Category: Art

Dispatches: San Francisco

Carter Grotta, of our browngrotta arts team, traveled to San Francisco last month. We asked him to snapshots of interesting art. Here are some of the highlights!

First the de Young. There, Carter visited the Saxe Collection at the de Young Museum, where he saw an Untitled work of bark and stone by Dorothy Gill Barnes and ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu and Paul Soldner.

Ruth Asawa installation at the deYoung Museum

A great collection of works by Ruth Asawa, San Francisco’s most well-known fiber artist, is also on display at the de Young Museum along with a unique abstract quilt, A Bend in the River, by Joe Cunningham.

A Bend in the River by Joe Cunningham
A Bend in the River by Joe Cunningham
SFMOCA digital installation

Next SFMOCA. Carter was quite taken by this remarkable digital installation, part of snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, a unique take on transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks. This work illustrates what it means to engage with the technological advancements of the 21st century to create digital conversations in photographs.

Magdalena Abakanowicz Four on a Bench
Magdalena Abakanowicz Four on a Bench

Also housed at the SFMOMA, the sculptures of Magdalena Abankanowicz, like Four on a Bench, are representative of the oppressive historic conditions of her native country, Poland.

Jannis Kounellis Untitled piece of steel
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled

Also at SFMOMA, was this interesting Untitled piece of steel, crucible, tar and rope, by Italian-born artist, Jannis Kounellis, in The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV bamboo sculpture
Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

Also worth a trip, the Asian Art Museum which features an exciting installation by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV — a 4th generation bamboo artist, that seems to have grown organically within the gallery space.

Federal Court House building in San Francisco
Federal Court House Building

What Carter couldn’t see — or photograph at least — was That Word, a larger-than-life sculpture of twigs by Gyöngy Laky which is on loan to the federal courts where photography is strictly prohibited.
You can see That Word, though, even if you can’t take a photograph. Just one of a series of interesting stops in a city that is great for art tourism!


Art Assembled: New This Week in June

Summer is finally here and in June, browngrotta arts offered a look at the latest pieces in our collection representing works from around the world. This month, in our New This Week series, we shared some extraordinary pieces by Chang Yeonsoon, Judy Mulford, Lewis Knauss, Pat Campbell and Eva Vargo.
We kicked off the first few days in June with a three-piece work of abaca fiber, pure gold leaf and eco-soluble resin by Chang Yeonsoon, a Korean textile artist who specializes in sculptural fiber works. “I have been studying philosophy and breathing meditation for the last 10 years because I am interested in Oriental philosophy. Chunjeein (天地人) means heaven, earth and human in the East. In the Book of changes (a chinese classic) say that the heaven is a circle, the earth is a square, and the human is a triangle.”

heaven, earth and human sculptures
Chunjeein-1, 2 & 3, Chang Yeonsoon
abaca fiber, pure gold leaf, eco-soluble resin, 33″ x 7.125″ x 6.75″, 2019

Soon after that, we shared a mixed media work, Ancestral Totem by Judy Mulford. “My art honors and celebrates the family” explains the artist. “It is autobiographical, personal, narrative, and a scrapbook of my life. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, a surprise, or a giggle.” This work, which Mulford talks more about in a youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3-YTMWD4JM art + identity interview, features “memory chairs” and buttons that she sourced from family and friends.

Button hole stitched chair sculpture
Ancestral Totem, Judy Mulford, mixed media, 34.5″ x 10.5″ x 10.5,” 2019

Next in our June series was Lewis Knauss‘ work, Thorny of woven, knotted linen, waxed linen and reed. Knauss’ interest in landscape originated during his first teaching appointment in Ohio. The textures and materials of textiles have provided him a medium to explore his memories of place.

Lewis Knauss wall sculpture
Thorny, Lewis Knauss
woven, knotted, waxed linen, reed, 17″ x 16″ x 6,” 2018/19

We aim to keep your creative palettes full, and so we featured Kundalini Rising II by Pat Campbell of rice paper, reed and wood. Campbell’s work aims to promote, not divide, the world’s population ethnically, racially and religiously, specifically to promote globalization and world peace. We at browngrotta arts fully support her work and the meaning behind each piece. Her work combines hope for the future, love of where she came from, and a reminder to viewers to reflect the best in themselves to solve world problems.

Pat Campbell Rice Paper Sculpture
Kundalini Rising II, Pat Campell
rice paper, reed and wood, 24″ x 14″ x 6.5″, 2009

Last, but most certainly not least, we shared No. 55 (Book of Changes), by Eva Vargo of linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves. A Swedish artist who has lived abroad for a large part of her life, she has been influenced by each country in which she has lived. iFrom the time she began using paper strings and papers from old Japanese and Korean books in her woven works, it has been an exciting journey for her and it is still a path she keeps on exploring.

