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An Unexpected Approach — Contemporary Art for NY Asian Art Week 2019

Top: Grinded Fabric-Three Squares Blue Threads and Blue #689, Chiyoko Tanaka
Bottom: (Left) Ceramic 49, Yasuhisa Kohyama
(Right) Ceramic 50, Yasuhisa Kohyama.
Photo by Tom Grotta

For the 10th year, New York is celebrating Asian Art Week from March 13th – 23rd and we’ve prepared related programming of our own. Through the end of this month, browngrotta arts is presenting An Unexpected Approach: Exploring Asian Contemporary Art, an online exhibition featuring 21 accomplished artists from Japan, Korea and the US, whose work reflects a contemporary Asian sensibility. 

Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman, silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990. Photo by Tom Grotta

More than three dozen works are included in the exhibition. including select works of ceramic, textile, basketry and sculpture. The artists in this exhibition, including Jiro Yonezawa, Yasuhisa Kohyama, Glen Kaufman and Shin Young-Ok, have an understanding of traditional processes and aesthetics, but apply this understanding in a contemporary manner. Conventional Asian materials and/or techniques are featured, but often used in unconventional ways.  

Indigo Grid, Kiyomi Iwata, silk organza, 39″ x 29″ x 5″, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Kiyomi Iwata, for example, who has lived in the US for many years, explores the boundaries of East and West using silk organza metal. She creates sculptures that combine traditional Japanese aesthetics — organza boxes with kimono references – in minimalist grids, forms common in contemporary Western art.

Chiyoko Tanaka, who lives on the outskirts of Kyoto, weaves fabric on a traditional obi loom, then distresses it with brick and mud or clay. By grinding her newly woven cloth with earth, she exposes that original warp, unveiling the essence of the fabric. She says of her deconstructions, “I feel that my woven work is about time and the human condition.”

New York Skyline I + II, Jin-Sook So, steel mesh, electroplated silver, patinated, gold leaf, thread, 33″ x 39.5″ 2.25″, 2006

Jin-Sook So’s work is informed by time spent in Korea, Sweden and Japan. So uses transparent 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 old Korean schoolbook pages to create collage and steel mesh to create contemporary pojagi and to re-envision common objects — chairs, boxes and bowls. 

Lyric Space, Shin Young-Ok, Korean silk fabric and handmade ramie threads, 26.4″ x 26.4″ x .75″, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Kyoko Kumai, the subject of a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, also works in steel, using steel threads to weave or spin strikingly contemporary clouds of steel. Jiro Yonezawa has received numerous awards for his bamboo vessels and sculpture. Formally trained in Beppu, Japan, Jonezawa then moved to the US, and when he did so, the lacquered twill-patterned form associated with Beppu was transformed by the artist into sensuous sculptural vessels, formal yet more freely formed.

 You can view An Unexpected Approach: Exploring Contemporary Asian Art Online by visiting browngrotta arts’ You Tube channel.  You can see each individual work in the exhibition on Artsy.

The complete list of artists participating in this exhibition is: CHANG YEONSOON; YASUHISA KOHYAMA; NAOKO SERINO; KEIJI NIO; KIYOMI IWATA; KYOKO KUMAI;JIN-SOOK SO; SHIN YOUNG-OK; NANCY MOORE BESS;JIRO YONEZAWA; TSURUKO TANIKAWA; GLENN KAUFMAN; NORIKO TAKAMIYA; NAOMI KOBAYASHI; HISAKO SEKIJIMA; MUTSUMI IWASAKI; JUN TOMITA; MASAKO YOSHIDA; HIDEHO TANAKA; CHIYOKO TANAKA; HIROYUKI SHINDO


Art Out and About — Exhibitions in the US and Abroad

Detail of Imprint by Caroline Bartlett. Photo by Yeshen Venema & The National Centre for Craft & Design

ABROAD

Ctrl/Shift – Sleaford, United Kingdom
Across the pond, Ctrl/Shift: New Directions in Textile Art is currently on show at the National Centre for Craft & Design. Ctrl/Shift, which features work by browngrotta arts artist Caroline Bartlett, presents a wide variety of pieces which present how artists transform their pieces through their creative processes. Focusing on shifts, changes and adaptability, the exhibition highlights the impact of innovative contemporary themes, ideas and technologies on textile art.  Click HERE for more information.

