Lives Well Lived: Glen Kaufman (1932 – 2020)

leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
13gk Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman, silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
12gk Yoshikawa, Noto, Glen Kaufman
silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
13gk Pulguk-sa, Kyong-Ju, Glen Kaufman
silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 48” x 24” x 1” 1990
photo by Tom Grotta

We were saddened to learn of the loss of talented artist and educator Glen Kaufman last month. Born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin in 1932, Kaufman attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, where he met his wife and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 1954. Following his Air Force service, he enrolled at Cranbrook Academy of Art, earning an MFA degree in Weaving & Textiles in 1959. In 1960, he received a Fulbright Scholarship and attended the State School of Arts & Crafts in Copenhagen. Upon returning to the US, he worked as a designer for Dorothy Liebes in New York City. He returned to Cranbrook Academy as educator, heading the Fibers Department until 1967. In 1967, he was hired by Lamar Dodd as associate professor of Art at the University of Georgia, where taught for over 40 years. He was an honorary member of the Surface Design Association for life and elected into the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 1988. His papers, dated from 1957-2011, were donated to the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian in 2015. The papers primarily document his travels and student work through biographical material, journals, printed materials, and artwork. Included are 15 travel journals, two sketchbooks, biographical material, professional correspondence, teaching files, photographs of Kaufman and works of art, works of art including sketches and weaving samples, two handwoven knotted pile rug samples and printed material. An oral biography of Kaufman with curator Josephine Shea is found on the Smithsonian situate: https://www.aaa.si.edu/download_pdf_transcript/ajax?record_id=edanmdm-AAADCD_oh_366203.

anhattan/New Jersey View
Glen Kaufman, handwoven silk twill, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf, 10” x 30” x 1”, 1997
8gk Manhattan/New Jersey View
Glen Kaufman, handwoven silk twill, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf
10” x 30” x 1”, 1997
photo by Tom Grotta

From 1983 on, Kaufman divided his time between homes in Athens, Georgia and Kyoto, Japan.. “I have set about creating my work in a foreign place – Kyoto – for half of each year since 1983,” he wrote. “The images in my work can be seen as shadows cast on shoji screens or glimpses of a world seen through a personal window.

In these ‘window views’ I have struggled to achieve a synthesis of my two worlds – tile roofs in Asia; skylines of cities and towns in America. Images of architecture in gold or silver leaf float behind grids on silk panels both large and small,” Kaufman wrote. His work in the US and Japan involved photographs and gold leaf, which he used to capture the architecture of each locale and to reveal aspects of these differing worlds. A grid motif, present in most of these pieces, reflects the prevalence of the grid in Japanese architecture.”The grid fragments the image and at the same time provides a familiar framework, allowing the viewer to perceive the entire image, yet concentrate on the small square.

32gk SHIMOGAMO SCROLLS: STUDIO VIEW II, Glen Kaufman
photo collage, screen print and impressed silver leaf on handwoven kasuri silk, 70” x 17”, 2002
32gk SHIMOGAMO SCROLLS: STUDIO VIEW II
Glen Kaufman
photo collage, screen print and impressed silver leaf on handwoven kasuri silk
, 70” x 17”, 2002
photo by Tom Grotta


“The work evolves from my photographs, photographs that are transformed into strong black-and-white images that express the reality of the subject. These strongly contrasting images are printed onto a silk fabric by screening a special paste over a grid. Subsequently, gold or silver leaf is impressed into the cloth. When the excess leaf is removed, the grid is revealed and the image floats on a surface behind the window grid.The metal leaf I use has inherent reflective qualities that vary depending on the type, color, thickness, and weave of the ground cloth. The reflection of light on the leaf and silk – which changes depending on the light source and the time of day – give an inner life and dynamic visual energy to these works.”

