Elements of Japandi: Integrating Nature – materials and environment

The Fall 2021 exhibition at browngrotta arts,  Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences will celebrate affinities between Japan and the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark cultures through contemporary art. The show will feature 39 fiber and ceramic artists from Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, and Sweden. xJapandi is a hybrid union of Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetic approaches appreciated for its reverence for nature and natural, sustainable materials, exceptional craftsmanship, simplicity and minimalism, and the beauty of embracing imperfection. This union evokes a visual and physical sense of calm and tranquility. The exhibition will run from September 25 through October 3, 2021.

Left: Jane Balsgaard (Denmark), Right: Kiyomi Iwata (Japan)

While attention on Japandi style may be currently popular, the interest in this merge of aesthetics is far from new. Artists and designers from the Nordic countries and Japan have been observing the parallels in their work and cultures for decades. Cultural and geographic elements made the Japanese work particularly appealing to Scandinavian artisans when it was first introduced to artists in the region in the 1800s. Both Japan and Northern European countries are deeply wooded and both have developed acclaimed woodworking traditions — in Scandinavia, techniques used by the Vikings and to protect against brutal winters, writes Danielle Johnson (Japonisme and the Origin of Modern Scandinavian Design,” OOKKUU, November 04, 2016.) The Japanese introduced new techniques, simplified forms, and most importantly, an approach towards woodworking that the Scandinavians deeply appreciated. The Scandinavians witnessed the fine craftsmanship and the sense of the natural materials that Japanese artisans brought to their work — particularly the manner in which the Japanese explored the wood’s essence, using minimal, refined designs so as not to detract from the experience from the viewer’s engagment with the materials. 

“[B]oth cultures have developed in harsh natural environments that humans cannot control. I feel a common point for us is how to live comfortably with nature.” Kato Saeko, curator of The Shop at the cultural centre Japan House, London. (“The rise of ‘Japandi’ style,” Clare DowdyBBC Online, October 2019.) Finland’s Ambassador to Japan, Pekka Orpana, also acknowledged the respect for nature shared by the regions. “We come from different cultures and are very far apart, but it’s actually quite surprising how similarly [the Finnish and Japanese] visualize and see our way of life …. We have a lot of similarities that unite us … for instance, how we appreciate nature and design.”  

Left: Hisako Sekijima (Japan), Right: Gjertrud Halls (Denmark)

Hisako Sekijima, one of the artists in Japandi, has recognized, and embraced, the influences the cultures share. She sees a greater kinship in her approach to that taken by Nordic artisans than to the traditional aesthetics of her native Japan which are often ascribed to Zen spirit or a stylized empathy to nature in terms ofka-cho-fu-getsu (natural imageries of flower, bird, wind and the moon). Her explorations into the elegant or logical interplay between natural materials and structural methods have more to do with elemental processing of materials than emotional expressions. “When I use a branch of tree to make a basket, it becomes a kind of abstract component — a linear element with a certain role. For example, when a branch becomes a tool used to reach fruits on a high branch.” She sees a similar similar shifting of the materials’ nature in the Scandinavian object making. “Their manner is straightforward and elemental as well as universal.” 

Left: Jiro Yonezawa, Right: Eva Vargö

Paper is another natural material that Japanese and Nordic artists highlight in their work. “Simplicity, purity and a respect for materials is intrinsic to Japanese craft and their work links East and West by celebrating the inherent properties of paper (some areas are softly translucent, and overlaid areas exploit varying opacities) and accurately balancing material, technique and form, ” writes Sarah E. Braddock, textile lecturer, writer & curator (Project Papermoon catalogDenmark, 2000) It was in Japan where  Swedish artist Eva Vargö first experience how Japanese washi paper, especially when produced in the traditional way, exhibits a unique quality. The most interesting, in her view, was to experience how light filters through papers from lamps, paper shoji screen doors and windows. Danish artist Jane Balsgaard spent time in Japan in 1993 and 1998, preparing for exhibits there. Works of paper and twigs were the result. In her work, white paper often contrasts the dark color of the willow twigs.  “Another element in her works that has connection to Japan,” writes Mirjam Golfer-Jørgensen, “is the skeleton, that partly  frames the paper, partly combines with the hollows in the constuction, and gives another character to the paper that with a lightness that creates a contrast towards to the hollows.” (Influences from Japan in Dansh Art and Design 1870 – 2010, Mirjam Golfer-Jørgensen, Danish Architectural Press, 2013.)

