Search Results for "pioneers"

Artsy’s Take on Textile Pioneers and Ours

Bobbin Lace with Openings, Ed Rossbach, plastic tubing, bobbin lace 20.5" x 44.5", 1970

Bobbin Lace with Openings, Ed Rossbach, plastic tubing, bobbin lace 20.5″ x 44.5″, 1970

Last fall, Artsy compiled information and slide shows on 10 artists the author, Sarah Gottesman, viewed as pioneers. Click HERE to read Artsy’s article. We have our own nominees for such a list, including Ed Rossbach who experimented with materials and techniques in the 60s, creating bobbin lace from plastic tubing and vessels of cereal boxes and tubing, and Lia Cook, who has combined weaving, painting, photography and digital technology, focusing on the history and meaning of textiles, shattering restrictive theories about craft, art, science and technology in the process. Gyöngy Laky has experimented in sculpture of twigs and wood, hardware and wire — creating vessels, forms, wall work and typography. Kay Sekimachi created ethereal monofilament weavings in the 70s and 80s, bowls and towers of paper after that, and continues, at age 90, to create elegant weavings of lines and grid that are reminiscent of the paintings of Agnes Martin.
Intensity Tera Data woven cotton and rayon 50.5” x 332”, 2014 23lc Neural Networks woven cotton and rayon 81” x 51”, 2011 27lc Intensity Su Data Encore woven cotton and rayon 52” x 40”, 2014

Intensity Tera Data, woven cotton and rayon, 50.5” x 332”, 2014
Neural Networks, woven cotton and rayon, 81” x 51”, 2011
 Intensity Su Data Encore, woven cotton and rayon, 52” x 40”, 2014

You can learn more about these and other artists through our catalog, Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now , which profiles 15 pioneering fiber artists who took textiles off the wall in the 60s and 70s to create three-dimensional fiber sculpture and 15 artists born in 1960 or after, who have continued that innovative approach.
Gyöngy Laky Currency Art

Gyöngy Laky Currency Art

Homage to Paul Klee, Kay Sekimachi, linen, painted warp & weft with dye, permament marker, modified plain weave, 13.25” x 12”, 2013

Homage to Paul Klee, Kay Sekimachi, linen, painted warp & weft with dye, permament marker, modified plain weave, 13.25” x 12”, 2013


Don’t Miss: Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers at the Japan Society in New York

Naomi Kobayashi, Kyoko Kumai and Takaaki Tanaka installation

We had the chance to attend the opening of Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers exhibition last month (which coincided with the addition of the Japan Society’s headquarters to the Landmark Preservation Commission’s roster of buildings in New York) http://www.japansociety.org/page/
programs/gallery. The exhibition is significant in scale — 15 artists, some with room-size installations — and in the comprehensive portrait it provides of the practice of textile art in Japan today. The materials, techniques and sensibility of the pieces varies widely. “During the past decade,” writes in her essay for the exhibition catalog,  Hiroko Watanabe, a professor at Tama Art University and one of the participants in the exhibition, “the unique softness and flexibility of fabric — qualities shared by no other material — have inspired these artists to move beyond mere mastery to create daring, original works that hold the promise of still more impressive advances in the years to come.” There are five related lectures and workshops coming up in November and December:

LECTURE
Mastermind in Textile: An Evening with Dai Fujiwara
Wednesday, November 16, 6:30 PM;
WORKSHOP
Free-Form Saori Weaving Workshop
Sunday, November 20, 10 AM
Sunday, November 20, 1 PM
WORKSHOP
Irresistible Colors: Shibori-Dyeing Workshop
Saturday, December 3, 1 PM
WORKSHOP
Nature’s Inspiration: Embroidery Workshop
Saturday, December 10, 1 PM
WORKSHOP
Nature’s Inspiration: Embroidery Workshop
Saturday, December 10, 1 PM
All at the   Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, New York (212) 832-1155.

If you cannot get to New York, or you just want to learn more, there is a catalog, Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers, produced by Yale University and available from browngrotta arts http://www.browngrotta.com/
Pages/b45.php
. There’s also a free Fiber Futures app with images and artist statements  http://itunes.apple.com/kz/app/fiber-futures-japans-textile/id464150856?mt=8, and a video tour by Nihon NY,  on the exhibition, Episode 18,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE1X279oDVo.