Kaufman’s work appeared in more than 60 solo exhibitions in New York, Boston, Kyoto, Berkeley, Tokyo, Sapporo, Honolulu, San Francisco, Osaka, Nagoya, Seattle, Seoul, Busan, Atlanta and more than 130 group exhibitions in North America, Europe and Asia. His works are in the permanent collections of more than 20 museums, including the Museum of Art and Design, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago; Ba Tang Gol Art Center, Seoul; The Cleveland Museum of Art; Juraku Museum, Kyoto, Japan; Long House Foundation, San Francisco; H.M. de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Smithsonian Institution, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC.


Art Out and About: US

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliffe 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

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

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

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

Please check with each art institution for directions and hours.          


Art Assembled: New in January

January was a great month for us at browngrotta arts. The new year has brought forth even more spectacular art work into the fold, which we know you’re going to enjoy.

Marianne Kemp, Vibrant Conversation, horsehair, cotton, linen, 49” x 70” x 6 “, 2018
Marianne Kemp, Vibrant Conversation, horsehair, cotton, linen, 49” x 70” x 6 “, 2018

Marianne Kemp specializes in weaving with horsehair. She is passionate about exploring unconventional weaving techniques in her art. That passion, combined with her craftsmanship, is clearly visible in the work she creates. Some, almost-mathematically precise, creations challenge viewers to become introverted and still. Other work is more extroverted and playful, displaying an exuberant cheerfulness. In either case, her work attracts the eye and stimulates an urge to touch (though you need to resist it!).

Gold Laugh, Micheline Beauchemin, metallic and acrylic thread, cotton, 25.25” x 21.25” x 2.25”, 1980-85
5mb Gold Laugh, Micheline Beauchemin, metallic and acrylic thread, cotton, 25.25” x 21.25” x 2.25”, 1980-85.

Canadian artist Micheline Beauchemin was a major figure in visual arts, best known for monumental tapestries and theatre curtains, as well as works of embroidery and stained glass, costumes and paintings. As a weaver, her repertoire of materials included unique combinations of hand-spun wool, silk and other natural fibers, as well as nylon, aluminum, and gold and silver threads. “I do not seek to represent the forest, pure joy or fear;” Beauchemin has said, “[ ] I want my tapestries to be the forest, pure joy or fear.” 

Lizzie Farey, 18lf Orbiculus, willow, wire, 31.25” x 31, 2018
Lizzie Farey, 18lf Orbiculus, willow, wire, 31.25” x 31, 2018.

Says Lizzie Farey about her work, “I have a fascination with living things and natural form. For me, willow has become a medium for an interaction with nature that is deeply personal. Using willow, birch, heather, bog myrtle and many other locally grown woods, my work ranges form traditional to organic sculptural forms.”

The Seashore, Keiji Nio, polyester, aramid fiber, 48” x 48,” 2019
25kn The Seashore, Keiji Nio, polyester, aramid fiber, 48” x 48,” 2019.

Keiji Nio‘s interlaced wall work is inspired by a haiku, Rough Sea of Sado, from Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho. In it, Basho describes the deep blue waves of the Sea of Japan as they are reflected in the night sky and the light blue waves hitting the beach. The work incorporates ribbons on which Nio has screened images from the sea and tiny pebbles from the shore. Nio is a faculty member at the Kyoto University of Art & Design. He combines industrial and natural materials in his works to make statements about nature and man’s relationship to the world.


Art & Identity: A Sense of Place

In our 2019 Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to address the theme of identity. In doing so, several of the participants in Art + Identity: an international view, wrote eloquently about places that have informed their work. For Mary Merkel-Hess, that place is the plains of Iowa, which viewers can feel when viewing her windblown, bladed shapes. A recent work made a vivid red orange was an homage to noted author, Willa Cather’s plains’ description, “the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed,” a view that Merkel-Hess says she has seen.

