full-color illustrations, making it of interest to contemporary artists, art historians and the growing audience for fiber art.


Exhibition News: Three Days to See Carolina Yrarrázaval’s Solo Exhibition in Chile

Carolina Yrarrázaval's solo exhibition in Chile photo by Patricia Novoa Cortez

Carolina Yrarrázaval’s solo exhibition, Capas de Recuerdos, at the Centro Cultural Las Condes, closes on December 1st. Yrarrázaval has a number of new works in the exhibition, which you can glimpse here.

The title translates as “Layer of Memories” which reflects the layers of the weave, the years of research work, the volumes of textures that feature in Carolina Yrarrázaval’s work. Yrarrázaval draws on different manifestations and cultures, from pre-Hispanic geometry to the subtlety and mystery of Japanese textiles. Her work features a formal and chromatic purity, achieved through the use of colors achieved through a personal dyeing process.

Carolina Yrarrázaval's Tapestries  photo by Patricia Novoa Cortez


The exhibition include 20 tapestries woven in vertical loom, featuring folds, saddlebags and overlapping fabrics. The materials she uses are vegetable fibers – jute, hemp, linen, silk. The colors are deep and saturated, created through her personal dyeing process.

Carolina Yrarrázaval's Tapestry  photo by Patricia Novoa Cortez


The Center is at Apoquindo 6570, Las Condes. For more information, visit: https://www.estoy.cl/teatro/capas-de-recuerdos/


Make a Day of It – Visit browngrotta arts and Other Art Venues This Weekend

Eva LeWitt, Untitled (Mesh A–J) (site-specific installation view, detail), 2019 Courtesy of the artist and VI, VII, Oslo. Photo: Jason Mandella

If you are coming to Artists from the Grotta Collection: a book launch and exhibition at browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut this weekend, we suggest you take advantage of a few of the area’s other cultural offerings. Eva LeWitt (b. 1985) first one-person exhibition at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, just a few miles (literally)up the road from bga. The artist’s largest exhibition to date, debuts a significant, new site-specific installation commissioned by The Aldrich. Says the Museum, “LeWitt’s sculptural practice explores the visual interconnection of color, matter, shape, light, and gravity. Using materials she can control and manipulate with supporting and opposing attributes – rigid/pliable, opaque/transparent, airy/substantial, and handmade/machine built – LeWitt creates exuberant configurations that vaunt a buoyant physical agency. LeWitt’s deft sculptural arrays wondrously wed industrial materials like Plexiglas, acetate, latex, and vinyl with hand-cast and hand-dyed polyurethane foams, sponges and rubbers to form soft, sensuous, and splendidly vibrant compositions.” The artist’s first publication, with an essay by exhibition curator Amy Smith-Stewart is available http://aldrichart.org/article/eva-lewitt


On Saturday, 30+ highly-skilled artisans from across the country will be presenting their hand-crafted contemporary and traditional furnishings and wearables at the 34th American Artisan Show at the Wilton Historical Society (224 Danbury Road, Route 7). The Historical Society is also just down the road from bga — in the opposite direction. Furniture, folk art, pottery, fine leather goods, Nantucket-style baskets, candles, Windsor chairs, art, tavern signs, fine jewelry, photography, and much more – will be available for purchase at the Show. The show is fittingly set in the Society’s charming 18th and 19th century buildings. Artisan demos on Saturday. 10:00 – 5:00. Admission is $10; under 18 free. Wilton Historical Society: http://wiltonhistorical.org/events/american-artisan-show/

Grace Farms in New Canaan


Another option is a visit to Grace Farms in New Canaan (365 Luke’s Wood) which was established with the idea that space communicates and can inspire people to collaborate for good. To realize this vision, Grace Farms Foundation set out to create a multipurpose building nestled into the existing habitat that would enable visitors to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community and explore faith. The architect SANAA’s goal was to make the River building become part of the landscape without drawing attention to itself. Under the continuous roof are five transparent glass-enclosed volumes that can host a variety of activities and events, while maintaining a constant sense of the surrounding environment. It sits on 80 acres, most of which are being preserved in perpetuity as open meadows, woods, wetlands and ponds. It’s open six days a week and free to the public. https://gracefarms.org/faq/

