Category: Art

Contemporary Fiber Art – Trends Observed, Part I

In December of 2021 of last year, we were asked to talk to a group of fiber artists about trends we had observed in the art textiles field. In two arttextstyle posts we’ll summarize the insights we shared with the group. First, we described a bit about browngrotta arts’ creative journey and fiber arts’ place in the art world in the years we’ve been the medium’s champion.

2004 Art Palm Beach. Works by Masakazu Kobayashi, Mary Merkel-Hess, Deborah Valoma, Jo Barker and Sheila Hicks, among others. Photo by Tom Grotta.

browngrotta arts began quite informally in 1987, showing artwork in our Connecticut home at parties or by appointment – a concept we called “art in use.” We quickly discovered two things – First, people weren’t terribly willing to buy paintings from a suburban home, with New York galleries nearby. Second, fiber work was not well represented on the East Coast. The fiber art we showed, however – baskets by Mary Merkel-Hess and Markku Kosonen, and tapestries by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette – was new and interesting to clients and us.  We decided to focus on that.

1987 Contemporary art-in-use
browngrotta arts 1987 exhibition. Contemporary art-in-use

Fiber art on the outs

That said, 90s and early 2000s were not great for fiber art. The slick and shiny were popular in furnishings and design. Some of the public fiber commissions from the 70s had begun to show their age and give fiber a bad name. The craft/art divide was harsh and dark – and women’s work, like weaving, knitting and crochet – was at the bottom of that chasm.  The period saw fiber friendly galleries like Sybaris in Detroit, Louise Allrich in Califoria, and Bobby Okun in Santa Fe all close their doors. But we hung in there, with our unusual business model – presenting fiber artists from Japan, Scandinavia, the UK and pioneering and emerging artists from the US, attending art fairs, partnering with art centers and documenting the work in catalogs and on our website.

Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles
browngrott arts exhibition Beyond Weaving: Internatioanl ArtTextiles at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut

In 2006, we curated Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which included work by Sheila Hicks, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Lenore Tawney. Mildred Constantine, the former textile curator at MoMA, told us it was the “best fiber exhibition in 15 years,” which tells you a lot about how the medium had been sidelined in that period.

Gradual reemergence

But slowly, in that time period, fiber’s profile began to improve. Appreciation for natural materials increased as did appreciation for the hand made. Sheila Hicks had an exhibition of miniatures at Bard in 2006; Ruth Asawa a retrospective at the de Young 2007; 50 years of Sheila Hicks opened at the Addison, then the Mint and ICA in Boston in 2010 and so did Contemporary Fiber Art: a selection from the Permanent Collection at the Art Institute in Chicago.

ICA Boston 2014
ICA Boston, 2014 Fiber Sculpture – 1960 to the present. Photo by Tom Grotta

The watershed for fiber art’s resurgence was just four years away. In 2014, Janelle Porter, who had worked on 50 Years of Sheila Hicks, organized the expansive ICA show, Fiber Sculpture – 1960 to the present. The exhibition travelled to Columbus, OH, Produced a detailed book and Porter was awarded a best museum exhibition award. 

It was as if a dam had broken – 50 Fiber artists toured the US in Innovators and Legends in 2013, a retrospective of François Grossen’s work opened at Blum and Poe and one of Ethel Stein’s work opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. Anne Wilson, Louise Bourgeois, Lenore Tawney were also featured in Thread Lines at the Drawing Center 2014. Richard Tuttle unveiled a vast installation of weavings in Tate Modern (followed by an exhibition of Textiles by Sonya DeLauney in 2015). The Art Newspaper declared: “Soft Fabrics Have Solid Appeal;” the Wall Street Journal called Fiber “The Art World’s New Material Obsession.” 

Taking a thread for a walk-MoMA
Aurélia-Munñoz-Åguila-Beige-(Brown-Eagle) at Taking a thread for a walk-MoMA. photo by Denis-Doorly

Fiber Art’s Continued Recognition and Appreciation

The trend has continued since – Anni Albers at the Tate in 2018; Women Take the Floor in Boston; Off the Wall: American Art to Wear in Philadelphia and Taking Thread for Walk at MoMA, all in 2019,Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus in Chicago in 2020 and Olga d’Amaral’s Weaving a Rock in Houston in 2021 and at Cranbrook in 2022. Sheila Hicks, Off the Grid, at The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire, UK, Faith Ringgold, American People at the New Musuem in New York City open this year as do 34 fiber artists, including Lia Cook, in Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women at the Smithsonian in November. 