El Anatsui: Material Wonder  – London, United Kingdom
El Anatsui’s work is on view at October Gallery in London through the end of April. The exhibition, El Anatsui: Material Wonder, coincides with the largest retrospective of Anatsui’s work,  El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale, at Haus der Kunst, Munich. Throughout his influential career, Anatsui has experimented with a variety of mediums, including cement, ceramics, tropical hardwood corrugated iron, and bottle-top, to name a few. October Gallery’s exhibition includes a variety of metal wall sculptures accompanied by a series of prints made in collaboration with Factum Arte. Want to see these one-of-a-kind pieces? Head over to October Gallery’s website HERE for visiting information.



Rehearsal, El Anatsui, Aluminum and copper wire, 406 x 465 cm, 2015. Photo Jonathan Greet/October Gallery.

A Considered Place – Drumoak, Scotland
A Considered Place, an upcoming exhibition at Drum Castle in Drumoak, Scotland, will share the work of browngrotta arts artists Jo Barker and Sara Brennan, along with Susan Mowatt, Andrea Walsh and Jane Bustin. The exhibition’s location, Drum Castle, is encircled by late 18th rose gardens and trees from all regions of the 18th century British Empire. Make a day of the outing, starting with a stroll through A Considered Place concluded by a relaxing afternoon wandering around the estate’s grounds. Curious about Drum Castle or A Considered Place, click HERE for more information.

Fendre L’air – Paris, France
In Paris, Jiro Yonezawa is among artists featured in Fendre L’air, an elegant exhibition of bamboo basketry at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac. Fendre L’air is the first French exhibition to pay homage to the exquisite craft and creativity of Japanese basket makers. Composed of 160 works, the exhibition delves into the art and history of Japanese basketry. Japanese basketry, which we have discussed in length across many blog posts, grew in popularity during the Meiji era as the revival of a certain type of tea ceremony in which bamboo baskets and containers were used for flower arrangments. As creativity has flourished, baskets have become less utilitarian and more decorative. Today, the work of many Japanese basket makers is so impactful, that the artists themselves have become living national treasures. Click HERE or more information on  Fendre L’air.


Certainty / Entropy (Peranakan 2), Aiko Tezuka, h27 x w76 x b71.5 cm, 2014. Loan:
Aiko Tezuka/Galerie Michael Janssen. Photo:
Edward Hendricks

Cultural Threads – Tilburg, Netherlands
If you happen to be in the Netherlands in upcoming months make sure to check out  Cultural Threads at the Textiel Museum in Tilburg. Featuring work by Eylem Aladogan, Célio Braga, Hana Miletić, Otobong Nkanga, Mary Sibande, Fiona Tan, Jennifer Tee, Aiko Tezuka and Vincent Vulsma, the exhibition focuses on textiles as  a tool for socio-political reflection. “We live in a world where boundaries between countries and people are becoming increasingly blurred, power relations are shifting radically and cultures are mixing,” states the Textiel Museum. As a medium, the unique qualities of textiles provide artists with a plethora of ways to communicate and explore identity in a globalizing world.  Find more information on the Cultural Threads HERE.  

Artapestry V – Arad, Romania
Gudrun Pagter’s work in Artapestry V is making its final appearance in Romania at the Arad Art Museum as the traveling international exhibition comes to a close. The exhibition, which has traveled across Europe, stopping in Denmark, Sweden and Lativa, features the work of artists from 12 European countries. Presented by the European Tapestry forum,  Artapestry V aims to raise the profile of tapestry as an art form and conjure artistic interest in the medium. Find more information on the European Tapestry Forum’s website HERE.

UNITED STATES

The Art of Defiance: Radical Materials at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York. Photo:Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

The Art of Defiance: Radical Materials – New York, NY  
The current Michael Rosenfeld Gallery exhibition, The art of Defiance: Radical Materials, examines how artists such as Barbara Chase-Riboud, Betye Saar, Hannelore Baron, Nancy Grossman have utilized unique, groundbreaking materials in their work. For the exhibition, each artist utilized materials defined by their physicality, “representing a freedom from the constraints of traditional, male-dominated media in art history.” Each artists’ work blurred the traditional boundaries between two and three-dimensional design, which in turn has expanded the traditional categorical defines of art-making. In New York and want to check out the exhibition, visit the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery website HERE.