Hope to see you Saturday and Sunday or Sunday. You can visit Artists from the Grotta Collection at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, Connecticut from 10 am to 5 pm either day. http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php


Art Assembled — New this Week from October

As we kick off Novembers with our release of the Grotta Collection exhibition and book launch, which runs from November 3rd to November 10th, https://www.artsy.net/show/browngrotta-arts-artists-from-the-grotta-collection-exhibition-and-book-launch, we’d like to take a look back on which artist made October so special for us. 

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila triple weave mosaic tapestry
Triple weave, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, silk, alpaca, moriche, metalliic yarns, copper, natural dyes, 71” x 48.25”, 2016

October starts the final quarter of the year, and it also brings in much excitement as the new year is nearing. With new beginnings, we began our New This Week feature in October with works from Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila. Their work is driven by their relationship with their surroundings and how their artwork can be communicated within a contemporary textile language. “ We have always been passionate about knowledge, experimentation and especially its reinterpretation within our own place and culture, in Mérida, in the Venezuelan Andes, we also work with local materials, such as cotton and alpaca from Peru and Bolivia, fiber from the moriche and chiqui-chique palm trees of the Orinoco River Delta and Amazon region, as well as dyes from the indigo plant. For us, color is crucial. Our interest in color starts at its very foundations: how it is obtained, where it is found in nature, in objects, in people. Through color, we discover the way to follow each project.” – Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila
For more on Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila visit Artist Link: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/portillo.php

Mary Giles figurative wall dolls
Mary Giles, 11mg Annointed Rank, waxed linen, wire, bone, paint, gesso, 10”(h) x 31”, 1997

We are always intrigued by the wide variety of artwork that we have the pleasure of showcasing here at browngrotta arts. We strive not only to share the final products but also behind the scenes of the processes that go into creating the work on that ends up on our gallery walls. Our next October New This Week artist was Mary Giles, a St. Croix, Minnesota based fiber artist, and sculptor.

Over the past four decades, Giles helped move the boundaries of basket weaving and earned international recognition for her art, which is characterized by coiled waxed-linen bases adorned with hammered metal or fine wire that brings to mind tree bark, fish scales, feathers or fur.
“My baskets express both action and reaction to what I have loved in the past and what I am discovering today.” Mary Giles
For more on Mary Giles visit Artist Link: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/giles.php

Willow boat basket sculpture
44cj Boat Becoming River, Christine Joy, willow 14” x 31” x 10”, 2018

Did you know that Weeping willow trees, which are native to northern China, are beautiful and fascinating trees whose lush, curved form is instantly recognizable? Did you also know that in addition to her basketmaking addiction, Christine Joy is also addicted to the smell of willow branches. In her studio, you will find willow branches that are piled high, and even when she doesn’t have time to make something, she takes a little visit into her very own willow heaven as much as she can. “Because it takes so long for one work of art, it has really become my own art therapy, which is ironic because that is what I got my degree in, to help others through art,” Joy said. “But now making these expressions is my. Willow is my life.” 
For more on Christine Joy visit Artist Link: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/joy.php

Stéphanie Jacques installation
10sj Retournement en cours I, Stephanie Jacques, 36″ x 77″ x 14″, 2014-2016

One of the great joys we have is having the opportunity to share such fantastic work with incredible artists from all over the world. It is a pleasure sharing works from Stéphanie Jacques from Belgium in our new book The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft. Stéphanie Jacques once said, “Connecting things is the foundation of my work: hard and soft, old and new, valuable and trivial, conscious and unconscious, human and plant.”
For more on Stéphanie Jacques visit: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/jacques.php