It’s an exciting time to promote art textiles and fiber sculpture as browngrotta arts has done for three decades. In Contemporary Fiber Art — Trends Observed, Part 2, we’ll examine some of the changes we’ve seen in the field and in the approach of the artists who work with us.


You make it possible! Thanks to our Artists, Clients and Fans!

Thanks are due all around this year!

Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change
Social-distanced viewing of our spring exhibition Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change, photo Ezco Productions

At browngrotta arts, we hosted two 2021 exhibitions, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change and Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences.   Each featured exceptional artwork — more than 75 artists from 18 countries were included. Both were open to the public, with proper covid protocols. We got great press — from Art in America online, to Architectural Digest online to Gessato and ArteMorbida in Italy. Our teams from Juice Creative, State PR and Ezco Productions helped us get the word out through emails and social media. They are probably the reason we had more people attend than any year before. We published a full-color catalog for each exhibition. Tom’s had to head to the basement to print more copies of Japandí five times since the show closed. 

Polly Sutton Facing the Unexpected
Facing the Unexpected, Polly Adams Sutton, western red cedar bark, ash, spruce root, coated copper wire, 11.5” x 18” x 32”, 2013. Photo Tom Grotta

Our artists gathered accolades and awards all year. Just a small sampling – Polly Sutton, whose recently acquired work, Facing the Unexpected, will be included in the Renwick Gallery’s  50th Anniversary exhibition, This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, which opens in May; Adela Akers whose recently acquired work, Compostela, is featured in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s current exhibition, Parallel Lines: New Textile Masterworks Inspired by Geometry (through August 28, 2022); Simone Pheulpin, whose 80th birthday is being celebrated by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (Simone Pheulpin: Time Bender, through January 16, 2022) and the retrospective of Kay Sekimachi’s 70-year career at BAMPFA in Berkeley, California (Kay Sekimachi: Geometries).

Adela Akers Compostela
Compostela, Adela Akers, sisl, linen and wool, 60” x 180” x 6”, 1985. Photo by Adela Akers

Our charitable project for 2021 engaged hundreds of people. It involved our contribution of a early, accomplished work, Spatial Ikat 2, by Lia Cook, created in 1976. The work was the prize in a sweepstakes on the UncommonGood nonprofit platform. Hundreds of people entered the sweepstakes. The proceeds from their entries went to the Breast Cancer Alliance headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut

Lia Cook Spatial Ikat III
Spatial Ikat III, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 48″, 1976.. Photo Tom Grotta

Great feedback was received from our clients, artists and fans: “Over these past years, I do not walk past any of the pieces you hung for us without appreciating how it enhances my life.” “We are so delighted with our sculpture.” “Thank you also for sharing all the rich documentation on the Japandi exhibition! It’s a real pleasure for us to discover this beautiful exhibition from afar.” “We so enjoyed seeing your fabulous show on display in your amazing home …. Thank you for sharing the art and your time.” “The new exhibition is such a thoughtful juxtaposition of the Japanese and Scandinavian.” “I am happy and proud to be a part of your family of artists.”

We have plenty of plans for 2022 — an exhibition April 29th to May 8th, a browngrotta arts produced book, scheduled for Spring 2022 publication. More on these to come in the next few months.

In sum, a heartfelt thanks to all of you for letting us live a life filled with art and to fill others’ lives with art, too!


Artist Focus: Mia Olsson

Mia Olsson portrait
Portrait of Mia Olsson by Kerstin Carlson

Agave sisalana, better known as sisal, is a cactus-like plant cultivated in Mexico and Central America. Known for its stiff fiber, most often used to make ropes, rugs and even construction materials, sisal fibers are yellow-white in their natural state. Through a kind of alchemy, Swedish fiber artist Mia Olsson manipulates the prickly sisal into airy, semi-transparent wall sculptures, dyed in richly saturated warm tones. “I am interested in exploring textile fibers, how they are, their properties and characteristics, and what I can do with them,” say Olsson. Sisal fiber is flat and shiny, reflecting light beautifully and strengthening the color. Olsson describes it as “so interesting to work with, especially when forming three-dimensional pieces. My work is experimental and I never know on which journeys the fibers will take me.”