Women Artists Get Their Due: Learning About Lia Cook

Women didn’t win the vote until 1920. It took another 100 more years, but in the last few, women artists have finally begun to win the comprehensive, worldwide recognition they long deserved. Exhibitions like Women Take the Floor, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Anni Albers and Dora Maar at the Tate Modern in London, Sheila Hicks at the Centre Pompidou and A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana at the Prado in Spain are just some of the ways female artists are getting their due. 

Bamian by Sheila Hicks (American (lives and works in Paris) 1968, Wool and acrylic yarns, wrapped. Charles Potter Kling Fund and partial gift of Sheila Hicks © Sheila Hicks * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Bethany CT. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London. Photography: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Lia Cook is one of those artists. Receiving critical acclaim from the onset of her career, innovating, experimenting and creating art for nearly five decades, Cook’s recent work in neuroaesthetics in the last decade has gained her a broader audience.  Since the 70s, Cook’s work has promoted a reconsideration of weaving, long-considered women’s work and thus inferior to high or fine art. While pursuing a Master’s degree in Art at UC Berkeley, she joined a group of progressive women in forming Fiberworks Center for Textile Arts. Just out of graduate school, she was issued an invitation to the prestigious Lausanne Biennial in 1973, where she exhibited with fiber art pioneers Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks. Viewers of Cook’s work find craft/fine art distinctions superfluous — a view that has finally taken hold in the art world at large.

space-continuum-1-portrait , Continuum I, exhibited at the 1973 International Biennial of Tapestry, Lausanne, Switzerland

Through July 31st, you have the chance to win an important work from Cook’s early explorations, Spatial Ikat III -2 (1976). The tapestry is a prize in a sweepstakes organized by UncommonGood, a B-corp that helps nonprofits of all sizes expand their reach and do even more good. The sweepstakes prize includes a $7500 prize, a 20-minute Zoom call with the artist and a copy of Lia Cook: In the Folds – Works from 1973 – 1997 (browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT 2007). The tapestry was donated by browngrotta arts as the latest of our Art for a Cause projects; the cash prize is from UncommonGood. The proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to the Breast Council Alliance https://breastcanceralliance.org which funds innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved. 

browngrotta arts is thrilled to partner with UncommonGood and Breast Cancer Alliance in this sweepstakes. UncommonGood provides comprehensive software solutions for nonprofit organizations. With these tools, groups like the Breast Cancer Alliance can engage more donors and amplify their reach.

This sweepstakes presents an opportunity to create a new fans for Lia Cook’s work while benefiting a worthy cause in the process. A winning combination!

To enter the sweepstakes: https://uncommongood.io


Art Out and About: Exhibitions Around the US

Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change

Happily, vaccines are on the rise and art openings are, too.

We are excited about our own opening, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change, May 8 – 16. You can join us by making an appointment through Eventbrite:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/adaptation-artists-respond-to-change-tickets-148974728423  Elsewhere, exhibitions are ongoing live coast to coast this Spring. Check some or all of these events in person, or online. Art makes a comeback!

Uncommon Threads: The Works of Ruth E. Carter
New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! (NBAM)
Massachusetts

May 1 – November 14, 2021

Uncommon Threads NBAM

A solo exhibition celebrating Massachusetts-born Ruth E. Carter’s 30-year career as an Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2018) costume designer rn Ruth E. Carter’s 30-year career as an Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2018) costume designer. 

For more info: https://newbedfordart.org/ruth/

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, DC 
Through June 27, 2021

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle and Mend

This first survey of Clark’s 25-year career includes 100 sculptures made from black pocket combs, human hair and thread as well as works created from flags, currency, beads, cotton plants, pencils, books, a typewriter and a hair salon chair. The artist transmutes each of these everyday objects through her application of a vast range of fiber-art techniques: Clark weaves, stitches, folds, braids, dyes, pulls, twists, presses, snips or ties within each object. 