Micheline Beauchemin Golden Garden detail
Micheline Beauchemin 3mb Golden Garden nylon cord, metalic thread, sisal and plexiglass 42” x 10.5”, circa 1966-68

The late Micheline Beauchemin traveled extensively from her native Montreal. Europe, Asia, the Middle East, all influenced her work but depictions of the St. Lawrence River were a constant thread throughout her career. The river, “has always fascinated me,” she admitted, calling it, “a source of constant wonder” (Micheline Beauchemin, les éditions de passage, 2009). “Under a lemon yellow sky, this river, leaded at certain times, is inhabited in winter, with ice wings without shadows, fragile and stubborn, on which a thousand glittering lights change their colors in an apparent immobility.” To replicate these effects, she incorporated unexpected materials like glass, aluminum and acrylic blocks that glitter and reflect light and metallic threads to translate light of frost and ice.

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila Triple Weave
Triple weave Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila silk, alpaca, moriche, metalliic yarns, copper, natural dyes, 71” x 48.25”, 2016


Mérida, Venezuela, the place they live, and can always come back to, has been a primary influence on Eduardo Portillo’s and Maria Davila’s way of thinking, life and work. Its geography and people have given them a strong sense of place. Mérida is deep in the Andes Mountains, and the artists have been exploring this countryside for years. Centuries-old switchback trails or “chains” that historically helped to divide farms and provide a mountain path for farm animals have recently provided inspiration and the theme for a body of work, entitled Within the MountainsNebula, the first work from this group of textiles, is owned by the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

Birgit Birkkjærs  Ode for the Ocean
Birgit Birkkjær, 65bb Ode for the Ocean, linen and stones, shells, fossils, etc. from the sea 30” x 30” x 4,” 2019

Birgit Birkkjaer’s Ode for the Ocean is composed of many small woven boxes with items from the sea — stones, shells, fossils and so on — on their lids. ” It started as a diary-project when we moved to the sea some years ago,” she explains. “We moved from an area with woods, and as I have always used materials from the place where I live and where I travel, it was obvious I needed now to draw sea-related elements into my art work.”

Polly Bartons Continuum I, II, III detail
4pb Continuum I, II, III, Polly Barton, silk, double ikat, 19” x 52” x 1.75,” 2018

“I am born and raised in the Northeast,” says Polly Barton, “trained to weave in Japan, and have lived most of my life in the American Southwest. These disparate places find connection in the woven fabric that is my art, the internal reflections of landscape.” In works like Continuum i, ii, iii, Barton uses woven ikat as her “paintbrush,” to study native Southwestern sandstone. Nature’s shifting elements etched into the stone’s layered fascia reveal the bands of time. “Likewise, in threads dyed and woven, my essence is set in stone.”

Paul Furneauxs City Trees II and City Lights II detail
1 & 2pf City Trees II and City Lights II, Paul Furneaux, Detail

For Paul Furneaux, geographic influences are varied, including time spent in Mexico, at Norwegian fjords and then, Japan, where he studied Japanese woodblock, Mokuhanga “After a workshop in Tokyo,” he writes, “I found myself in a beautful hidden-away park that I had found when I first studied there, soft cherry blossom interspersed with brutal modern architecture. When I returned to Scotland, I had forms made for me in tulip wood that I sealed and painted white. I spaced them on the wall, trying to recapture the moment. The forms say something about the architecture of those buildings but also imbue the soft sensual beauty of the trees, the park, the blossom, the soft evening light touching the sides of the harsh glass and concrete blocks.” 


Over Under : Under Over in Edinburgh

Aliunde Alio, Sue Lawty, natural stone on gesso 24″ x 96″ x 10″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy browngrotta arts.

The Cordis Trust presents a special exhibition in conjunction with Visual Arts Scotland at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. Over Under : Under Over explores weave in its widest context through the work of six contemporary artists: Elizabeth Ashdown, Celia Pym, Dail BehennahSue Lawty, Sarah Jane Henderson and Sadhvi Jawa.

Cordis states: “Straying from their usual adherence to the traditional principles of woven Gobelin tapestry, this project aims to explore the wider applications of the woven form.” The artists were chosen because their work is constructed in a similar way to tapestry, or because they use techniques that resonate with the principles of weaving, whether that be through the interlacing of materials or of repetitive gesture.”