Casting Shadows, Janice Lessman-Moss, Silk, linen
Digital jacquard, hand woven TC2 loom, painted warp and weft, 2017. Photo: San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

The Empathy of Patience  – San Luis Obispo, CA
Traveling to the West Coast in the next week? Don’t miss out on a chance to see Michael F. Rohde’s solo exhibition, The Empathy of Patience at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. The exhibition is a superb display of Rohdes’ subliminal texture and masterful interaction of light and color. For Rohdes, “the  medium of handwoven tapestry certainly requires patience for execution…empathy, compassion and concern for others is at the base of many of these weavings.” Click HERE for more information on The Empathy of Patience at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.

International TECHstyle Art Biennial IV – San Jose, CA
Three hours north of The Empathy of Patience at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is the International TECHstyle Art Biennial IV at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Focusing on artists who merge fiber media with new information and communication technologies, the exhibition sheds a light on browngrotta arts’ artist Lia Cook’s exploratory pieces. Considering its’ close proximity to Silicon Valley, the International TECHstyle Art Biennial IV introduces artists exploring the intersection of fiber and technology to the international community. More information on the exhibition can be found HERE


Art Assembled: New This Week February

Structural Discussion VI, Hisako Sekijima cedar and walnut, 10.75” x 14.5” x 7”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Winter is slowly but surely coming to a close (finally!) and the sunny months are not too far ahead. Also rapidly approaching is this year’s Art in the Barn exhibition: Art + Identity: An International View, which seeks to take an expansive look at identity and art in a global context.

We started February’s “New This Week” series with Structural Discussion VI by Hisako Sekijima. Woven using cedar and walnut, Sekijima’s Structural Discussion VI’s explores structure, form and shape. Though Sekijima’s baskets were not created to function in a utilitarian manner she feels that they have been a useful tool in exploring herself. Unlike traditional basketmakers, Sekijima has chosen to not work with one specific plant throughout her life, but instead work with various plant materials. Her openness to other plant materials has allowed her to explore and experiment with each material’s sculptural possibilities.

Material Pleasures: Artemisia, Lia Cook, acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77” 1993. Photo by Tom Grotta.

The sensual nature of Lia Cook’s Material Pleasures: Artemisia is sure to immediately captivate the viewer. Cook’s Material Pleasures series explores the “sensuality of the woven image” and the emotional response that comes with it. Cook has continued this exploration of sensuality and emotion in her current work, combining it with technology that measures and maps emotional responses.

Orchid, Marianne Kemp, horsehair, gold lures thread, wooden frame, 15” x 18.5” x 2”. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Next up was Marianne Kemp’s stitched and woven Orchid. Dyed red horsehair woven in between a delicate herringbone background brings light to Kemp’s supreme eye for detail. For Kemp weaving is a form of meditation. “It is the only time of day that I do one thing at the time and think (solely) about one thing,” Kemp explains. Weaving allows Kemp to give her brain a rest and explore her creative intuition.

Blue/Green Weaving, Włodzimierz Cygan, polyester, linen, sisal, fiber optic, 41” x 41” x 15”. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We concluded February with  Włodzimierz Cygan’s Blue/Green Weaving. The piece, which is designed with both textiles and fiber optics, resembles a peacock feather in daylight and slowly shifts shades in the dark. Cygan, a Polish artist, is an innovator in the field of fiber art, challenging the boundaries of the medium.


On Redefining the Medium

In an artspace article last spring, “8 ‘Unbeweavable’ Textile Artists Redefining the Traditional Medium,” the author, Jillian Billard, profiled eight contemporary textile artists who keep the historical and cultural significance of the medium in mind, while addressing topics ranging from colonialism, to power dynamics, to disposal and regeneration.