View in-person or online https://nmwa.org/exhibitions/sonya-clark-tatter-bristle-and-mend/

Craft Front and Center
The Museum of Arts and Design 
New York, NY

May 22, 2021–Feb 13, 2022

Craft Front and Center
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design

MAD’s collection comprises over 3,000 artworks in clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood, dating from the post-war studio craft movement through to contemporary art and design. Craft Front & Center is organized into eight themes exploring craft’s impact. Each section is punctuated with pivotal and rarely seen works from iconic makers, such as Betty Woodman, Marvin Lipofsky, Lia Cook and Magdalena Abakanowicz. The exhibition also casts a fresh eye on craft’s pioneers; celebrating Olga de Amaral, Charles Loloma, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Katherine Westphal and others who pushed the boundaries of materials and sought more inclusive sources of inspiration. The exhibition affirms craft as one of the most exciting spaces for experimentation and wonder in art today.

Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers

Ruth’s Table
San Francisco, CA
Virtual Exhibition through May 13, 2021

Artist Talk April 15 at 4:30 pm (PST)

Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers

See the Exhibit 

RSVP for the Artist Talk on April 15th

If you are not near an exhibition with in-person viewing, you can visit this two-part exhibition series online. Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers aims to help break barriers in perception by recognizing the unique agility and skill possessed by professional older artists at the pinnacle of their careers, their continued value and contribution to the arts and society, leading us to building bridges of an intergenerational nature. The exhibition, which includes work by Lia Cook, highlights artists who are particularly notable for their ability to transform their oeuvre in the thick of their careers. Each artist displays a selection of works that represent evolution and, sometimes, rupture from earlier works, demonstrating a compelling ability to take risks, break new ground and shape attitudes through their artistic practice.


Artist Focus: Naoko Serino

Naoko Serino portrait
Naoko Serino, 2021

Japanese artist, Naoko Serino, our focus this week, works in jute, a remarkably adaptable material that provokes references to other biological structures. Jute’s golden sheen and sinuous strands “yield a most spectacular softness and luminosity,” notes author Moon Lee (http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/naoko-serino-spins-vegetable-fiber-into-golden-sculptures). In Serino’s work, “the natural fibers are spun densely or pulled thin, making for infinite gradations of densities. Irregular shapes in varying degrees of transparency provoke an effect that is strongly biological. Spheres, tubes, tubes contained within spheres, spheres contained within cubes, and rows of coiled strands evoke thoughts of phospholipid bilayers of cell membranes, veins, sea sponges, and so forth.” 

Existing -2-D
13ns Existing -2-D, Naoko Serino, jute, 56″ x 56″ x 11″, 2006

Serino creates her sculptures by first covering molds with jute fibers, which she removes when they have dried, creating a final work combining individual fiber elements. Some of the works that Serino creates are small individual pieces, while others are installations that are large enough to fill an entire room. Despite the fragile appearance of the jute fibers, the works have an imposing presence. 

Existing II
12ns Existing II, Naoko Serino, jute 7.375” x 8.5” x 8.5”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

“I moved to a seaside town 30 years ago. I felt the light and wind there and my feelings were stirred by my proximity to Nature,” Serino says. “I began to see with new eyes and I discovered a material, jute. I think the discovery was inevitable. In and through my hands, a dignified hemp produces a shape that contains both light and air. I am grateful that I came across this material. It is a joy for me to express things with jute that stir deep emotions in me. I see myself continuing to express my feelings in this form.”

Generating outside
Generating Outside, Naoko Serino, jute, 39.5″ x 24″ x 4″, 2020. Photo by Naoko Serino

Serino’s work was included in the Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers exhibition which traveled from Japan to New York, Milan, Copenhagen and other venues. She was awarded the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020. She was a awarded the first prize in the Collection Arte & Arte alla Torre delle Arti di Bellagio, Como, Italy in 2014, the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020.

Generating Mutsuki
17ns Generating Mutsuki, Naoko Serino, jute, 9.5″ x 8″ 8″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Serino is one of the artists whose work is included in browngrotta arts’ next Art in the Barn exhibition, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change (May 8th – May 16th) http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php. Her work for the exhibition, Generating-Mutsuki, came out of her desire to create a work along the lines of the large-scale sculpture she created for Kajima Sculpture competition in a smaller size.


Art Out and About: US

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliffe 

Our 2020 “Art in the Barn” exhibition series is not until next Spring but there are plenty of exciting exhibitions featuring some of our favorite browngrotta arts’ artists to check out this Winter season. Below is a round up of 10 must-see shows in the US:

John McQueen, Untitled #192, 1989, burdock burrs and applewood
Ed Rossbach, Croissants, ca. 1987, cartons, block print, and staples
CREDIT
The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.
John McQueen, Untitled #192, 1989, burdock burrs and applewood
Ed Rossbach, Croissants, ca. 1987, cartons, block print, and staples
CREDIT
The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.