Sue Lawty’s work In this exhibition is made of found stones. She collects, organizes and orders thousands of tiny rock fragments to create a kind of pixilated cloth. Among Dail Behennah’s works in this exhibition are pieces paper, made with a three-dimensional, three-directional plaiting technique.

Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, Upper Galleries through January 30th 2020.


Most Influential Art Movements of the Decade

Last month, Artsy identified the most seven most influential art movements of the decade in The Art Movements of the 2010s (Dec 18, 2019) by Charlotte Jansen https://www.artsy.net/series/decade-art/artsy-editorial-art-movements-2010s. Two of those identified by Jansen — the reconsideration of women artists, which the Artsy called “an art history overhaul” and the art world’s embrace of craft — are two we at browngrotta arts have also watched with more than passing interest for the past 10 years.

Ethel Stein Master Weaver at the Chicago Art Institute 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta
Ethel Stein Master Weaver at the Chicago Art Institute 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

The article points to the Guerrilla Girls survey in 2016, which found an unsurprising, yet overwhelming, bias towards Western male artists, which curators and galleries have since been working to address in exhibitions such as Women of Abstract Expressionism. We would add several exhibitions to that list, including Woman Take the Floor, currently at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today at the Museum of Arts in Design in 2015, Ethel Stein’s one-person exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015 and Lenore Tawney’s current four-part retrospective at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin. The article also mentions overlooked women artists already in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have gained representation with blue-chip galleries, specifically, Rose Wylie joined David Zwirner 2017; Luchita Hurtado joined Hauser & Wirth in 2018;  Howardena Pindell joined Victoria Miro in 2019. Carmen Herrera, now 104, started working with Lisson in 2009 and opened a retrospective at the Whitney in 2016. We would add Françoise Grossen who joined Blum & Poe in 2015.

The “return of craft” has brought greater attention to women artists, too. Jansen notes it has placed greater focus on forgotten legends such as Anni Albers, and living talents like Sheila Hicks. In November, Jansen points out, the Whitney mounted Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, on view through next January. Enthusiasm for ceramics has grown, too, she writes, as audiences continue to gravitate towards works by California Clay.

Even Thread Has a Speech by Lenore Tawney
Even Thread Has a Speech by Lenore Tawney is in the Whitney Exhibition Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019. Photo by Tom Grotta

Movement artists Ken Price, Peter Voulkos and Ron Nagle as well as the late Betty Woodman. We’d also point to interest in ceramist Toshiko Takaezu, whose work was included in both Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today and Women Take the Floor.

Installation View of Toshiko Takaezu; Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today and Women Take the Floor at the MFA Boston
Installation View of Toshiko Takaezu; Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today and Women Take the Floor at the MFA Boston. Photo by Peter Russo

“Craft techniques are some of the oldest media in human history,” Jansen concludes, “but this decade has proved there is still boundless inspiration to be found in them.”


Dispatches: Textiles Take Center Stage at the New MoMA, New York, NY

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliff

To much fanfare, New York City’s beloved Museum of Modern Art reopened on Oct 21, 2019 after undergoing major renovations over the summer to expand to more than 40,000 square feet of gallery spaces. 

Magdalena Abakanowicz Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Magdalena Abakanowicz Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

The museum’s Department of Architecture and Design organized the inaugural exhibitions reexamining the role of both disciplines as “integral to the interdisciplinary conversation with the visual arts” — an approach we have ascribed to at browngrotta arts for over 30 years.

Of particular interest to arttexstyle is the textile exhibition titled Taking a Thread for a Walk, which is a whimsical play on Paul Klee’s pedagogical lesson that “a drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” This exhibition is on view at The Philip Johnson Galleries on the museum’s third floor through April 19, 2020.   

