Category: Sculpture

Hot Off the Presses! Gyöngy Laky: Screwing With Order Now Available

Rib Structure, 1988 and her book Gyöngy Laky: Screwing With Order, Assembled Art, actions and creative practice. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We are thrilled to report that copies browngrotta arts’ latest book, Gyöngy Laky: Screwing With Order, Assembled Art, actions and creative practicehave arrived in the US from our publishing partner arnoldsche art publishers in Stuttgart, Germany. Order a copy on our website: http://browngrotta.com. Designed by Tom Grotta, with text edit assistance from Laky and Rhonda Brown, and featuring Tom’s photography and that of several other photographers, the book examines the career of renowned textile artist and sculptor Gyöngy Laky from three perspectives. First, is Laky’s personal story of immigration and education narrated by arts and culture writer, Mija Reidel. Second, is an assessment of the evolution and impetus for Laky’s artwork by David M. Roth, editor and publisher of Squarecylinder, a San Francisco Bay Area online visual art magazine. Third, are images of forms, vessels and wall works, 249 pages, divided into seven sections: Drawings in Air, Grids, Vessels, Words & Letters, Signs & Symbols, Site Installations, and Abstractions.

Sun Stream, 1995 and Flat Figure, 1992

Laky has been described as a “wood whisperer.” Her highly individual, puzzle-like assemblages of timber and textiles helped propel the growth of the contemporary fiber-arts movement. Laky’s art reflects an extraordinary personal story: Born amid the bombings of World War II, escaping from post-war, Soviet-dominated Hungary to a sponsor family in Ohio, attending grade school in Oklahoma, studying at the University of California, Berkeley and in India, then founding Fiberworks Center for Textile Arts in the 1970s and fostering innovations as a professor at the University of California, Davis. And, since the late 60s, she has been creating individual works and installations in the US and abroad. 

Line, 1992 and Oll Korrect, 1998

Laky’s oeuvre, which reflects those experiences, “defies easy classification,” writes David M. Roth. “It draws on the history of indigenous people using found or harvested objects to create art and basic necessities; the 20th-century tradition of using found objects in collage,assemblage and sculpture; and the design and engineering principles that undergird contemporary architecture.“ Symbols and three-dimensional words feature in much of Laky’s work — using wood in this way, Roth posits, is akin to learning a foreign language, and Laky is conversant in more than a dozen,”becoming conversant in the dialects ‘spoken’ by each species.” Pieces like Line have been described as “cheeky.” Letters in works like Lag can be read in more than one way — in this case, as “Gal,” a statement on the hiring of women faculty at the University of California. “[It’s] an intellectual kind of play,” says Bruce Pepich, executive director and curator of collections at the Racine Art Museum, in Wisconsin.”It’s not a conventional sense of humor, but it’s the kind one gets from walking into various layers that exist in objects …You can take them at face value, but the more questions you ask, the deeper your engagement goes.” You can engage with more of Laky’s story and her art in Screwing with Order. The book provides insight into Laky’s studio practice, activism, and teaching philosophy, which champions sustainable art and design, original thinking, and the value of the unexpected.

Detail: Natura Facit Saltum, 2011 . Photo by Tom Grotta.

Scenes from an Exhibition: Crowdsourcing the Collective this Week

Photo by Juan Pabon/Ezco Production

Despite some Covid cancellations, we’re enjoying good attendance to our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective; a survey of textile and mixed media art this week. We had visitors in line on Sunday morning. We have had artists stop by, including Dawn MacNutt, Norma Minkowitz, Wendy Wahl, Nancy Koenigsberg, Jeannet Lennderste and Kari Lønning. We are hoping to see Blair Tate and Christine Joy later in the week.

We’ve had visits from groups from the Wilton Encore Club and Westport MoCA and a curator from the Flinn Gallery at the Greenwich Public Library. We are expecting more curators yet this week. 