Eva Vargo Book of Changes
No. 55 (Book of Changes), Eva Vargo
linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves, 31.75″ x 29.375″ x 1.5″, 2019

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Wishing You the Magic of the Season and an Artful New Year!

Megalith IV & V, Simone Pheulpin, 2001 photo by Tom Grotta



Dispatches: Studio Visits UK

During the end of October and beginning of November, Tom and Carter traveled throughout the UK on a photo adventure, capturing eight artists at work From London to Derbyshire to Chesterfield, Bristol and New Hebden Bridge. They experienced the countryside, the railway system, local cuisine and the graciousness of the artists they visited. Each studio space was unique — from Laura Ellen Bacon’s wee “treehouse” to Susie Gillespie’s compound in a converted cider mill to Chris Drury’s charming cottage. The artists were extremely generous with their time and thoughts. We are hoping to compile the photos in a series of books one day. In the meantime, enjoy a quick view of our extraordinary trip.

Susie Gillespie’s Barn

New Hebden Bridge

Cemetery in New Hebden Bridge by Sue Lawty’s Studio

Photographing the art at dinner in London after photographing Caroline Bartletts studio

Kings Cross London on the way to photographing Rachel Maxs studio

Photographing an outdoor land sculpture by Chris Drury

Carter carrying into the barn a Laura Ellen Bacon Basket for a photographing

Manor Farm Dethick after photographing Laura Ellen Bacon on the way to Gizella Warburtons studio

Leaving Gizella Warburtons studio after a full day photo session

On our way to Dail Behennah studio in Bristol

After dinner in Bristol

Susie Gillespie’s weaving studio for her students


It’s a Mystery — Can You Help Us Solve It?

This arresting tapestry is from the personal collection of Mariette Rousseau-Vermette of Canada. Rousseau-Vermette participated in several of the Biennials of International Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland. At the Biennials, artists for all over the world had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and inspiration and, in some cases, traded works of art with one another. Rousseau-Vermette also headed the Fibres Department at the Banff Centre for the Arts from 1980. In 1981, the Banff Centre hosted the third Fibre Interchange, a gathering of experts from the fiber arts world. Noted guests included: Parisian fibre artist Daniel Gaffin; MoMA’s Mildred Constantine; The Whitney Museum’s curator. Patterson Sims and acclaimed American artist Sheila Hicks. The Centre also hosted visiting artists from all over, including Jolanta Owidzka and Magdalena Abakanowicz so Rousseau-Vermette had another chance for art exchange. So, Rousseau-Vermette might have come by this work in either of those ways. The work is 13.25″ by 12″, made of wool and includes an interesting symbol –maybe a signature? — in the right-hand corner. We asked Jolanta Owidzka, but she did not recognize it. Maybe you do??
If you have an idea of who it might be, we’d welcome the information. The first three people to give us a clue will receive a copy of Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection. Please contact us at art@browngrotta.com.

Additional works from Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s collection include:

Warszawa, Jolanta Owidzka, wool, linen and metallic thread, 90″ x 68″,1967

2ws Untitled, Wojciech Sadley , mixed media, 32” x 24”, 1968


Art Lives Well-Lived: Mary Giles

Mary Giles 1995

Mary Giles Portrait 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

We were heartbroken to learn of artist Mary Giles’s passing last month. Giles was a light – casting warmth and humor wherever she went. We have been fortunate to represent her work at browngrotta arts for many years and were delighted she could join us in Wilton for our 30th anniversary exhibition last year.

30th Anniversary Portrait

30th Anniversary exhibit artist portrait.
Photo by Tom Grotta

Giles received the James Renwick Alliance Master of the Medium Award in Fiber in 2013. In receiving the award, Giles spoke of her process and her sources of inspiration: “I have always been influenced by place and especially the natural world in those places. In the early 80’s, having taken up scuba diving, I did a series based on sea life called “walking tentacles.” Later, during many trips to New Mexico, I discovered mesa forms as well as Native American kivas and petroglyphs. Those sources dominated my work for over 10 years. Most recently the changing light, colors, and patterns seen from our retirement home on the banks of the St. Croix River in Minnesota have informed by work. My ideas are an accumulation, my sources most often from nature and my pallet is drawn from the colors of earth, water, wood and stone.” You can read the full text of her remarks on arttextstyle: http://arttextstyle.com/2013/05/18/master-remarks-mary-giles/

vessels and wall works

Mary Giles Vessels and wallworks
Photos by Tom Grotta

Giles reveled in the tactile, reflective and and malleable materials. She is represented in the Erie Art Museum’s permanent collection by a meticulously made basket of porcupine quills. The materials she used on the surface of the coiled forms were individually hammered pieces of 12- to 18-gauge wire made of copper, tinned copper, iron, lead or brass. By torching the metals she was able to alter the colors in varying degrees enabling me to blend them from darks to brights, a blending she used to interpret the colors, textures and light that she saw in the natural settings.
Some years ago Giles began creating wall panels that dealt with her concerns about population and explored ideas of density and boundaries. They were not baskets but the figures incorporated were like those that had been featured on her vessels. The first expression of this theme was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse, directly on a gallery wall.