Detail Pleated, Golden
Detail of 10mo Pleated, Golden, Mia Olsson, sisal fibers, 24″ x 20″ x 2.25″, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

Dyeing is an important part in the process. The last couple of years, Olsson has been working with natural dyestuffs to see if she can replace synthetic dyes with natural ones. “The most difficult fibers to dye natural is plantfibers. It´s hard, but I am working on it,” she says. “My goal is to have the same ‘paintbox’ with natural dyestuff as with my ordinary ones.”

Map of Warm Are by Mia Olsson
9mo Map of Warm Area, Mia Olsson, sisal, 24.75″x 19.75″, 2012. Photo by Tom Grotta

In creating her works, Olsson dyes the fibers, then organizes them into a kind of fiber cloth, making it possible for her to connect them on a sewing machine. “I save all fibers, even ones that are too short, fiberscraps and cut-off pieces,” she says. “They can lead me on to new exploring paths.” Even very short fibers can be formed into circles or other shapes that can be joined together and then formed to create bigger or smaller pieces. An example is the patchwork of sisal squares that make up Map of a Warm Area. The piece offers a textured topography mapped in a wanderlust hue of orange, red, yellow, rust and black. “When working with Map of a Warm Area I was thinking of a very hot place, hard to live in, too dry and sunny,” remembers the artist. “It was made 2012 and then I didn’t think about climate change in the same way as we do today, But it can absolutely be read as reflecting concerns about the environment.”

Blue/Purple Pleats by Mia Olsson
7mo Blue/Purple Pleats, Mia Olsson, sisal, 56″ x 47″ x 2″, 2008 8mo Orange Pleats, Mia Olsson, sisal, 55″ x 46″ x 4.5″, 2008. Photo by Tom Grotta

Olsson also works with larger sisal pieces, Her larger sisal banners, like  Blue/Purple Pleats and Orange Pleats, float effortlessly in space highlighting their dimensionality, bold color and tactile dynamics. She creates sculptural works from fiber as well, groupings of soft stones in jewel-colors. And, more recently, she created Together, a minimalist work,

5mo Traces 5 Relief, Mia Olsson, sisal and coconut fiber, acrylic glass, sisal on blastered acrylic glass, 14″ x 11.875″ x 1.25″, 2006

Other themes Olsson identifies in her work are clothes and their symbols, memory and time. and maps and game plans. Living part of her time close to nature also affects and inspires her work. She also credits Japan as an influence, “I am inspired by and fascinated of Japanese art and crafts. Their exquisite ways of using natural material, as well as synthetic material, their skilled dyeing techniques and the way traditions and innovations are combined in textile art is an inspiration,” she says.   


Check Out Our One-of-a-Kind Gift Guide: No Supply Chain Issues Here

2021 browngrotta Gift Guide

This year we’ve gathered our art selections into a clickable lookbook format. Whether you are gifting yourself, a friend or family member, a work of art makes a truly unique choice. Our curated collection includes art for every location, including crowdpleasing centerpieces (Rocking the Table) and coveted items to set on a bookshelf (Boosting a Bookshelf) or counter top (Counter Balancing)

Narrow wall art pieces

We’ve included art suggestions to fill special spots — including those often hard-to-fill narrow walls (On the Straight and Narrow). Our choices include a pleated fabric work by Caroline Bartlett of the UK and a hanging of hand-painted threads by Ulla-Maija Vikman, known as “Finland’s colorist.” Or have you got your eye on an empty space? The one that makes you think — “I wish I could find just the right piece of art for that spot.” We’ve got a batch of ideas for you there — from embellished photographs by Gyöngy Laky(US) to an intricate embroidery by Scott Rothstein(US) to a newsprint and lacquer collage by Toshio Sekiji of Japan.

Natural baskets

There are works at every price point, from the brightly colored abstract tapestry, Flow, by Jo Barker, a Cordis Prize winner from the UK to a basket sculpture of cottonwood by Christine Joy(US) to a new book about the innovative weaver Włodzimierz Cygan of Poland.