Washington, D.C.
Connections: Contemporary Craft
at the Renwick Gallery
On view – indefinitely
Connections is the Renwick Gallery’s dynamic ongoing permanent collection presentation, featuring more than 80 objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world. The exhibition explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an evermore efficiency-driven, virtual world. The installation highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists, showcasing the activist values, optimism, and uninhibited approach of today’s young artists, which in some way echoes the communal spirit and ideology of the pioneers of the American Studio Craft Movement in their heyday. Includes artist Lia Cook, Toshiko Takaezu, Ed Rossbach, John McQueen, Peter Voulkos.
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 

Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, Washington, DC. (212)(202) 633-7970 https://americanart.si.edu

Bamian by Sheila Hicks
Bamian Sheila Hicks (American (lives and works in Paris), born in 1934) 1968 Wool and acrylic yarns, wrapped * Charles Potter Kling Fund and partial gift of Sheila Hicks © Sheila Hicks * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston, Massachusetts
Women Take the Floor 
On view through May 3, 2020
An exhibition of more than 200 works that challenge the dominant history of 20th-century American art by focusing on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists – advocating for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. Includes Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Olga Amaral, Kay Sekimachi, Toshiko Takaezu
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: (617) 267-9300 mfa.org

Katherine Westphal A Fantasy Meeting of Santa Claus with Big Julie and Tyrone at McDonalds
From Off the Wall: Katherine Westphal A Fantasy Meeting of Santa Claus with Big Julie and Tyrone at McDonalds, 1978. Resist-dyed cotton. San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, CA.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Off the Wall: American Art to Wear
On view through May 17, 2020  Delight in the astonishing inventiveness and techniques of a generation of mixed-media artists who pioneered a new art form designed around the body. Coming of age during the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1960s and 70s, the artists in this distinctively American movement explored non-traditional materials and methods to create adventurous, deeply imaginative works. Includes Norma Minkowitz and Katherine Westphal 
Philadelphia Museum of Art 
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 763-8100
https://philamuseum.org

White Pinwheel by Ethel Stein
Ethel Stein,White Pinwheel, 1990 cotton, satin damask weave; woven on a loom with a drawloom attachment fabricated by the artist 87.6 x 83.8 x 2.2 cm (34 1/2 x 33 x 7/8 in.)

Chicago, Illinois
Weaving beyond the Bauhaus
On view through Feb 17, 2020
Presented on the centenary of this foundational organization, Weaving beyond the Bauhaus traces the diffusion of Bauhaus artists, or Bauhäusler, such as Anni Albers and Marli Ehrman, and their reciprocal relationships with fellow artists and students across America. Through their ties to arts education institutions, including Black Mountain College, the Institute of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Yale University, these artists shared their knowledge and experiences with contemporary and successive generations of artists, including Sheila Hicks, Else Regensteiner, Ethel Stein, Lenore Tawney, and Claire Zeisler, shaping the landscape of American art in the process.
Art Institute Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
(312) 443-3600
https://www.artic.edu

In Poetry and Silence Lenore Tawney installation
In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney Installation view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2019
Courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center


Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe
On view through March 7, 2020
This series of four exhibitions explores Lenore Tawney’s (1907–2007) life and impact, offering a personal and historical view into her entire body of work. Read more about the Tawney exhibits in our earlier blog here: http://arttextstyle.com/2019/12/18/lenore-tawney-gets-her-due/  
John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC)
608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan, WI 53081
Phone: 920.458.6144
jmkac.org