Mary Giles Boulders

3 Mary Giles Boulders
Photo by Tom Grotta

Giles’ work has been displayed in numerous galleries and museums in the United States including the Barbican Centre in London, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Yale Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts. She represented the U.S. at the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland.
She is one of 20 artists featured in a current article in 1st dibs online magazine Introspective: “20 Women Designers Young and Resurgent Stand Side by Side,” which you can read here: https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/tag/mary-giles/. Her work is also featured in eight catalogs published by browngrotta arts available on our website: http://store.browngrotta.com/sara-brennan-tapestry-and-mary-giles-fiber-sculpture/.

Recap: Whirlwind Art Week in Wilton at browngrotta arts

VIP Preview

VIP-opening, photo by Carter Grotta

We had record crowds in attendance and a record number of sales at browngrotta arts in Wilton last week for Blue/Green: color/code/context. At our VIP preview event on Friday, we hosted our clients, collectors and art appreciators and our event sponsors from Litchfield Distilleryvenü Magazine and Country Club Homes.

Karl Dolnier parking cars at Blue/Green opening. Photo by Carter Grotta

Artist Dinner record crowds

Artist Dinner after Artist Reception. Photo by Carter Grotta

Saturday we hosted 10 artists from the exhibition (Keiji Nio and family all the way from Japan, Kiyomi Iwata from Virginia, Pat Campbell from Maine, Lewis Knauss, Nancy Koenigsberg, Polly Barton and Tamiko Kawata from New York, Wendy Wahl from Rhode Island and Dawn MacNutt from Nova Scotia) and loads of visitors, too. Sunday and Monday we were busy all day.

SDA Walkthrough record crowds

Surface Design Association Talk. Photo by Carter Grotta

Tuesday we hosted a good crowd of appreciative and knowledgable members of the Surface Design Association.

Designer Talk

Mae Colburn presentation of Helena Hernmarck work at the Architecture and Designer Talk. Photo by Carter Grotta

Wednesday was educational — we presented Material Matter: Integrating Art Textiles and Fiber Sculpture into Interiors and Architecture with the help of Mae Colburn from Helena Hernmarck’s studio and some interior shots from Walter Cromwell at Country Club Homes. Those in attendance were eligible to get Continuing Education Credit from the Interior Design Continuning Education Council.

westport arts center

westport arts center

Thursday brought the Westport Arts Council Board and patrons another educated and interested audience.

Ports of cause

Ports of cause fundraiser. photo by Harrison James O’Brien

Friday was Art•Ocean•Energy, an immersive art experience for supporters of Ports of Cause, a 501(c)3 driven to promote, inspire and accelerate innovative and sustainable solutions and practices that reduce the impact luxury living and everyday lifestyles have on our oceans. Those who joined us on Friday, heard Tom speak about our artists’ dedication to sustainable art and art practices and

Arthur Bavelas

Arthur Bavelas talking at Ports of Cause fundraiser. photo by Harrison James O’Brien

Arthur Bavelas, Founder of the Bavelas Group Family Office & Family Office Insights of New York City, speak about How sustainable innovation is driving the blue economy while benefiting our oceans and natural resources. A lively discussion followed. Saturday was a full day as was Sunday. Sunday evening we concluded our 10-day annual opening with a informed and engaged group from the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Hope we’ll see you at browngrotta arts in 2019 at one or more of our annual events. In the meantime, you can find us online at browngrotta.com; talking about events and acquisitions and other art stuff at arttextstyle.com and on Facebook, posting items and images on Twitter and Instagram and videos on the browngrotta arts YouTube Channel.


First Look: Blue/Green: color/code/context, April 28th – May 6th at bga, Wilton, CT

Blue Green exhibition Marian Bijlenga

30mb Dutch Blue (Oval), Marian Bijlenga
camelhair, fabric, stitched
35” x 35”, 2006, photo by Tom Grotta

For this year’s Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to enter a blue or green period of their own and send us a work that conveyed one of the many meanings, connotations and moods of these colors. The result is Blue/Green: color/code/context, an exhibition of remarkably diverse works from more than 50 artists from 15 countries. Marian Bijlenga of the Netherlands, for example, has created an enigmatic wall work inspired by Dutch blue china fragments. The work is inspired, she says,  by the patterns of Chinese porcelain and the Japanese philosophy of the reuse of broken tiles and her collection of Dutch blue shards, collected in Amsterdam.