Listening In Caroline Bartlett, mixed media; wooden rings stretched with archival crepeline, wool, linen tape, perspex,
2.75″ x 17″ x 17″; 5″ x 17″ x 17″; 6″ x 17″ x 17″, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Several of the artists represented by browngrotta arts take a similar approach, including, Caroline Bartlett, who explores the historical, social and cultural associations of textiles and their ability to trigger a memory. Listening In, for example, resulted from Bartlett’s review of accession cards that “bore witness” to the health and state of textile items in the collection of the Whitworth Museum. The cards described work undertaken to preserve and stabilize each artifact, to endeavors to fill in gaps in the history and making of the object across time and space. In creating works in this series, Bartlett says, “I think of skin, bone, membrane; a layered dermis, and of networks of social, industrial, public and private relations, processes and materiality connecting the building itself with the idea of cloth as silent witness to the intimacies and routines of daily lives.”

Deborah Valoma in her Studio in Minnesota. Photo by Tom Grotta.


Deborah Valoma is an artist and historian. Intensely research-based, her studio practice harnesses the nuances of the humble, yet poetically charged textile medium. Using hand construction techniques and cutting-edge digital weaving technology, her work hugs the edges of traditional practice. She upholds traditional customs and at the same time, unravels long-held stereotypes. Drawing on a growing body of scholarship on textiles, she has developed a rigorous series of textile history and theory courses for students from differing disciplines interested the theoretical discourses in the field of textiles. Valoma believes that students must locate themselves within historical lineages in order to understand the historical terrain they walk (and sometimes trip) through daily. Historical analysis draws a three-dimensional spatial and temporal map, providing much-needed reference points.

Interior Passages, Ferne Jacobs, 
coiled and twined waxed linen thread
, 54” x 16” x 4”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Artist Ferne Jacobs explores feminist themes in her work. “My art is made in an attempt to serve the sacred in the feminine, listening and creating a relationship with my own inner nature. Interior Passages is an example “In the world I find myself in today, feminine values are often desecrated.  I am beginning to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘second class citizen’ — anywhere, anytime. There are aspects of world culture where weak people try to control others; because that is the only way they feel their own existence.” Interior Passages resists that approach. “Interior Passages knows she exists,” Jacobs notes. “She needs no one to tell her who she is or what she is.  She knows her value, and I expect the world to respect this inner understanding.  When it doesn’t, I think it moves toward a destructiveness that can be devastating.”


Regeneration is a theme in the work of both Karyl Sisson and Wendy Wahl. Sisson give new lives to common domestic items like paper drinking straws, zippers and measuring tales. Wahl’s work with repurposed encyclopedias raises questions about how we process information, use resources and assign value to things.


The Art of Giving Art – Interest-Free

Here are several artful ways to show your love is eternal — from an intimate artifact and a beaded box, to a handheld basket and an engaging wall work of dyed copper. The payments, however, don’t need to last a lifetime. You can purchase these works over time, interest-free as we have partnered with Art Money to make art more accessible. Art Money, a smart way to buy art, enables you to spread your payments over 10 months with 0% interest. Let us know if we can provide you more information about any of these choices or the artists featured — Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila, Rachel Max, Nancy Moore Bess, Jeanine Anderson, Jane Balsgaard and Gali Cnaani.


Studio Visits Scotland

Scenic Edinburgh

Last November, Rhonda, Tom and Carter traveled to Scotland to visit Jo Barker, Sara Brennan and Lizzie Farey in their studios. Jo Barker and Sara Brennan have had their weaving studios at the WASPS Patriothall studios in Edinburgh for 30 years. WASPS (Workshop & Artists Studio Provision Scotland) is a charity that provides affordable studios to support artists, arts organizations, and creative businesses. We had a great time framing shots by their large light-filled windows, brick walls, curving stairways. We met another Patriothall artist, Paul Furneaux, while there. His work will be included in our upcoming exhibition Art + Identity: an international exhibition (April 27th – May 5th).