Take a look here: http://www.browngrotta.com/digitalfolios/HolidayFlipBook/Hoilday FlipBook 2021.html

The small print:

Order for the holidays by December 13th and we’ll ship by December 14th for domestic delivery by the holidays (though due to COVID and other delays, we can’t guaranteed the shippers’ schedule). If you’d like us to gift wrap your purchase, email us at art@browngrotta.com, as soon as you have placed your order. To ensure we know you want gift wrapping, don’t wait to contact us — we generally ship as soon as the orders are received. Quantities are limited.


Material Matters: Repurposed Objects as an Art Medium

Repurposing found objects in art has a long history. Long before recycling was a “thing,” Robert Rauschenberg was created his Combine series, works in which he intermixed paintings with items he found on the streets of New York. The works incorporated newsprint, cardboard, sandpaper, ladders, bellows and fuse boxes among other items. With the Combine series, the Rauschenberg Foundation observes, the artist “endowed new significance to ordinary objects by placing them in the context of art.”

Several artists that browngrotta arts represents or follows prove Rauschenberg’s theory that nearly anything can be adapted for an artistic purpose. In their works, however, the unconventional material takes center stage — not just as an inclusion but reinvented as a primary material. For example, early on in his art career, 

John Garrett crocheted videotapes
John Garrett, Dark Curtain, crocheted videotapes, 50” x 52” x 8”, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

John Garrett began exploring alternatives to traditional fibers. Developing unique personal methods based on needlepoint and embroidery techniques, he created flexible components that he manipulated into dynamic forms. Materials he uses are found in thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, dumpsters, curbside on trash days, roadside and in empty lots. Using the varied detritus of an affluent society, he creates artwork that presages less abundant times and focuses attention on the beauty of the discarded and overlooked. 

Lewis Knauss photo slides
Lewis Knauss, Old Technology Landscape, woven, knotted linen, paper twine, photo slides, 16″ x 16″x 4″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Most recently, he has turned to a surprising, and soon-to-be-scarce, material  — VHS videotape. “Once out of the plastic container,” he writes, “the reels of tape leave behind their previous use. In fact, their stories are lost. They are there but can no longer be accessed. In my thoughts, this leads to a sense of mystery and melancholy, like finding an old photo album in the trash.”  Lewis Knauss found a similar inspiration when he began to go through decades of slides he had taken of landscapes as he travelled. He had planned to simply discard them, instead decided to hold on to some to create a small piece, a “landscape of landscape images” that he had used as reference in his work.

Gyöngy Lakás Coffee Break
Gyöngy Laky, Coffee Break, coffee stirrers, steel wire, 16.5” x 17” x 17”, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

 “All artists repurposing and upcycling materials challenge preconceived notions. When the eye recognizes a found object, it changes the meaning and the value of that object in the work. Whereas it may have been thrown away by someone else, it is now living a new life, no longer destined for the landfill but now in a place of preservation created by the artist, “ write Lori Gipson and Brooke Garcia (Repurposing and Upcycling Found Objects in Art – #EarthDay50). Preconceptions are are surely challenged by Gyöngy Laky’s Coffee Break, constructed of coffee stirrers and Fissures III,  by Karyl Sisson, made of nearly unrecognizable vintage paper straws, coiled in intriguing patterns.

Karyl Sisson straws
Karyl Sisson, Fissueres III, vintage drinking straws, thread and polymer, 16.5” x 16.5” x 1.75”, 2019. Photo by Tom Grotta

Plastic and metal are ubiquitous in landfills and our own trash. In Real, John McQueen draws attention to the problem of plastic waste. “Though we are not all that conscious of it, plastic containers are everywhere in our daily lives,” McQueen writes. “We are burying ourselves in them without seeing them.” The vertical, flat landscape in the work comes reflects the Chinese tradition of painting huge mountains with extremely small inhabitants almost lost somewhere in the composition, a contrast, he says, to the way the West believes humans rule the world and we believe we can do what we please.

John McQueen plastic bottles
John McQueen, Real, sticks and cut up plastic bottles, etc 55.5” x 36.75” x 3.5”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

Harriete Estel Berman pulls ordinary material — in this case pre-printed steel from recycled tin containers — from the waste stream of society and recycles it, examining value and identity in our consumer society in the process. In her series, the Deceiver and the Deceived, Berman riveted together pieces of tin food containers, including SlimFast cans. The material looks plaited, quilted, or in the case of Figures in Fine Print, pieced. Through the text on the cans, the artist makes a potent statement about food and body image and the role advertising plays in our attitudes about both. Berman’s work is featured in the most recent episode of Craft in America, Jewelry which you can view online.