The inspiration for the works in Crowdsourcing is of great interest to those attending. Lia Cook’s tapestries incorporate images of ferns from her California garden. Blair Tate experiments in visual layering based on frescoes interrupted by superimposed paintings and incised niches that she saw throughout Bologna. She rearranged separately woven strips to create windows on the wall — intentionally splintered, fragmented, unsettled as a reflection of our times. Dawn MacNutt’s works of seagrass and copper wire, The Last One Standing and Interconnected, are the last two works remaining from her earlier series, Kindred Spirits.

Dawn MacNutt and Norma Minkowitz
Dawn MacNutt and Norma Minkowitz. Photo by Tom Grotta

There are five days remaining — hope you can join us.

Schedule Your Visit Here: 

Remainder of the exhibition
Thru – Saturday, May 14th: 10AM to 5PM (40 visitors/hour)

Final Day
Sunday, May 15th: 11AM to 6PM (40 visitors/ hour)

Address
276 Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897
(203)834-0623

Safety protocols
Eventbrite reservations strongly encouraged • We will follow current state and federal guidelines surrounding COVID-19 • As of March 1, 2022, masks are not required • We encourage you to wear a mask if your are not vaccinated or if you feel more comfortable doing so. • No narrow heels please (barn floors)

Art for a Cause: A portion of browngrotta arts’ profits for the months of May and June will benefit Sunflower of Peace, a non-profit group that provides medical and humanitarian aid for paramedics and doctors in areas that are affected by the violence in Ukraine. browngrotta arts will also match donations collected during the exhibition as part of browngrotta arts’ 2022 “Art for a Cause” initiative. A portion of the artists’ proceeds for certain works will also go to Sunflower of Peace: https://www.sunflowerofpeace.com/


Artists New to Crowdsourcing the Collective: Meet Jeannet Leendertse and Shoko Fukuda

Baskets by Jeannet Leendertse and Shoko Fukuda
Jeannet Leendertse, Drum-shaped Seaweed Vessel, coiled-and-stitched basket, rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 17″ x 9.5″ x 9.5″, 2022 and Shoko Fukuda, Loop with Corners, coiled ramie, monofilament, plastic, 12″ x 11.5″ x 5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

For our Spring exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art (May 7 -15) browngrotta arts is delighted to introduce the work of two artists new to the gallery, Jennet Leenderste, Netherlands, US and Shoko Fukuda, Japan. Each of them creates sinuous and supple objects — Leenderste of seaweed and Fukuda of sisal, ramie and raffia. 

Portrait Jeannet Leendertse
Jeannet Leendertse portrait by David Grinnell

Jeannet Leenderste crafted with fabric as a child. She studied graphic design in the Netherlands and at 27 left for New York in search of an internship. After completing her degree cum laude, she moved to the Boston area and became an award-winning book designer. In recent years, has turned her focus again to textiles. Having grown up on the Dutch shore, her fiber work responds to the rugged coast of Maine, where she now lives and finds sculptural forms in the landscape and its creatures. As an immigrant, she says, her Dutch culture and heritage are always with her, while she continues to make this new environment her home. Exploring the concept of belonging, she develops work that feels at home in this marine environment. Adaptation and reflection are ongoing. Her fiber process brings these outer and inner worlds together.

Seaweed Vessels
Reclining Seaweed Vessel, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled-and-stitched basket rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin 8″ x 13″ x 7″, 2022; Seaweed Vessel with Stipe Handle, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled-and-stitched basket, rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], sugar kelp [saccharina latissima] waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 11″ x 13″ x 5.5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My work grows from coastal impressions and material experimentation,” Leenderste explains. “It takes on a new life when moved out of the studio and placed back in its natural environment.” That feedback propels her process. “I feel a strong responsibility to consider my materials, and what my creative process will leave behind. She began foraging seaweed—in particular rockweed—to work with, and discovered the amazing benefits this natural resource provides. “Seaweed not only creates a habitat for countless species,” she says, “it sequesters carbon, and protects our beleaguered shoreline from erosion as our sea levels rise.  Rockweed vessels show the beauty of this ancient algae, while drawing attention to its environmental value.” Several examples of Leenderste’s seaweed works will be featured in Crowdsourcing the Collective.