Toshiko Takaezu portrait, 1998 by Tom Grotta
Toshiko Takaezu portrait, 1998 by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Racine, Wisconsin
It’s Like Poetry: Building a Toshiko Takaezu Archive at RAM 
On view through July 26, 2020
RAM’s archive now numbers over 30 works, including Toshiko Takaezu’s (1922-2011) most expansive grouping, the installation comprised of 14 “human-sized” forms, the Star Series. Significantly, the museum’s holdings span the range of Takaezu’s working career—with a double-spouted pot from the 1950s being the earliest and the Star Series (1999-2000) being the latest. 
Open Storage: RAM Showcases Ceramic, Fiber, and Regional Archives 
On view through August 30, 2020
Arranged as a series of artist solo showcases, Open Storage also highlights the earliest kinds of work given to RAM—textiles and works on paper. While ceramic works and art jewelry currently number as the two largest types of contemporary craft represented, examples of textiles, prints, drawings, and works on paper were among the very first gifts of artwork to the museum in the 1940s. This exhibition features the work of 12 artists—Sandra Byers, Gibson Byrd, John N. Colt, Theodore Czebotar, Lillian Elliott, Joseph Friebert, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Jean Stamsta, Merle Temkin, Murray Weiss, and Beatrice Wood—through multiple examples of their work. 
Racine Art Museum
441 Main Street, Racine, WI 53403
Phone: (262) 638-8300
https://www.ramart.org

Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 22, 2019–January 2021). Alan Shields, J + K, 1972. Photograph by Ryan Urcia


New York, New York
Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019
On view through January 2021
The exhibition foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. This exhibition provides new perspectives on subjects that have been central to artists, including abstraction, popular culture, feminist and queer aesthetics, and recent explorations of identity and relationships to place. Together, the works demonstrate that craft-informed techniques of making carry their own kind of knowledge, one that is crucial to a more complete understanding of the history and potential of art. Drawn primarily from the Whitney’s collection, the exhibition will include over eighty works by more than sixty artists, including Ruth Asawa, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, Liza Lou, Ree Morton, Howardena Pindell, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine Reichek, and Lenore Tawney, as well as featuring new acquisitions by Shan Goshorn, Kahlil Robert Irving, Simone Leigh, Jordan Nassar, and Erin Jane Nelson. More on this exhibition in our previous post: http://arttextstyle.com/dispatches-making-knowing-craft-in-art-1950-2019-at-the-whitney/
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 570-3600
https://whitney.org

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

New York, New York
Taking a Thread for a Walk
On view through April 19, 2020
True to its title, this exhibition takes a thread for a walk among ancient textile traditions, early-20th-century design reform movements, and industrial materials and production methods. Featuring adventurous combinations of natural and synthetic fibers and spatially dynamic pieces that mark the emergence of more a sculptural approach to textile art beginning in the 1960s, this show highlights the fluid expressivity of the medium. More about this exhibition in our earlier blog: Dispatches: Textiles Take Center Stage at the New MoMA, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York 
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 708-9400
https://www.moma.org

Lia Cook in front of Through the Curtain and Up from the Sea (1985) at MOCA in LA
Through the Curtain and Up from the Sea (1985) at MOCA in LA

Los Angeles, California
With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985
On view through May 3, 2020 Featuring approximately fifty artists from across the United States, the exhibition examines the Pattern and Decoration movement’s defiant embrace of forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental, or craft-based and thought to be categorically inferior to fine art. This is the first full-scale scholarly survey of this groundbreaking American art movement, encompassing works in painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, installation art, and performance documentation. Includes artist Lia Cook
Museum of Contemporary Art
Grand Avenue
250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 626-6222
https://www.moca.org 

Please check with each art institution for directions and hours.          


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


Fiber Art Up and Comers

Paniers-liens III, Séphanie Jacques
carved wood (ash), white willow, hemp rope, red, wool, 21.25” to 43.25” x 15.5” x 17.75”,2011.
Paniers-liens II, Stéphanie Jacques
carved wood (ash), white willow, hemp, rope, red wool, 22” x 17.25” x 17.25”, 2011

Earlier this year, we compared Artsy‘s list of fiber art pioneers and ours (see also Craft in America’s Pioneering Women in Craft). In the years since contemporary fiber first gained international attention, a group of younger artists have continued to experiment. Numerous artists from a decade or two or three later are identified as continuing innovations in this field, including Rosemary Troeckel, Lesley Dill, and Ernesto Neto and more recently, Sophie Narrett and Orly Cogan.

Of the artists that work with browngrotta arts, we’d point to five who continue to redefine the practice. Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium, combines clay, wood, photography, knitting and basketmaking to create works that reveal what is unseen.