Harriete Estel Berman


Figures in Fine Print, Harriete Estel Berman. Framed wall piece constructed from recycled materials specifically tin cans and vintage steel dollhouses, aluminum rivets. Pedestal for a Woman to Stand On, Harriete Estel Berman. Printed steel from vintage steel doll houses and recycled tin cans, the green surface is covered with custom decals of $1.00 and $20.00 dollar bills. The cube shape used in the series A Pedestal for a Woman to Stand On is both a square (the basic structure of quilts) and a feminist response to minimalist sculpture. Photos courtesy of the artist.


Sailing Away: The Perpetual Artistic Appeal of Boats

Lawrence LaBianca's Boat installation
Lawrence LaBianca’s Boat installation, 2010: Skiff; Twenty Four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen CO. Day Two; Boat House; Trow. Photo by Tom Grotta

Boats and ships and time on the water are potent metaphors for the highs and lows of contemporary life.

As FineArt America says of “boat art”:”… whether you own a boat, grew up by the sea, or dream of sailing the wide-open ocean, boats have a way of making us feel a unique combination of calm and adventurous.”.

New York Bay 1884
Helena Hernmarck, New York Bay 1884, wool, 10’ x 13.5’, 1990. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists at browngrotta arts explore the artistic potential of boats and boat shapes in widely divergent ways. 

Kayak Bundles
Chris Drury, Kayak Bundles, willow bark and cloth sea charts from Greenland and Outer Hebrides, 79″ x 55″ x 12″, 1994. Photo by Tom Grotta

Some, like Lawrence LaBianca, Helena Hernmarck, Chris Drury and Annette Bellamy, have referenced them literally in their work. Lawrence LaBianca creates experiences in which water is an integral part. In Skiff, an antique telephone receiver links viewers to sounds of a rushing river. Twenty-four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen, CO, is a print created by Drawing Boat, a vessel filled with river rocks that makes marks on paper when it is afloat. Annette Bellamy has lived in a small fishing village called Halibut Cove right across the bay from Homer, Alaska and worked as a commercial fisherwoman. Off season, she reflects on her day job, creating porcelain, earthenware, raku-fired ceramic and stoneware boats, buoys, sinkers and oars that float inches from the floor.

Floating installation at the Fuller Museum

Annette Bellamy, Floating installation at the Fuller Museum (detail), 2012. Stoneware, porcelain wood fired and reduction fired. Photo by Tom Grotta

Others, like Dona Anderson, Jane Balsgaard, Merja Winquist, Birgit Birkkjaer and Christine Joy, are moved to create more abstract versions. Boat is a part of new work of hers that is more angular, says Christine Joy. “The shape that occurs when I bend the willow reminds me of waves on choppy water, boats, and the movement of water.” Birgit Birkkjaer’s baskets contain precious amber that she has found washed up on the shore. The indigo-dyed baskets symbolize the sea that brings the amber to the shore – and a ship from ancient times, transporting the Nordic Gold to the rest of Europe. Boats and boat shapes conjure thoughts of water as a natural force, a spiritual source, or a resource for which humans are responsible — and not doing such a red hot job. 

Dona Anderson Boat
Crossing Over, Dona Anderson, bamboo kendo (martial art sticks); patterned paper; thread, 15″ x 94″ x 30″ , 2008. Photo by Tom Grotta
Nordic Gold comes from the Sea
Birgit Birkkjær, Nordic Gold comes from the Sea, linen, amber, plexi, 2.25” x 27.5” x 13”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta
Christine Joy willow boat
Boat Becoming River, Christine Joy, willow 14” x 31” x 10”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

in each case the results are imaginative and intriguing. Enjoy these varied depictions and see more on our website.