Portrait Shoko Fukuda
Shoko Fukuda portrait by Makoto Yano

Shoko Fukuda is a basketmaker and Japanese artist who holds a Bachelor of Design from Kyoto University of Art and Design, and a Master’s degree from Osaka University of Art, where she focused on research in textile practice.  She has exhibited her work internationally for the past 10 years. Shoko Fukuda currently works as an instructor at Kobe Design University in the Fashion Design department.

At browngrotta arts, we were recommended to Fukuda’s work by noted basketmaker Hisako Sekijima. “I encountered Sekijima’s artworks about 20 years ago,” Fukuda says. “Lines made with expressive plant materials were woven into an abstract and three-dimensional shapes. I had never seen such small artworks, like architectural structures before. I have been fascinated by the structural visibility and the various characteristics of the constructive form consisting, of regular lines ever since then.” 

Fiber Sculptures by Shoko Fukuda
Vertical and Horizontal Helix, Shoko Fukuda, raffia, 5.125″ x 6″ x 7.5″, 2015; Traced Contour II, ramie, monofilament, plastic, 6.5″ x 17″ x 3.5″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Loop With Corners, Fukuda considered how to create a multifaceted form from a flat surface. By making corners, shapes are formed based on intentional decisions that lead to unexpected tortuous and twisted shapes. By weaving and fastening as if making a corner, a rotating shape was created. The movement of coiling creates a rhythm, and the lines being woven together leave organic traces in the air. In Vertical and Cylindrical helix is made of cylindrical spirals stacked like layers. They were woven from different directions — up and down, left and right — to form a single piece. The work has a dense structure, dyed black and shaped like a tightly closed shell. 

Fukuda is interested in “distortion” as a characteristic of basket weaving. “As I coil the thread around the core and shape it while holding the layers together, I look for the cause of distortion in the nature of the material, the direction of work and the angle of layers to effectively incorporate these elements into my work. The elasticity and shape of the core significantly affect the weaving process, as the thread constantly holds back the force of the core trying to bounce back outward.” By selecting materials and methods for weaving with the natural distortion in mind, Fukuda saw the possibility of developing twists and turns. “I find it interesting to see my intentions and the laws of nature influencing each other to create forms.”

Fukuda’s work, like Leenderste’s, will be well represented at Crowdsourcing the Collective, our Spring 2022 exhibition. Join us at browngrotta arts May 7-15, 2022. Save your space here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237


Art in the Barn at browngrotta arts this May – Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art

Włodzimierz Cygan, Stéphanie Jacques
On the wall Włodzimierz Cygan, sculptures by Stéphanie Jacques. photo by Tom Grotta

This May, browngrotta arts presents their Spring 2021 Art in the Barn exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: survey of textile and mixed media art  (May 7 – 15, 2021). It will be accompanied by our 53rd catalog, available on browngrotta.com after May 6th.

Chang Yeonsoon, Naomi Kobayashi
Chang Yeonsoon, The Path which leads to the center GR-202101, teflon mesh, pure gold leaf, eco-friendly resin, 8″ x 8″ x 4.25″, 2021; ITO Naomi Kobayashi, Coma, cotton thread, 20″ x 20″ x 2.25″, 1982. photo by Tom Grotta

The 40 artists in Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art illustrate the vitality of art textiles, ceramics and mixed media. The growing prominence of these art forms finds them the subject of exhibitions in major museums, intermixed with paintings and traditional sculpture in ways unthinkable a decade ago. The journey of the artists in Crowdsourcing the Collective tells us much about where craft and fiber art are now, and about how they got here. Some of the artists began working during craft and fiber art’s less popular period in the ’80s and ‘90s; some have been working since fiber art’s first heyday in the ’70s. Their education, experience and inspiration vary. They differ in material and approach. They come from more than a dozen countries around the world and the influence of those places is often evident in their work.