Ceramic Blue Green exhibition

Yasuhisa Kohyama
51yk Kaze
ceramic
14.75” x 11.5” x 4.75”, 2017

Yasuhisa Kohyama has created, Kaze,  a ceramic with a grey-greenish cast, hand built and wood fired in an anagama kiln. “With the properties of the shigaraki clay and its inclusions of feldspar and silica, the high heat, the atmosphere in the kiln and the falling of the wood ash on the pots all present, warm colors as well as attractive markings can be captured on the surface of the clay,” Kohyama explains. “The blue-green and red-orange colors develop in the mid-section of the kiln; In the back of the kiln, a heavily reduced atmosphere creates rich dark gray and brown colors.”

Tapestry Blue Green exhibition

4gp Thin Green Horizon
Gudrun Pagter, sisal, linen and flax
45.25” x 55”, 2017

The Green Horizon is the striking abstract tapestry created by Gudrun Pager of Denmark for the exhibition. “Perhaps it is the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth – or the line between heaven and earth?” Pagter muses. “The thin, horizontal line is made with many shades of blue and green thin linen. The main color is blue, but the thin, green horizon is essential to the whole picture.”

Wendy Wahl Blue Green exhibition

37ww Changing Tides
Encyclopedia Britannica pages
27” x 42”, 2018

Encylopedia Britanica pages are the material Wendy Wahl uses to express our  station in  time, recognizable as they are as  a   part  of  a  particular  collective  consciousness. Wahl’s Changing Tides is made of 275  pages of the 1988 Encyclopedia Britannica Annual of World Data, the only book in Wahl’s collection of EB volumes that contained blue paper. The pages were cut into seven sections, for each of the continents, contemplatively scrolled and compressed into 1925  whorls to symbolize the reality of rising water around the globe. These four are just a sampling of the more than 70 works that will be on display in the Blue/Green: color/code/context exhibition and in the companion catalog, which will be available at www.browngrotta.com after April 28th. To visit Blue/Green: color/code/contexthere are the details:  Saturday, April 28th, 1-6 pm: Opening and Artists Reception

Sunday April 29th – Sunday May 6th, Viewing Hours 10-5 pm.
For more info: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php; 203-834-0623.
This year’s exhibition is co-sponsored by Litchfield Distillery.

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!


Text/iles: On Art that Includes Words and Text.

January 21 – May 6, 2018
Written languages are just one of the many ways human beings attempt to communicate with one another. In Text Message: Words and Letters in Contemporary Art, currently on exhibit at the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, contemporary artists, recognizing the power and complexity of the written word, utilize text—individual letters or words—to explore theoretical, social, symbolic, and aesthetic concerns.

Sampler (Jacket)

2 Laws, Barbara Brandel, Sampler (Jacket), 1995, dyed cotton, silk, and wool
Photo by Jon Bolton, Racine Art Musuem.

Bird Brain

Bird Brain, John McQueen, woven willow twigs, waxed string, 2002, photo by Tom Grotta. On close inspection, the names of various birds are legible.

OLL KORRECT

OLL KORRECT, Gyöngy Laky, apricot, finished pine, vinyl-caoted steel nails, 1998

The Congressional Record

The Congressional Record, Kate Hunt, nails, twine, encaustic and Congressional Record pages.

paper collage

Torso, Miriam Londoño, paper collage, 2011

The exhibition includes works that use words, letters, and script to convey meaning. Tangible three-dimensional objects made of fiber, clay, polymer, paper, and metal along with two-dimensional works on paper underscore how contemporary artists recognize the power and complexity of the written word. John McQueen and Gyöngy Laky are among the 77 artists whose work is included. The exhibition ends on May 6, 2018. For more information, visit: https://www.ramart.org/content/text-message-words-and-letters-contemporary-craft. To pique your interest, here are some images of art by various artists who incorporate or reference text in their work.

Heidrun Schimmel

was du weiß auf schwarz besitzt (text/textile), Heidrun Schimmel, cotton and silk, 2009, photo by Tom Grotta. Not literally text, but stitching that feels like a message to be deciphered.

Toshio Sekiji

Shadow Alphabet, Toshio Sekiji, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian newspapers; postcards; thin, Thai paper (backing); brown and black lacquer; acrylic varnish,  2002, photo by Tom Grotta