Jane Balsgaard Boats
Paper Sculpture II-IV, Jane Balsgaard, bamboo, piassava, willow, fishing line, japaneese and handmade plant paper, 14” x 13.5 x 5“, 2020. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artist Focus: Tamiko Kawata

TAmiko Kawata portrait
Tamiko Kawata at SOFA NY exhibition. Photo by Tom Grotta

At first glance, Tamiko Kawata’s work is elegant and engaging. On closer inspection, viewers grow more intrigued as they recognize the materials are unexpected — safety pins, rubber bands, used pantyhose and newspaper. She has created arresting jewelry, sculpture, “painting” on canvas and installations. “I like to use overlooked, indigenous objects from our daily life for my medium,” she explains. “Discarded materials are important to me not only for environmental issues but also to reflect my current life.” Kawata studied art in Japan, receiving her BFA in Sculpture at Tsukuba University.  She explains that she was influenced by Bauhaus and Dada, and then the emergence of the Gutai Group, a Japanese avant-garde movement that began in 1954. All three art philosophies were particularly interested in unconventional materials. “These philosophies became a foundation for my way of thinking and for my art-making direction,” she says. In 1962, when she was 26, she came to New York, where she continues to live. 

While Kawata has made large works of newpapers and pantyhose, she is perhaps best known for her works made of safety pins. On arriving in the US, Kawata needed them to make her American-sized clothes fit. She found the pins

Rain Forset Installation
Rain Forest Photo courtesy of the artist.

in abundance in a dime store and has explored their potential as an art material ever since. The extent of that potential is surprising. Kawata has used pins of different size and colors to create dramatic installation works, like Rain Forest in which chains of pins that end in circles on the floor recall a rippling pond in Kyoto and the victims of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. “I wanted to connect this beauty of nature and the atomic bomb victims,”
 she has explained. She uses the pins to create standalone sculptures of all shapes that can be displayed indoors or out.  She uses them to “draw” on canvas, too.

Saftey pin canvas
19tk Stillness Within, Tamiko Kawata, saftey pins, acrylic on canvas, 42″ x 48″, 2002-2004. Photo by Tom Grotta

Works like Stillness Within, surprise viewers who think they are looking at a painting or drawing but as they draw nearer that the artist’s “marks” are actually intentionally placed safety pins.

safety pin canvas
36tk Permutation 7, Tamiko Kawata, Japanese safety pins, canvas on a wood board 32” x 29.5” x 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Permutation 7, pins of different colors create a meditative mosaic. 

saftey pin sculpture
32tk Cactus, Tamiko Kawata , saftey pin, stainless steel wire, 16” x 18” x 17”, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kawata’s work is in numerous collections, including: Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York; Honolulu Contemporary Art Museum, Hawaii; Ishiguro Art Collection, Tokyo, Japan; Lafcadio Hearn/Yakumo Koizumi Art Museum, Matsue, Japan; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Brooklyn, New York; Yusuke Aida Collection, Tokyo, Japan; Davis Brody & Bond Architects, New York, New York; Ishiguro Art Collection, Tokyo, Japan; LongHouse Reserve, East Hampton, New York; PREC Institute, Tokyo, Japan; Buenno Premesela Art Collection, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including the Ucross Art Residency; American Academy for Arts and Letters, 2015 Purchase Award; Meet Factory Art Foundation Award,Solo Show and Residency, Prague, Czechoslovokia; Pollock/Krasner Foundation Grant; McDowell Art Colony Residency and the Yaddo Art Colony, Louise Bourgeois Residency Award for Sculpture.

Safety pin installation
August Grove by Tamiko Kawata. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“My works are personal.” she says. “They are my visual diaries.”


Japandí: Shared Sensibilities, Side by Side

In curating and installing our current exhibition, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences we paired works in which we saw similarities and parallels. Here are some examples of affinities we saw. Join us at Japandí through October 3rd and find your own.

Jiro Yonezawa, Ecdysis, bamboo, urushi lacquer, 27” x 8” x 5.75”, 2019; Mia Olsson, Together, relief, sisal fibers, acrylic, 17.75” x 15” x 3”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Minimalism is an aesthetic element appreciated by artists in Japan and the Nordic countries and listed as part of Japandi. Here, a minimalist work, Together, by Mia Olsson of Sweden sits aside an abstract bamboo sculpture, Ecdysis, 2019, by Jiro Yonezawa. Yonezawa uses bamboo strips to create a multitude of simple, nontraditional forms.  