works by Polly Sutton
Works by Polly Sutton: Quatro, cedar bark, cane, 5” x 8.375” x 8.125”, 2022; Wila, cedar bark, ash, spruce root, 6.875” x 10.75” x 9.75”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

This exhibition reflects the astonishing range of materials and techniques that make this work so well regarded. Tapestries of silk and agave, sculptures of seaweed, seagrass and willow, wall works made of sandpaper, hemp and horsehair and ceramics of Shigaraki clay will all be included. The scope of these artists’ preoccupations are on view here, too — from environmental concerns, to questions of the cosmos and identity, to explorations of material and process. It includes new work, work from earlier periods and work from artists we have invited specifically for this exhibition. Come and see what we have compiled!

Reserve a space on Eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crowdsourcing-the-collective-a-survey-of-textiles-and-mixed-media-art-tickets-292520014237

Exhibition Dates/Hours

Opening & Artists Reception
Saturday, May 7th: 11AM to 6PM (300 Visitor Cap)

Remainder of the exhibition
Sunday, May 8th: 11AM to 6 PM (40 visitors/hour)
Monday, May 9th – Saturday, May 14th: 10AM to 5PM (40 visitors/hour)

Final Day
Sunday, May 15th: 11AM to 6PM (40 visitors/ hour)

Address
276 Ridgefield Road Wilton, CT 06897

Safety protocols
Eventbrite reservations strongly encouraged • We will follow current state and federal guidelines surrounding COVID-19 • As of March 1, 2022, masks are not required • No narrow heels please (barn floors)


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

The Japandí Catalog (our 52nd) is Available

Birgit Birkkjaer and Kay Sekimachi spread
Birgit Birkkjaer and Kay Sekimachi spread from: Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

For browngrotta arts, documentation of the field of contemporary art textiles is critically important. Like a tree falling in the forest, if we don’t document an exhibition we’ve curated it’s a bit like if it didn’t happen. Generally, our exhibitions include catalogs that feature individual images of each artwork included, and often, an artist’s statement for each work. In addition, we typically feature essays by curators and scholars who take a broader look at the work or the exhibition theme.

Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences catalog cover
Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences catalog cover

For our latest catalog, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences https://store.browngrotta.com/catalogs/ (our 52nd), however, we took a slightly different approach. Japandi is a term that refers to the aesthetic kinship one sees between art and design of Japan and the Scandinavian countries. To illustrate affinities, we created spreads — room- or wall-sized groupings of works from each region, rather than highlighting individual artworks. We included the artists’ recollections about how they discovered another culture or how other cultures have influenced their work. We added statements from designers, architects and authors about the similarities they have observed. 

Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences catalog cover
Works by Merja Winqvist, Naoko Serino, Kari Lønning and Yasuhisa Kohyama from Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

Instead of commissioning an essay, we shared with you what we discovered about Japandi as we researched this exhibition. The introductory text, Mapping Affinities, explains that the roots of Japanese/Nordic synergy extend to the 19th century. It also explains that the trendy term, Japandi, refers to four elements, which the introduction describes: appreciation for exquisite craftsmanship and natural and sustainable materials, minimalism and respect for the imperfect (wabi-sabi) and the comfortable (hygge). The introduction also describes how the artists included experience the Japandi elements differently — some through study, some through travel. Still others describe recognizing these parallels in ways as something they were always aware of and acted upon.

textile by Chiyoko Tanaka, basket by Kazue Honma and wood sculpture by Markku Kosonen
Textile by Chiyoko Tanaka, basket by Kazue Honma and wood sculpture by Markku Kosonen from Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

Not all the work that is in the catalog appeared in the exhibition — we included these works to further illustrate our sense of the regions’ common approaches.

Åse Ljones wall hanging and Ceramic by Yasuhisa Kohyama spread
Åse Ljones wall hanging and Ceramic by Yasuhisa Kohyama spread from Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences

We hope you’ll get a copy of Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences https://store.browngrotta.com/catalogs/ and see for yourself. 