Taking a Thread for a Walk, according to MoMA’s official press release, “looks at how successive generations developed new material and constructive languages from the 1890s through the 1970s, highlighting the flexibility of textiles, a medium that continues to defy easy categorization. The installation ‘takes a thread for a walk’ among ancient textile traditions, early 20th-century design reform movements, adventurous combinations of natural and new synthetic fibers in industrial production, through to the emergence of a more sculptural approach to textile art in the 1960s and 70s. Textiles and the adjacent practices of architecture, painting, drawing and sculpture have long had a close affinity, especially in the 20th century, when there was a concerted move to emphasize the underlying unity of all art forms and to connect modern art with industry and daily life. Woven artifacts appeared at the forefront of ongoing debates around abstraction, the total work of art, and the fusion of art with technology, challenging the widespread marginalization of textiles as ‘women’s work.'” Many of the pioneers in this narrative have been women, chief among them Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Florence Knoll and Sheila Hicks. Also featured are  recent acquisitions by Monika Correa (India), Aurèlia Muñoz (Catalonia), and the French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, making clear the medium’s global relevance.

Upon entering the exhibition, we were greeted by a large scale sisal sculpture Yellow Abakan 1967–1968 by Magdalena Abakanowicz whose monumental works were often misperceived as a “feminine’ craft.” For more than half a century, Magdalena Abakanowicz produced critically acclaimed, poetic sculptures about the fraught and fragile condition of being human, shaped by her experiences growing up during WWII and living through the Soviet domination of Poland. According to MoMA, “Abakanowicz and many artists of the Eastern Bloc were drawn to craft and textile traditions as expressive mediums less regulated by Soviet censorship. Yellow Abakan‘s form is determined by the drape of the textile, which is coarsely woven from sisal, an industrial plant fiber used to make rope. The scarred seams and anatomical appendages lend the work a figural quality, something Abakanowicz continues to explore in large-scale sculptures cast in hardened fiber. Yellow Abakan was among works by several Polish weavers included in

Wall Hangings, a 1969 MoMA exhibition showcasing the work of international contemporary fiber artists. Abakanowicz’ work was first exhibited in the US by gallerists Anne and Jacques Baruch of Chicago. The Baruch’s work with fiber artists from Eastern Europe is the subject of browngrotta arts’ catalog, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection.

Directly across and in stark contrast in size is a beautiful raffia basket by Ed Rossbach Raffia Lace Basket, 1973. Rossbach was a relentless experimenter and according to MoMA “his career began in with ceramics and weaving in the 1940s, but evolved over the next decade into basket making. He is best known for his innovative and playful baskets made from nontraditional materials such as plastic and newspaper.” Rossbach was also featured in our recent exhibition Artists from The Grotta Collection which is now extended online on Artsy. 

linen sculpture by Sheila Hicks titled Cartridges and Zapata 1962–1965
Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Another highlight of the exhibition is a linen sculpture by Sheila Hicks titled Cartridges and Zapata 1962–1965. Hicks is one of the several modern craft and dimensional art artists who are part of The Grotta Collection. Hicks’ work is featured in browngrotta arts’ catalog, Sheila Hicks: Joined by seven artists from Japan, which documents an exhibition Hicks curated at bga in the 90s, one of several bga exhibitions in which Hicks’ work has been included.

Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019
Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Also of interest is a curious framed coptic rounded tapestry from the 6th-8th century titled Christ enthroned by an unknown designer. There is a loom on the left by Anni Albers labeled Structo ArtCraft 750 loom c. 1952 and to the right is a sculpture by Aurèlia Muñoz and Antoni Gaudi’s Study of a catenary arch for the Gaudí crypt at Colonia Güell, 1996. And directly above is a 3-panel digital video projection titled Warping Threading Weaving Drawing, 2014 by Simon Barker and Ismni Samanidou.

Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019
Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Poorly

Another section of the exhibition featured a collection of woven textiles and in the foreground we were delighted to see a mesmerizing wall hanging by Jack Lenor Larsen, Interplay Casement Fabric, 1960, made of rovanna saran microfilamant. An international textile designer, author and collector, Larsen has long played an influential role in textile arts and has been an important mentor and supporter of browngrotta arts. “I think of interior fabrics as something to be in, not just to sit on or look at. Objects are out: the surround is in, and how we feel and relate to space is everything,” Larsen is quoted from 1978 on the MoMA art label. Behind these collections of soft fabrics is Halyard armchair, 1950 by Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner who was commissioned by Lou and Sandy Grotta to design several pieces for their home, The Grotta House. Anni Albers’ popularity is well represented in the exhibition, too, with 18 works ranging from 1926 to 1983 including screenprints, design drawings and tapestry. 

Sheila Hicks Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column
Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Wait, there’s more! On the sixth floor of the museum is another exhibition Surrounds: 11 Installations, showcasing for the first time 11 watershed installations by living artists from the past two decades, all drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition includes Hicks’ monumental Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column (2013–14) that “playfully and subversively challenges notions of architecture as permanent, solid, and tectonic.”

Be sure to go and see this abundance for yourself. Taking a Thread for a Walk is on view through April 19, 2020. The MoMA is located at 11 West 53 Street, New York. Open daily from 10am to 5:30pm. For more information, visit MoMA.org


Who Said What: Sheila Hicks

“One color is easy, two colors are a confrontation and three it really gets complicated.” Sheila Hicks

If you want to see Sheila Hicks‘ work, you can visit the new MoMA in New York: Taking Thread for a Walk, the Art Institute of Chicago: In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists at Mid-Century or the Boston Museum of Fine Art: Women Take the Floor.


Dispatches: One Month, Three Museums

We don’t get the chance to see art exhibitions in person as often as we’d like. So we were quite pleased last month to be able to grab some museum time between closing our last exhibition, The Grotta Collection and prepping for our annual spring event, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades.

The banyan tree in front of the Norton, Claus Oldenberg’s sculpture in the background.

We found ourselves first at the Norton Museum of Fine Art in Palm Beach, Florida. The museum has been newly and elegantly renovated. Viewers first see an extraordinary banyan tree incorporated into the entrance. Inside there are exhibitions of the Museum’s permanent collections and a specially commissioned work by Dale Chihuly. We were pleased to see the traveling exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern. The exhibition addresses how the artist proclaimed her progressive, independent lifestyle through a self-crafted public persona, using her art, her clothing, and the way she posed for the camera. Early on, she fashioned a signature style of dress — much of which she created herself — that dispensed with ornamentation, which evolved in her years in New York—when a black-and-white palette dominated much of her art and dress—and then her time in New Mexico, where her art and clothing changed in response to the colors of the Southwestern landscape. After locating in the Santa Fe, an amazing array of photographers visited her and solidified her status as a pioneer of modernism and contemporary style icon. In addition to O’Keeffe’s paintings and clothes, the exhibition included photographs of the painter by noted artists Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, and others. You have through February 2, 2020 to see it: https://www.norton.org/exhibitions/georgia-okeeffe-living-modern.

Tom beneath Dale Chihuly’s Sealife Persian Ceiling

Two weeks later we were able to visit the new Westport Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly the Westport Arts Center) to see its inaugural exhibition of two works by remarkable artist Yayoi Kasuma. Part one, Where the Lights in My Heart Go, one of Kasuma’s mirrored boxes, is a work with two distinct characters. While its mirrored exterior both reflects and appears to merge with its surroundings, punctured with small holes it becomes, on the inside, a fathomless space punctuated by dots of daylight.

Inside Yayoi Kasuma’s Where the Lights in My Heart Go at the Westport Museum of Contemporary Art.

Where the Lights in My Heart Go draws parallels with the ritualistic aspect and formality of Japanese culture, MoCA explains. To enter, visitors must bow their heads, humble themselves in preparation for what they are about to experience. As one’s eyes adjust slowly to the play of light across its perforated walls, an ever-changing constellation reveals itself. Kusama has referred to the effect the work produces as a “subtle planetarium” – a space in which to ponder the mysteries of the physical and metaphysical universe. Different for each viewer, Where the Lights in My Heart Go also changes with each fresh experience of it. It is immeasurable yet intimate. Kusama’s art may possess a kind of universal language, but it speaks to us one by one. Our moments inside the artwork were truly magical — we were so pleased to have that experience before it closed.