Macramé Black Shell n.1, Federica Luzzi, cotton cord, wax, graphite, 13” x 12” x 6.5”, 2008

Federica Luzzi of Italy, uses fiber to illustrate natural phenomena. Her current series of elegant macramés were born of conversations with researchers at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Frascati, Italy about concepts of dark matter, antimatter, nuclear, subnuclear physics and the particle accelerator.

Transición, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, alpaca; metallic yarns and silver leaf; moriche palm fiber, silk, 56" x 24.25”, 2018

Transición, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, alpaca; metallic yarns and silver leaf; moriche palm fiber, silk, 56″ x 24.25”, 2018

Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila from Venezuela take an experimental approach to all aspects of their work — sourcing, technique and materials. The artists spent several years in China and India studying sericulture, or silk farming, and since then their research has taken them worldwide. In Venezuela they established the entire process of silk manufacture: growing mulberry trees on the slopes of the Andes, rearing silkworms, obtaining threads from other locally sourced fibers, coloring them all with natural dyes and designing and weaving innovative textiles. This works include woven “mosaics” from their Indigo series. More recently, the couple has been incorporating copper and bronze into their work, using textiles as inspiration for works that are cast in bronze. The couple was awarded with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2017. Sue Lawty from the UK, has used her prodigious weaving skills to weave lead, and for the last few years, has created assemblages comprised of literally thousands of tiny stones, a pixilated ‘cloth’ of sorts.


Art Lives Well Lived: Katherine Westphal and Ethel Stein

katherine Westphal at Home

Katherine Westphal Portrait 2015 by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

We lost two fine artists and friends this month when Ethel Stein passed away at 100 and Katherine Westphal died at home in Berkeley, California at 99.

We had been promoting Katherine Westphal’s work and that of her husband, Ed Rossbach (who died in 2002), since the 1990s. We visited Ed and Katherine at their home before Carter was born. (For those of you familiar with browngrotta arts that was a quarter of a decade ago.) Their home, and Katherine’s studio in particular, was a wonder – chockfull of items they had collected from their travels that pleased and inspired them, decorated with murals by Katherine on several walls. Though her studio appeared chaotic, Katherine had an encyclopedic knowledge of what was where. “That reminds of a piece of gift wrap I picked up in Tokyo in the 1950s,” she would say, and then pull a slim typing paper box from a stack of others that looked the same, finding there the images she was referencing.
Katherine worked for decades creating printed textiles, ceramics, quilting, tapestry, jacquard woven  textiles, artwear and basketry structures. “Variously using direct drawing and painting, batik wax resist, and shibori, she also pioneered color xerography and heat transfer printing on textiles,” Jo Ann C. Stabb, former faculty member at UC, Davis wrote in 2015 (“Fiber Art Pioneers: Pushing the Pliable Plane,” Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture, browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT 2015). “Throughout her career, beginning with the batik samples she made for the commercial printed textile industry in the 1950s, she [ ] incorporated images from her immediate world: street people in Berkeley, Japanese sculpture, Monet’s garden, Egyptian tourist groups, Chinese embroidery, images from newspaper and magazine photos, and her dogs…anything that struck her fancy wherever she happened to be at the moment – and she could put any or all of them into a repeat pattern.  Her wit and whimsy [were] legendary and her lively approach also inspired her husband to combine imagery onto the surface of his inventive baskets and containers.”

Ethel Stein Portrait

Ethel Stein Portrait 2008 by Tom Grotta courtesy of browngrotta arts

We were close to Ethel Stein as well, having begun representing her work in 2008 after a dinner at her home where her charming dog joined us at the table. When Rhonda was sick several years later, Ethel drove, at 93, from New York to Connecticut with a meal she had made us. Rhonda’s mother, a mere 83 then, was visiting and we told her that same vitality is what we expected of her in her 90s. (So far mom has complied.)
Tom was able to prepare a monograph of Ethel’s work, Ethel Stein: Weaver, with an introduction by Jack Lenor Larsen, an essay by Lucy A. Commoner and a glossary by Milton Sonday, which has become our best-selling volume. In her essay, “Ethel Stein, A Life Interlaced With Art, Lucy Commoner, then-Senior Textile Conservator at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, describes the evolution of Ethel’s knowledge of textile techniques and ways in which she was able to advance those techniques through her own explorations. “Ethel Stein’s work is distinguished by its rhythmic simplicity belied by its extraordinary technical complexity. The basic humility and humanity of the work and its relationship to historical techniques combine to give Stein’s work a meaning far beyond its physical presence.”