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/


Elements of Japandi: Minimalism and Simplicity

The term Japandi combines Japan and Scandinavia to reference aesthetic approaches shared by artisans in the two areas. browngrotta arts will be explore these affinities in our upcoming exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences (September 25 – October 3, 2021)Among the approaches that these cultures share is an appreciation for minimalism and simplicity. “Minimalist and mid-century designers have always been inspired by the design culture of Japan, so the cross between Scandinavian and Japanese design is rooted in a storied tradition. Today, in the Japandi style, we see more of a fusion of these two aesthetics, which makes them feel like equal partners in the space,” observes Alessandra Wood, Vice President of Style, Modsy (Jessica Bennett, “Japandi Style Is the Laidback Home Trend We’ve Been Waiting For,” Better Homes and Gardens, January 05, 2021).

Grethe Wittrock Detail
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock (Denmark) white paperyarn knotted on steelplate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta

Danish artist Grethe Wittrock’s work includes expanses of twisted paper strands in single colors — minimal and simple yet powerful expressions of what Finnish Designer Alvar Aalto called “the language of materials.” Wittrock observed the similar appreciation for minimalism firsthand when she traveled to Japan and studied with Japanese paper makers and renowned indigo dyer, Shihoko Fukomoto. “I started to uncover what Nordic sensibilities are by living abroad,” Wittrock says. “I lived in Kyoto, and saw an aesthetic in Japanese design similar to the Nordic tradition. You could say that there is an agreement that less is more. As they say in the Nordic countries ‘even less is even more.’”

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

Japanese artists have made similar observations. Tamiko Kawata, born in Japan, but living in New York for many years, reports working as an artist/designer position with a prominent glass company in Tokyo after four years of sculpture composition, architectural drawing and photography courses at University. “In those years, I often discussed the affinities of Scandinavian craft works with my colleagues. ‘Why do we appreciate skilful craft works? How can we produce them with a similar approach to understanding the skills in handicrafts and understanding the natural materials and the appreciation for simplicity that we share ?’” Kawata’s very first design, a set of crystal glass bowls, were exhibited with Scandinavian works in the SEIBU department store in Tokyo in 1959. They were purchased by Swedish artist/designer Stig Lindbergh who pronounced them the “most original glass designs in Japan.” It was so thrilling to me,” she says. “I was just 23 years old.” 

Gudrun Pagter detail
Detail of Gudrun Pagter’s http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/pagter.php Thin Green Horizon, sisal, linen and flax, 45.5” x 55.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gudrun Pagter is another Danish artist whose abstract works in primary colors reflect the modernism for which Scandinavia is known. “From the exotic and foreign land we find an aesthetically common understanding of a minimalist idiom,” Pagter says, “an understanding of the core of a composition — that is, cutting off everything ‘unnecessary.'” Pagter expresses this minimalist idiom in her work. In Thin, Green Horizon, her composition expresses a form of landscape. It might be the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth, she says. In any case, the framed field shifts the horizontal line. There is a shade of difference between the two blue colors, the blue is slightly lighter in the framed field. 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. Pagter notes, “My old weaving teacher at the School of Design, said 40 years ago, ‘you have to be brave to express oneself simply, as a minimalist’ … I’m brave enough now, maybe!!”  

Kay Sekimachi weavings
Lines 2017, 10 Lines, 11 Lines, 17 Lines, 25 Squares, Kay Sekimachi linen, polyester warp, permanent marker, 13.5” x 13.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

A series of simple weavings by Kay Sekimachi, a Japanese-American artist who lives in California, is a testament to restraint. Her spare markings on handwoven fabrics reference the paintings of Paul Klee and Agnes Martin .”Order is fundamental,” to the Japanese approach, observes Hema Interiors in its style blog, “but it’s an order based on balance, fleeing from symmetry and overly controlled spaces. The decorative elements are important to give personal brushstrokes to the spaces, always resorting to simple and organic elements”  (“Wabi Sabi Interiors,” Comparar Estilios de Decoración, Hema Interiors).