Nick Cave’s Tondo, from Weather Report at the Aldrich Museum of Art.

Also on exhibit is Kusama’s installation Narcissus Garden which originated in 1966, when the artist first participated, albeit unofficially, in the Venice Biennale. This expansive and immersive work comprises mirrored spheres displayed en masse to create a dynamic reflective field. In Venice, Kusama installed the spheres on a lawn in front of the Italian Pavilion. Signs placed among them were inscribed with the words ‘Narcissus Garden, Kusama’ and ‘Your Narcissism for Sale’. Kusama, dressed in a kimono, remained with the installation, offering individual spheres for sale (at $2, or 1,200 lira a piece). This succès de scandale was both revolutionary – a comment on the promotion of the artist through the media and a critique of the mechanization and commodification of the art market – and deeply connected to history, evoking the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection (and paid the price for doing so). Tom and I found the exhibition so engaging we went right home and watched the documentary about the artist on Amazon Prime: Kusama: Infinity. Narcissus Garden is on view through February 16, 2020 https://mocawestport.org/experiences/.

Eva LeWitt’s Untitled (Mesh A–J),at the Aldrich Museum of Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut

Our last stop was at the Aldrich Museum of Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut. There are three exhibitions there well worth seeing, including a colorful site-specific installation, Untitled (Mesh A-J) by Eva LeWitt. “LeWitt’s sculptural practice explores the visual interconnection of color, matter, shape, light, and gravity. Using materials she can control and manipulate with supporting and opposing attributes – rigid/pliable, opaque/transparent, airy/substantial, and handmade/machine built – LeWitt creates exuberant configurations that vaunt a buoyant physical agency,” says the Museum signage. Zoë Sheehan Saldaña has mounted an exhibition of 50 of her hand-made artifacts, There Must Be Some Kind of Way Out of Here, curated by Glenn Adamson.Even her most elaborate undertakings, such as a reverse-engineered Strike Anywhere match or a hand-woven terrycloth towel, masquerade as objects you might toss away thoughtlessly, or stick in a drawer and forget. Underneath these acts of artistic camouflage lies a deep well of conviction, a drive to take full responsibility for things.”

Weather Study, Jitish Kallat from Weather Report at the the Aldrich Museum of Art.

We were most captivated, however, by Weather Report, a group exhibition curated by Richard Klein. Weather Report brings together that work of 21 artists and three researchers to explore the ways that our immersion is the atmosphere — what can only be considered the most remarkable feature of our planet — has influenced visual culture in the 21st century. The range of ways in which they depict weather phenomena is remarkable. In Fly to Mars 2 by Jennifer Steinkamp the artist has created a video version of the axis mundi, the mythic tree at the center of the universe. Nick Cave created a series of images based on Doppler radar images of cataclysmic weather and brain scans from black youth suffering PTSD from gun violence, presenting gun violence as uncontrollable as a hurricane. In Wind Study, Jitish Kallat has “drawn” with soot, blown by prevailing winds, making a statement about winds and wildfires worldwide.

The exhibitions are all open for a few more months (April, May and March, respectively). From more information, visit the Museum’s website. http://aldrichart.org


Lenore Tawney Gets Her Due

We have been delighted to see a select group of contemporary fiber artists receiving well-deserved recognition in the last few years including Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Sheila Hicks and Faith Ringgold. Lenore Tawney is an important member of this growing list. Seems like you can’t turn around this fall without seeing her work in a major exhibition. She’s the subject of a retrospective as well, the first since the 90s and we say — it’s about time!

Lenore Tawney, Floating Shapes, 1958; linen, silk, and wool; 49 x 42 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

You can see Tawney’s work in Talking Thread for a Walk at MoMA, Women Take the Floor: Beyond the Loom: Fiber as Sculpture / Subversive Threads at the Boston Museum of Fine Art and Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 at the Whitney Museum in American Art in New York. She is featured in Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus at the Art Institute of Chicago and bauhaus imaginista at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland. You would also have seen her work in Alison Jacques’ and Michael Rosenfeld’s booths at this year’s Art Basel in Miam.