Edinburgh sunrise
Morning in Edinburgh
Photographing at Lizzie Farey’s Studio

Jo Barker and Sara Brennan will not participate in the April show because they are working full out for their upcoming exhibition at Drum Castle in Aberdeen. A Considered Place is an exhibition of work by Jo Barker, Sara Brennan, Susan Mowatt, Andrea Walsh and Jane Bustin who work in tapestry, ceramics, glass, cloth and paint that will run from April 21st to November 17th.

studi installation
Sara Brennan and Jo Barker installing tapestries

Walking around Stockbridge in Edinburgh was idyllic — George Street and Cow Gate. Restaurants were great and diverse — Scotch Corner, Wee Restaurant, Dishoom and the Blue Parrot Cantina. Our space in the Clarendon Luxury Apartments was spacious and well appointed. On our last day, we took a picturesque drive to Kirkcudbright, known as the Artists Town, to visit Lizzie Farey, coming back on a bus from Lockerbie. Lizzie works on sculptures of willow, also in an airy WASPS studio with an abundance of natural light in a pretty part of town. We are hoping Farey will be among the artists represented in Art + Identity.


Art Assembled: New This Week January

Mind Garden, Shin Young-ok, 2018
Several kinds threads, bamboo weaving on loom, 72 × 35 1/2 in

A new year and new art, oh my!

We kicked off the new year with Shin Young-ok’s Mind Garden. The varied blue hues of Mind Garden immediately draw your attention, leaving you with a desire to look deeper into the details. In Mind Garden, Young-ok seamlessly weaves ombre blue hues with a geometric pattern. The South Korean native transforms traditional Korean aesthetics into innovative contemporary works of art. “The aim of my work is to convey a genuine Korean atmosphere and its cosmic space through rich color, shapes, forms and material quality,she explains. While doing this I try to link the Korean tradition with modern trends.”

Togetherasone, Marianne Kemp, horsehair, linen, cotton, wooden frame, 31” x 15” x 2”

Marianne Kemp’s Togetherasone was also on social-media display this month. Present in much of Kemp’s work is horsehair, a material which constantly fuels her creativity.  Kemp’s unconventional weaving techniques give each of her pieces a unique character. That uniqueness is further elevated by her unparalleled use of texture, color and movement. The resulting three-dimensional nature of her pieces leaves each viewer not only wanting to look at each piece, but to touch it as well.

Tasting Green, Deborah Valoma, found iron objects, crocheted cotton thread, stinging nettles dye 61” x 5” x 3.5”, 2018

Next up, we shared Tasting Green by Deborah Valoma. Ingesting, bathing in, and dying with a distillation of stinging nettles leaves for a period of two months has produced a multi-sensory experience of green, for Valoma. “My body has been steeped in the smell, flavor, and feel of an earthy, brownish green,” she wrote of the piece. The common weed, Urtica dioica, has been used for food, medicine, fiber and dyes throughout Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa for millennia. Stinging nettle is also a perennial native to western United States and Canada and can be harvested locally from wetland areas.” It is a formidable plant,” writes the artist, “an ally of those in need of protection, fortification and healing. The bite of the fresh plant and its rich iron content syncretizes it with warriors of the wild.”

Offering i, Gizella Warburton, mixed media installation 18” x 12.5” x 63””; 2014

For Gizella Warburton, last in our social media queue for January, the process of making is visceral. “The materiality of cloth, paper, thread, wood and paint connect me to an innate human urge to make marks” and to “decipher the meaning of our physical and emotional landscapes,” describes Warburton. Warburton’s vessel forms, such as Offering i explore an intuitive response to linear, textural and light detail within landscape and surface. The process of making the vessels forms is quite contemplative, and includes a variety of subprocesses which, in the end, result in and aid each piece in coming to fruition.


Artists on Anni Albers’ Enduring Influence

10 Lines 11 Lines 17 Lines 25 Squares, Kay Sekimachi, 6” x 6” each linen, polyester warp, permanent marker, 2017

As we noted in our last two blog posts, Anni Albers has been a profound influence for artists worldwide. Albers’ ability to combine the ancient craft of hand weaving with the language of modern art, finding within the two a multitude of ways to express modern life, led her to inspire numerous artists, from browngrotta arts, including Sue Lawty who wrote about her Albers’ influence on arttextstyle last week.

Fellow weaver and fiber artist Kay Sekimachi loved both Albers’ work and writings. When discussing Albers’ weaving method Sekimachi quoted Albers’ admonition, “You just have to listen to the threads,” adding, “that’s what keeps me going.” Sekimachi says that Albers’ book On Designing has served as her weaving “bible.”