Agneta Hobin Mica
Detail: Agneta Hobin, Claire De Lune II, Untitled, mica, steel, 18” x 27” x 2.5”, 2001-2

Meticulous craftsmanship is another Japandi element. Stainless steel fibers are masterfully incorporated into the work of three of the artists in this exhibition. Agneta Hobin of Finland weaves the fine threads into mesh, incorporating mica and folding the material into shapes — fans, strips and bridges. Jin-Sook So’s work is informed by time spent in Korea, Sweden and Japan. She uses transparent stainless steel mesh cloth, folded, stitched, painted and electroplated to create shimmering objects for the wall or tabletop. The past and present are referenced in So’s work in ways that are strikingly modern and original.  She has used steel mesh to create contemporary Korean pojagi and to re-envision common objects — chairs, boxes and bowls. Kyoko Kumai of Japan spins the fibers into ethereal, silver landscapes.

Kyoko Kumai Steel detail
32kk Memory, Kyoko Kumai, stainless steel filaments, 41” x 19” x 19”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta
Jin-Sook So steel mesh construction detail
Detail: Konstruktion B, Jin-Sook So, steel mesh, electroplated, silver, gold, paint and steel thread, 18.75″ x 19.75″ x 2.55″, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Another aspect of the Japandi approach is an appreciation of natural and sustainable materials. Both Norwegian-American Kari Lønning and Japanese artists Kazue Honma work in akebia— a vine, harvested thousands of miles apart. Here are details of Lønning’s multicolored rendering of akebia and a plaited work of mulberry from Kazue Honma. Both artists highlight the wide variation of colors found in the material with which they work.

Detail: Kari Lønning, 74kl Akebia Tower, akebia, 10.5” x 4” x 4.5”, 2021
Kazue Honma Plaited basket
Detail: Kazue Honma, Capricious Plaiting, plaited paper, mulberry bark, 10.5″ x 18″ x 12.5″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Join us at our Fall Art in the Barn exhibition, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences through October 3rd, see our parallel pairings and envision some of your own. 39 artists present more than 150 works. browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897. 

We’ve expanded our hours during the week.

Wednesday, September 29th through Saturday, October 2nd: 10 to 6

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory • Masks required • Covid protocols • No high heels please (barn floors). http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/japandi.php

A full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, is available for order at: https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


We’ve been hard at work — come see the results. Japandí opens this week!

Our Japandí exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden and over 150 individual works. Here are details about just a few of the artworks that the exhibition includes.

Ane Henrsen portrait
Ane Henriksen preparing the material for Reserve. Photo by Ole Gravesen

A striking wall work, Reserve, by Ane Henriksen of Denmark is featured in Japandí. Henriksen originally found the material covered with oil spots, washed up along the sea by the west coast of Denmark – fishermen use it, on the table in the galley, so the plates don’t slide of when they are on the high seas. The piece also incorporates webbed, rubber matting, colored with acrylic paint. The warp is silk glued together with viscose (from Japan). “Nature is threatened,” says Henriksen. “I hope this is expressed in my image, which at first glance can be seen as a peaceful, recognizable view of nature, but when you move closer and see the material, it might make you uneasy, and and spur thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature. By framing the nature motif museum-like in a solid oak frame, I try to make you aware how we store small natural remains in reserves – in the same way we store exquisite objects from our past history in our museums.”

Birgit Birkkjaer portrait
Birgit Birkkjaer at work. Photo by Kræn Ole Birkkjær

Also included in the exhibition are baskets by Danish artist Birgit Birkkjaer. They are made of black linen and Japanese tatami paper yarn (black and hand dyed with rust). “The technique I used for the structure is rya,” she reports, “which was known in Scandinavia already in the Viking Age — and from the 1950s until the 1970s as a trend started by Danish/Finnish artist collectives. So, the baskets have roots in both Japan and Scandinavia.”

Norie Hatakeyama portrait
Norie Hatakeyama creating paper-plaited work. Photo by Ray Tanaka

Among the works on display from Japan are intricately plaited objects created by Norie Hatakeyama. The artist works with factory-made paper-packing tape to realize her geometric concerns. It is an experimental material that enables her to break free from traditional limitations.