More expansive, however, is the comprehensive look at Tawney’s work and continuing influence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Tawney’s life’s work, dating from circa 1946-1997, is the subject of a concurrent four-exhibition series, Mirror of the Universe, through March 7, 2020. The exhibition represents the most comprehensive presentation of Tawney’s work since 1990.

Lenore Tawney, Written in Water, 1979; canvas, linen, and acrylic; 120 x 120 x 120 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney
October 6, 2019–March 7, 2020Anchoring the series is an evocation of Tawney’s studio underscoring the relationship of the artist’s space to her creative practice, entitled, In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney. The aim, according to the Center is to, reunite a selection of her key works—weavings, drawings, and collages—with objects that once populated her revelatory work spaces to reveal her processes and inspirations, exposing relationships and dissolving boundaries between the material surroundings she constructed for herself and the art she made there. Tawney’s studio was acquired by JMKAC from the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. The represents an example of the John Michael Kohler Art Center’s very interesting commitment to ongoing preservation and presentation of artist-built environments. 

Ephemeral and Eternal: The Archives of Lenore Tawney 
September 15, 2019–February 16, 2020 Tawney developed a deeply personal visual vocabulary intertwining language with found images, feathers, flowers, and stones. Illuminating key moments in the artist’s career as well as her everyday life and close friendships, Ephemeral and Eternal: The Archives of Lenore Tawney will explore the correspondence, journals, artist books, photographs, audio interviews, and ephemera drawn from manuscript collections at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. 

Lenore Tawney, (left) The Judge, 1961; linen; 124 x 14 in. (right) The Bride, 1962; linen and feathers; 138 x 13 in. Courtesy of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, 2018, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Even Thread Has a Speech
September 1, 2019–February 2, 2020 Even Thread Has a Speech is a group exhibition that will explore Tawney’s lasting impact on eight contemporary fiber artists with new, site-specific installations commissioned by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as well as 2-D and 3-D works. Artists in the exhibition include Indira Allegra, Julia Bland, Jesse Harrod, Judith Leemann, kg, Anne Lindberg, Michael Milano and Sheila Pepe. 

Cloud Labyrinth
August 18, 2019 – January 19, 2020 A study in contrasts, Cloud Labyrinth comprises thousands of individual, tiny threads suspended from a canvas panel or “ceiling.” Although composed in a strict square grid, the diaphanous work is yielding, responding to any atmospheric movement with a slight swaying. The piece was created in 1983 for the Lausanne International Tapestry Biennial in Switzerland, and has not been shown since 1999. The work exemplifies the evolution of Tawney’s practice into the complete dissolution of the loom while maintaining an unmistakable connection to weaving.

Lenore Tawney, Shield IV, 1966; linen, beads, and shells; 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Lenore Tawney, who died in 2007 at age 100, was a pioneering artist who created a body of innovative woven work that helped to shape the course of fiber art during the second half of the 20th century. She studied sculpture with Alexander Archipenko, drawing with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, drawing and watercolor painting with Emerson Woelffer, and weaving with Marli Ehrman. In the 1950s, Tawney moved to New York to dedicate herself to her art, becoming one of the first artists to apply sculptural techniques to weaving, pioneering a new direction in fiber-based practices, and by extension, in contemporary art. Tawney is equally known for the collages, sculptural assemblages, drawings, and postcards that she began during the 1960s and continued to create throughout her long life. 

A comprehensive monograph co-published by the University of Chicago Press accompanies the series, featuring essays by Glenn Adamson, Kathleen Nugent Mangan, Karen Patterson, Mary Savig, Shannon R. Stratton, and Florica Zaharia: https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/L/bo45997885.html

For more information: https://www.jmkac.org/exhibition/mirror