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to see more examples of ways these elements are exchanged and expressed. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of 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. There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Lives well lived: Sandra Grotta

Sandra Grotta at her 80th birthday party. Jewelry by David Watkins, Gerd Rothmann and Eva Eisler. Photo by Tom Grotta

browngrotta arts is devasted by the loss of Sandra Grotta, our extraordinary collector and patron and mother and grandmother. Sandy and her husband Lou have been pivotal in the growth of browngrotta arts through their advice and unerring support. Sandy graduated from the University of Michigan and the New York School of Interior Design. For four decades, she provided interior design assistance to dozens of clients — many through more than one home and office. She encouraged them to live with craft art, as she and Lou had done, placing works by Toshiko Takezu, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Helena Hernmarck, Gyöngy Laky, Markku Kosonen, Mary Merkel-Hess and many other artists in her clients’ homes. Among her greatest design talents was persuading people to de-accession pieces they had inherited, but never loved, to make way for art and furnishings that provided them joy. Sandy was a uniquely confident collector and she shared that conviction with her clients.  

Her own collecting journey began in the late 1950s, when she and Lou first stepped into the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. “The Museum’s exhibitions, many of whose objects were for sale in its store, caused a case of love at first sight. It quickly became a founding source of many craft purchases to follow,” Sandy told Patricia Malarcher in 1982 (“Crafts,” The New York Times, Patricia Malarcher, October 24, 1982). It was a walnut table ”with heart” on view at MoCC that would irrevocably alter the collectors’ approach. The table was by Joyce and Edgar Anderson, also from New Jersey. The Grottas sought the artists out and commissioned the first of many works commissioned and acquired throughout the artists’ lifetimes, including a roll-top desk, maple server and a sofa-and-table unit that now live in browngrotta arts’ gallery space. She followed the advice she would give to others:  “When we saw the Andersons’ woodwork,” Sandy remembered, “we knew everything else had to go,” Sandy told Glenn Adamson. From the success of that first commission, the Grottas’ art exploration path was set. The Andersons introduced the Grottas to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “The Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” Sandy said, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator.”  

Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room
Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room surrounded by works by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Peter Vouklos, William Wyman, Toshiko Takaezu, Rudy Autio, Joyce and Edgar Anderson and Charle Loloma. Photo by Tom Grotta

When Objects USA: the Johnson Wax Collection, opened in New York in 1972 at MoCC, by then renamed the American Craft Museum, the Grottas began discovering work further afield. ”Objects USA was my Bible,” Sandy told Malarcher describing how she would search out artists, ceramists, woodworkers and jewelers. A trip to Ariel, Washington, led the Grottas to commission an eight-foot-tall Kwakiutl totem pole for the front hall by Chief Don Lelooska. Sandy ordered a bracelet by Charles Loloma from a picture in a magazine. ”I always got a little nervous when the packages came, but I’ve never been disappointed,” Sandy told Malarcher. ”Craftsmen are a special breed.” Toshiko Takaezu, as an example, would require interested collectors like the Grottas to come by her studio in Princeton, NJ, a few times first to “interview” before she’d permit them to acquire special works. It took 15 years and several studio visits each year for the Grottas to convince the artist to part with the “moon pot” that anchors their formidable Takaezu collection. Jewelers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins in the UK also became dear friends as Sandy developed a world-class jewelry collection. At one point, in a relationship that included weekly transatlantic calls, Sandy told Wendy she needed “everyday earrings.” Wendy responded with earrings for every day – seven pairs in fact. “For me, the surprise was that they found me,” says John McQueen. “I lived in Western New York state far from the hubbub of the art world.” McQueen says that he discovered they the Grotta’s were completely open to any new aesthetic experience. “from that moment, we established a strong connection, that has led to a rapport that has continued through the years – a close personal and professional relationship.”