“My work stems from an impulse to redefine both material and method,” says Hatakeyama. Her intricately plaited, three-dimensional works possess the energy of growing organisms. “The works ‘defy the viewer to imagine how they were accomplished,’”art critic and author Janet Koplos has observed.

Jiro Yonezawa at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine. Photo by Tom Grotta

Jiro Yonezawa is also represented in Japandí with several works. Yonezawa is known for innovative bamboo basketry based on traditional techniques. He says that his recent baskets “represent a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in these times.” The search for balance and harmony is one of the elements attributed to Japandi style.

Please join us!

The hours of the exhibtion are: 

Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. Masks will be required. There is a full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, prepared for the exhibition available at for pre-order at:  https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


Make a Day of It – Other Venues to Visit on Your Way to Japandi at browngrotta arts

Coming to Wilton, CT to see browngrotta arts’ next exhibtion, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences (September 25 – October 2)? We have four nearby exhibitions to recommend if you want to make a day of it.

Tim Prentice
Tim Prentice: After the Mobile (installation view), The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, March 29, 2021 to October 4, 2021, Courtesy of Prentice Colbert, Photo: Jason Mandella

1)Tim Prentice: After the Mobile
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Tel 203.438.4519
6.2 Miles

https://thealdrich.org/exhibitions/tim

After the Mobile is a two-part solo exhibition by artist Tim Prentice (b. 1930), known for his innovative work in the field of motion in sculpture. Prentice has been a resident of Connecticut since 1975, and After the Mobile marks his first solo museum exhibition since 1999. The exhibition will feature 20 indoor works, five outdoor works, and a video portrait of the artist. The indoor exhibition is on view through October 4, 2021; the outdoor installation on view from September 19, 2021 to April 24, 2022. Interesting note: The title of the exhibition refers to Alexander Calder, a former Connecticut resident who in the 1930s adopted the term mobile at the urging of Marcel Duchamp to describe his balanced, moving wind-driven constructions. 

Carrie Mae Weems
Carrie Mae Weems, All the Boys (Profile 2), 2016, archival pigment on gesso board. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery

2) Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects
Fairfield University Art Museum
Walsh Gallery
September 18 – December 18, 2021
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
203.254.4046
15.2 miles

https://www.fairfield.edu/museum/exhibitions/current-exhbitions/index.html

In Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects, Weems focuses on the humanity denied in recent killings of black men, women, and children by police. She directs our attention to the constructed nature of racial identity—specifically, representations that associate black bodies with criminality. Our imaginings have real—often deadly—outcomes. Blocks of color obscure faces just as our assumptions around race obscure individual humanity. Through a formal language of blurred images, color blocks, stated facts, and meditative narration, Weems directs our attention toward the repeated pattern of judicial inaction—the repeated denials and the repeated lack of acknowledgement.

3) Between the Ground and the Sky

Ashley Skatoff: Lost Ruby Farm, Norfolk, CT
Ashley Skatoff: Lost Ruby Farm, Norfolk, CT

Westport MoCA
Through October 17, 2021
19 Newtown Turnpike
Westport, CT 06880
Monday & Tuesday | Gallery Closed
Wednesday-Sunday | 12PM-4PM
Ph: 203.222.7070
(6.6 miles)

Between the Ground and the Sky through October 17, 2021 features photography from the Who Grows Your Food initiative, an intimate photographic journey celebrating the beloved farms and farmers associated with the Westport Farmers’ Market. The centerpiece of the exhibition is more than 50 large-scale photographs, both color and black and white, of local farms by Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff, two local accomplished photographers. The photographs tell a compelling and visually arresting story of the importance of local farms and farmers.

On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale catalog

4) On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale
Yale University Art Gallery
September 10, 2021–January 9, 2022
1111 Chapel Street (at York Street) 
New Haven, Connecticut
203.432.0601
(35.2 miles)

https://artgallery.yale.edu/exhibitions/exhibition/basis-art-150-years-women-yale

On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale showcases and celebrates the remarkable achievements of an impressive roster of women artists who have graduated from Yale University. Presented on the occasion of two major milestones—the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale College and the 150th anniversary of the first women students at the University, who came to study at the Yale School of the Fine Arts when it opened in 1869—the exhibition features works drawn entirely from the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery that span a variety of media, such as paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photography, and video. 

Enjoy your trip ! We look forward to seeing you at Japandi.