Neha Puri Dhir

Neha Puri Dhir, an India-based textile artist, whose captivating geometric-based work will be featured in our upcoming Art in the Barn exhibition, Art + Identity: an international view, has also been influenced by Albers. “I have always found Anni’s work as a modernist textile artist revolutionary. Her work has a visual language of simple and direct compositions which has deeply influenced my art practice.” Dhir believes the way in which she expresses interactions of colors and forms as simple compositions in her own work has been unconsciously inspired by Albers. Dhir has embodied Albers’ step-by-step approach to exploration, making that the underlying sensibility of her art practice.

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila at the Albers Foundation

Mariá Dávila and Eduardo Portillo have approached Anni Albers’ legacy with intention. In late 2018, the couple spent a month at the Josef and Anni Albers’ Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut. The Foundation maintains two residential studios for visiting artists who exemplify the seriousness of purpose that characterized both Anni and Josef Albers. The residencies are designed to provide time, space, and solitude, with the benefit of access to the Foundation’s archives and library. The couple wrote to us a few times during their stay.Today we were at the Albers archive, we found the notes for the Annie’s book On Weaving and were very near to some of her works — a special day. Now our days are very intense, daytime for the Library, nighttime for the Studio. During these days we have been devoted almost completely to study Josef’s and Anni’s work and thoughts. It has been very helpful in understanding our own process. We are not working on the loom now, you will find us surrounded by books and  draft papers.”

When we visited them in Bethany in December, they told us:”The silence and the beauty here is a gift. Our lives at home are so busy and so intense that it is hard to focus and think about our work and its direction. Here, we are living an almost monastic life, studying and thinking nearly full-time spurred by the example of the Albers who were remarkably prolific.”

New Nebula, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila , silk, alpaca, moriche palm fiber dyed with Indigo, rumex spp, onion, eucalyptus, acid dyes, copper and metallic yarns, 74” x 49.25”, 2017


“The Foundation has thousands of works, which they are cataloging. Anni’s loom is here, but we did not come here to
weave, but to think and study. We are very interested in her pictorial works — where she tried to embody something tangible, like the sun or a landscape, metaphorically, in a weaving.”

“This place is unique, educating, mutating, extraordinary — so many adjectives you could choose. Anni opened the door for people to think about textiles differently. Now, with the Tate exhibition, she will open doors again.”

And on reflection, when the residency was nearly over: “Just a sentence, a few of her words, has been enough to enlighten our path. Her clear vision on how a weave is created allows us to transit with confidence to experimentation through the threads and the interchange that exists between ideas and materials. Revisiting her work makes us witnesses to her legacy.”


Anni Albers Gets Her Due – Tate Modern through January 27, 2019 (1 of 3)

Legendary artist Anni Albers is getting the long-overdue recognition she deserves in a major retrospective in the United Kingdom. The exhibition, Anni Albers, currently on exhibit at the Tate Modern in London through January 27th, seeks to illuminate Albers’ creative process as well as her engagement with art, architecture and design.

With Verticals, 1946, by Anni Albers, red cotton and linen. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany CT. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London. Photography: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

One of the most influential textile artists of the 20th century, Anni Albers’ work lead to a reconsideration of fiber and textile as art. Born in Berlin, Annelise Elsa Frieda Fleischmann went to study at the radical Bauhaus art school as a young student in 1922. Fascinated with the visual world at a young age, her parents encouraged her to study drawing and painting. Despite the fact that Albers felt that textiles were considered “toosissy,” she enrolled in the only course open to female students-–weaving in the ‘women’s workshop.’ However, as time passed she developed a passion for the medium, using it as a key form of expression, creating complex and richly colored pliable planes. The exhibition explores how, in the school’s vibrant weaving workshop, traditional hand-weaving was redefined as modern art.

In 1933, Anni’s husband Josef was invited to the USA to make visual arts the center of the curriculum at the newly established Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Anni and Josef saw this as an opportunity to escape the Nazi regime and continue exploring their art. During her time in North Carolina, Anni made extraordinary weavings, developed new textiles and taught. Throughout this period, Albers made frequent visits to Central and South America, immersing herself in ancient culture and methods. The influence these trips had on Albers’ work is evident in her large-scale pieces, Ancient Writing and With Verticals,both of which can be viewed at the Tate exhibition. In addition to Albers’ pieces, the exhibition includes examples of textiles from around the world that fueled Albers’ thinking and creative processes. Visitors are also invited to view textile works by other artists including Lenore Tawney, Olga de Amaral and Sheila Hicks.