Sandy Grotta's bust by Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s portrait of Sandy Grotta sourounded by artwork’s by Alexander Lichtveld, Bodil Manz, Lenore Tawney, Ann Hollandale, Kay Sekimachi, Ed Rossbach, Toshiko Takaezu, Laurie Hall. Photo by Tom Grotta

Their accumulation of objects has grown to include more that 300 works of art and pieces of jewelry by dozens of artists, and with their Richard Meier home, has been the subject of two books. The most recent, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft, was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta of bga. They don’t consider themselves collectors in the traditional sense, content to exhibit art on just walls and surfaces. Sandy and Lou’s efforts were aimed at creating a home. They filled every aspect of their lives with handcrafted objects from silver- and tableware to teapots to clothing to studio jewelry and commissioned pillows, throws and canes, a direction she also recommended for her interior design clients. The result, writes Glenn Adamson in The Grotta Home,”is a home that is at once totally livable and deeply aesthetic.” Among the additional artists whose work the Grottas acquired for their home were wood worker Thomas Hucker, textile and fiber artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Norma Minkowitz, ceramists Peter Voulkos, Ken Ferguson and William Wyman and jewelers Gijs Bakker, Giampaolo Babetto, Axel Russmeyer and Eva Eisler. They have traveled to Japan, the UK, Czechoslovakia, Germany and across the US to view art and architecture and meet with artists.

Perhaps their most ambitious commission was the Grotta House, by Richard Meier. Designed to house and highlight craft and completed in 1989, it is a source of constant delight for the couple, with its shifting light, showcased views of woodlands and wildlife and engaging spaces for object installation. The Grottas were far more collaborative clients than is typical for Meier. “From our very first discussions,” Meier has written,”it was clear that their vast collection of craft objects and Sandy’s extensive experience as an interior designer would be an important in the design of the house.“ The sensitivity with which the collection was integrated into Meier’s design produced “an enduring harmony between an ever-changing set of objects and they space they occupy.” The unique synergy between objects and architecture is evident decades later, even as the collection has evolved.  Despite his “distinct — and ornament-free — visual language, Meier created a building that lets decorative objects take a leading role on the architectural stage,” notes Osman Can Yerebakan in Introspective magazine (“Tour a Richard Meier–Designed House That Celebrates American Craft,” Osman Can Yerebakan, Introspective, February 23, 2020). The house project had an unexpected benefit — a professional partnership between Sandy and Grotta House project manager, David Ling, that would result in memorable art exhibition and living spaces designed for the homes and offices of many of Sandy’s design clients.

Sandy and Lou became patrons of the American Craft Museum in 1970s. As a member of the Associates committee she organized several annual fundraisers for the Museum, including Art for the Table, E.A.T. at McDonald’s and Art to Wear, sometimes with her close friend, Jack Lenor Larsen, another assured acquirer, as co-chair. At the openings, she would sport an artist-made piece of jewelry or clothing, sometimes both, and often it was an item that arrived or was finished literally hours before the event. “I wear all my jewelry,” she told Metalsmith Magazine in 1991 (Donald Freundlich and Judith Miller, “The State of Metalsmithing and Jewelry,” Metalsmith Magazine, Fall 1991) “I love to go to a party where everyone is wearing pearls and show up in a wild necklace …. I have a house brooch by Künzli – a big red house that you wear on your shoulder. I can go to a party in a wild paper necklace and feel as good about it as someone else does in diamonds.” Sandy served on the Board of the by-then-renamed Museum of Arts and Design, stepping down in 2019. 

Portrait of Sandy Grotta
Sandra Grotta Portrait in Florida Apartment in front of sculptures by Dawn MacNutt and a tapestry by Jun Tomita

From its inception, Sandy served as a trusted advisor, cheerleader and cherished client to browngrotta arts. She introduced us to artists, to her design clients and Museum colleagues. Questions of aesthetic judgment — are there too many works in this display? too much color? does this work feel unfinished? imitative? decorative? — were presented to her for review. (She was unerring on etiquette disputes, too.) The debt we owe her is enormous; the void she leaves is large indeed. We can only say thank you, we love you and your gifts will live on.