Ethel Stein Exhibition

Ethel Stein Master Weaver at the Chciago Art Instittute

Six years later, Ethel’s work received the wider recognition it deserved. We were thrilled to attend the opening of her one-person exhibition, Ethel Stein, Master Weaver, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. “Ethel Stein is an artist who only now, at the age of 96, is beginning to get the recognition she deserves from the broader public,” the Institute wrote. “Stein’s great contribution to weaving is her unique combination of refined traditional weaving techniques, possible only on a drawloom and used by few contemporary weavers, with modernist sensibilities influenced by Josef Albers, who trained in the German Bauhaus with its emphasis on simplicity, order, functionality, and modesty.” There were photos of her at work, a video and a dinner after with family members and supporters of the museum and crowds of visitors to the exhibition — a well-deserved tribute.

Ed Rossbach Katherine Westphal

Katherine Westphal Ed Rossbach

These artists and their lengthy careers, raise the question, is fiber art a key to longevity? Ethel Stein continued to weave even after she was discovered and lauded at 96. When we visited Katherine Westphal in Berkeley in 2015 we found her still drawing or painting every day in a series of journals she kept, something she continued to do until just a few weeks before her death. Lenore Tawney died at 100, Ruth Asawa and Magdalena Abakanowicz each at 87. Helena Hernmarck tells us that she knows several fiber artists who are 100. So those of you who are practitioners — keep it up!


Textiles At Tate Modern in London

These are exciting days at the Tate Modern in London for fans of art textiles. You’ll find fiber works by important artists in several different galleries.

Beyond Craft, in the Boiler House, curated by Ann Coxon features three pioneers, Lenore Tawney, Olga de Amaral and Sheila Hicks, who experimented with different weaving techniques, often looking to historical or indigenous textiles for inspiration. De Amaral and Hicks were particularly inspired by the technical brilliance of Peruvian weavings made before European colonization. The Museum notes that many artists in the 1960s were using weaving and knotting to create innovative hangings and sculptures, integrating traditional craft techniques into fine art practice. “The 1960s saw several high-profile exhibitions of ‘fiber art’: textile techniques used to create unique art objects without a practical function. These three artists were among those who attempted to collapse the hierarchy that sets fine art above craft. While this distinction has not entirely disappeared, in recent years fiber art has become a source of inspiration for a new generation of artists and curators and the artists displayed here are receiving fresh consideration.”

Peruvian by Lenore Tawney
Peruvian by Lenore Tawney, linen double weave , 86″ x 18″, circa 1962-83
Lenore, like many artist of the 1960s, was drew inspiration for her weaving from indigenous Peruvian weavings. Photo credit: Tom Grotta
Lekythos by Lenore Tawney, linen; woven, knotted, 50” x 31-3/4” x 1-3/4”, 1962,
Photo: George Erml

In Magdalena Abakanowicz, also in the Boilerhouse, viewers can explore Abakanowicz’s stitched cloth sculptures inspired by biological systems, organic matter, and regeneration. “Made at a time of political tension between the Soviet Union and Poland, Abakanowicz has said the work ‘could be understood as a cry from behind the Iron Curtain’,” says the Museum notes. (That was the time frame in which Anne and Jacques Baruch brought Abakanowicz’ work to the US, the subject of browngrotta arts’ catalog, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection.)

Embryology by Magdalena Abakanowicz, burlap, cotton gauze, hemp rope, nylon and sisal, 2009
Photo: Tate Photography

Elsewhere in the Boilerhouse is a work by El Anatsui, who completely transforms the most pedestrian materials into art. By flattening bottle tops and stitching them together into a shimmering metal cloth, he turns familiar disposable objects into something that appears precious and alters them in the viewers’ eyes. Taking a similar approach to the mundane, Sheela Gowda from India has created a room-sized installation made of car bumpers and handwoven human hair, an observation on “the coexistence of ritual and superstition alongside modern urban and economic transformation.”

Ink Splash II by El Anatsui, aluminum and copper, 9.35 ft x 12.24 ft, 2012
Photo: Tate Photography

Want to know more? Visit the Museum’s website to see images and to read New Yarn, Tate, etc. Essay: Textiles and Art by Kirsty Bell: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/new-yarns