Anni Albers at the Tate. Photo by Sue Lawty.
Anni Albers at the Tate. Photo by Sue Lawty.

The exhibition at the Tate Modern is the first major retrospective of Albers’ work in the United Kingdom. It takes an expansive view, exploring Albers’ creative processes– the intersection between art and craft; hand-weaving and machine production; ancient and modern. The Tate has included over 350 objects of Albers’, including small-scale studies, large wall-hangings, jewelry made from everyday items and textiles designed for mass production. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to “see Albers’ work in close focus, experiencing her belief that textile is inherently many-sided,” writes Corinne Julius in Selvedge Magazine (“Fruit of the Loom,” October 11, 2018). Many of Albers’ weavings are hung freely throughout the exhibition space, allowing visitors to examine them front and back. 

Though the exhibition has been organized by two major fine art institutions, the Tate and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, neither of them own any important works by Anni Albers as her work has been considered ‘craft.’ As a result, the vast majority of objects in the exhibition are on loan from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. “The whole show is about a woman who is a weaver and how weaving can be a valid modernist art practice. Anni Albers’ work is not ‘decorative,’ wires Julius. “It’s quite conceptual – corroborating Roland Barthes’ comment that the loom is ‘a maquette of reasoning,’” Ideally, Anni Albers will move the boundary of what is and is not considered fine art.

For more information on the exhibition, which closes on January 27th, visit the Tate’s website HERE.


Art Assembled: New This Week December

3lb Attached, Laura Ellon Bacon, Somerset willow – a variety called Dicky Meadows, 69” x 27.5” x 12”, 2013, photo by sophie mutevelian

It’s hard to believe another year had passed, but we are welcoming 2019 with open arms here at browngrotta arts. We are excited for all the great things to come in 2019, but we’ll shed a light on all the great art we shared on our social media throughout the month of December. From Laura Ellen Bacon’s Attached to Adela Akers Night Curtain there was quite a diverse line up on display in December.

To kick off the month of December we shared Laura Ellen Bacon’s Attached. Bacon, whom we had the pleasure of visiting on our trek through the United Kingdom, consistently creates stunning woven sculptures. Bacon’s unique weaving technique, such as exhibited in Attached sets her apart. The combination of her technique and the use of natural materials allows Bacon to slowly develop the weight and form of her work as she pleases, which she describes as, “Starting out with a frail framework and building curves from the inside out to achieve quite ‘muscular’ forms with a sense of movement, a sense of them being alive somehow.”

Endless, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 10.75” x 12” x 9”, 2016, $3,750
Endless, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 10.75” x 12” x 9”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Next in the queue was Endless by Rachel Max. Made of plaited and twined cane, Endless’ unique form piques’ the viewers’ curiosity. Through sculptural basketry, Max investigates the relationship between lace and basket making techniques. Often inspired by natural shapes, Max enjoys exploring the concepts of containment and concealment in her work. With this exploration, Max has developed a technique of layering to form structures that probe into the relationship between lines, shadows and space.

Ce qu’il en reste VI, Stéphanie Jacques, willow, gesso, thread, 21.5” x 10.5” x 11”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

The origins of Stéphanie JacquesCe qu’il en reste VI is rooted in her adolescent years with scoliosis. Jacques spent many years wearing corrective corsets, which inhibited her from many activities, such as dance. This series of sculptures, known as the Miss Metonymy sculptures are built as vertebral columns. Jacques has spent many years trying to create a figure that stands up, however, leaving the idea of verticality allowed that to become possible.

Night Curtain, linen, horsehair, paint & metal, 38” x 36”, 2018
Night Curtain, linen, horsehair, paint & metal, 38” x 36”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

To conclude 2018’s New This Week posts we shared Night Curtain by Adela Akers. Unique to Akers’ work is her utilization of horsehair and recycled metal foil strips from the tops of wine bottles. Incorporating metal into her work adds another dimension, one that becomes a veil through which metal can shine through. In Night Curtain the luster of metal and veil of horsehair is reminiscent of stars peeping through a thin curtain of clouds in the night sky.