You can learn more about Sandy’s life and legacy on The Grotta House website: https://grottahouse.com and in the book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft available from browngrotta at: https://store.browngrotta.com/the-grotta-home-by-richard-meier-a-marriage-of-architecture-and-craft/.

The family appreciates memorial contributions to the Sandra and Louis Grotta Foundation, Inc., online at https://joingenerous.com/louis-and-sandra-grotta-foundation-inc-r5yelcd or by mail to The Louis and Sandra Grotta Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 766, New Vernon, NJ 07976-0000.


New for Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences – Meet Gjertrud Hals

Portrait of Gjertrud Halls
Artist portrait by Omar Sejnæs

The Fall 2021 exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences at browngrotta arts begins on September 25th and runs through October 3rd. It will explore common aesthetic approaches between artists in Scandinavian and Japan. It features 39 artists from Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. One of those artists is Gjertrud Hals of Norway whose work will be shown at browngrotta arts for the first time.

Educated as a tapestry weaver, Hals soon began experimenting with other techniques. The manner in which fiber innovators Sheila Hicks, Claire Zeisler and Magdalena Abakanowicz explored the sculpture possibilities of the medium interested and informed her work. She has worked with fishing nets, cotton and linen threads, paper pulp, metals, crochet and lacework. Her breakthrough came in the late 1980s with Lava, an innovative series of urns made of cotton and flax pulp that were 3-feet high. These vessels marked her transition from textile to fiber art.

Terra 2021-2
2gh Terra 2021-2, Gjertrud Halls, linen thread, resin, 16.5″ x 10″ x 10″, 2021

Hals has spent time in many countries, including India, Jordan, Norway and Japan. Her experiences there influence her work, in the ways the Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences exhibition seeks to highlight. “I was born and raised on a small island on the northwestern coast of Norway,” she writes, “and this has to a large extent influenced my artwork. As a seasoned traveler I have observed many different cultures. Much of my artistic work is an attempt at expressing the connection between the islands micro-history and the world’s macro-history.”

Japan was one of the areas that has had a significant impact on Hals. “In my community, many men, and a few women, were working on ships sailing to America and the Far East. They were bringing home items from an exotic world; my uncle gave us a lamp of translucent shells that I never could get enough of! Since the few rare and exotic things we had in our modest post-war homes often were bought in places like Yokohama and Kobe, Japan early became the far away country I was dreaming of.” 

Terra 2021 details
Terra, 2021 series detail. Photo by Tom Grotta

Hals became interested in Zen Buddhism as a young artist in the 70s. Simplicity, meditation and paradox were aspects of Zen aesthetics that appealed to me.  So, when I eventually came to Japan, in 1989, I thought I was well informed.” However, she was not prepared for Shintoism, she writes, Japan’s ancient, nature-worshipping religion. which had a major impact on her. “Coming home, I felt a strong urge to find something in my own culture that could make sense of this experience. It led me to Voluspå; the Song of the Sybil, one of the most important epic poems in Norse mythology. Since then, I have returned to these sources again and again.”

Arte Morbida writes that Hals’ knitted vessels “show the close relationship between the three emotional components of our aesthetic perception: light, a living and impalpable material that conveys emotions and moods, shadow, that transforms and hides, and form, which gives body and substance to the idea.” 

Terra 2021-7-8
8gh Terra 2021-8, Gjertrud Halls, copper and iron wire, 8.25″ x 8.25″ x 8.25″, 2021; 7gh Terra 2021-7, Gjertrud Halls, twigs thread, paper pulp, 8″ x 9″ x 9″, 2021

We are delighted to present eight of Hals’ works at our upcoming exhibtion, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences. The hours of exhibition 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. There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.

Make an appointment through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences-tickets-165829802403.