Join us at  Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to see more ways in which these influences are exhanged and expressed. 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.


Art Out and About – Exhibitions in the US and Abroad

With mask requirements and other safety protocols in place, museums worldwide are reopening with new exhibitions. From West to East — and a couple abroad — here are several worth traveling to see. Stay safe when you go!

International Fiber Arts X 
through September 21, 2021
Sebastopol Center for the Arts 
282 South High Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472 
info@sebarts.org
https://www.sebarts.org

Dolphin of the Ganges
Neha Puri Dhir’s Dolphin of the Ganges. Photo by Neha Puri Dhir

Our own Neha Puri Dhir took 2nd place in the International Fiber Arts X exhibition at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in California. The winning work, Dolphin of the Ganges, was created in tribute to a sea creature that has become endangered. “I grew up on the banks of the River Ganges, in the picturesque town of Haridwar amongst lush forest and rich riverine life,” writes Dhir. “The Ganges Dolphin that once thrived in these waters has now disappeared – a victim of the pollution from indiscriminate development in this hilly region. This work is a memorial to a majestic creature and a warning against the irreversible damage caused by human activity.” Kyoko Kumai’s work, Moonlight Wind-L was also selected for the exhibition.

Kay Sekimachi: Geometries
through October 24, 2021
Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center Street Berkeley, CA
(510) 642-0808
bampfa@berkeley.edu 
https://bampfa.org/program/virtual/kay-sekimachi-geometries

Kay Sekimachi: Geometries
Kay Sekimachi: Geometries. Photo by Johnna Arnold

In nearby Berkeley, Kay Sekimachi: Geometries is on view. Curated by Janelle Porter, Geometries includes more than 50 objects that highlight the Sekimchi’s material and formal innovations across her career. First recognized for her woven monofilament sculptures, made between 1964 and 1974, Sekimachi has since used linear, pliable elements—monofilament, thread, and paper, among other materials—to create experimental objects that fold together art and craft, found and made, and Japanese and American artistic traditions. 

Olga de Amaral: To Weave a Rock
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Through September 19, 2021
Audrey Jones Beck Building
5601 Main Street
713.639.7300
https://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/olga-de-amaral-to-weave-a-rock

Olga de Amaral, Brumas (Mists), 2013, acrylic, gesso, and cotton on wood, courtesy of the artist. © Olga de Amaral / Photograph © Diego Amaral

Heading to Texas, in Houston is the first stop of a touring exhibition featuring the exquisite work of Olga de Amaral who has “pioneered her own visual language within the fiber arts movement. Her radical experimentation with color, form, material, composition, and space transforms weaving from a flat design element into an architectural component that defies the confines of any genre or medium.” It travels next to Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfiels Hills, Michigan. There is a catalog that accompanies the exhibition (https://www.amazon.com/Olga-Amaral-Houston-Museum-Fine/dp/3897905965/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=to+weave+a+rock&qid=1628505072&sr=8-1).

Art Japan: 2021 – 1921
Through September 24, 2021
1635 W St. Paul Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 252-0677 ext. 110
info@thewarehousemke.org
https://www.thewarehousemke.org/current

Existing -2-D, Naoko Serino, 2006 and Red Aperture, Kiyomi Iwata, 2009. Photos by Tom Grotta

In the Midwest, The Warehouse MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is exhibiting the second of its three-part look at art in Asia, Art Japan: 2021- 1921, curated by Annemarie Sawkins. The exhibition features over 120 woodblock prints, etchings, lithographs, calligraphy, drawings, photography, ceramics, basketry, and textiles, all from the extensive permanent collection of The Warehouse and includes work by Naoko Serino, Jiro Yonezawa, Kiyomi Iwata and Hiroyuki Shindo. The first exhibition in the trilogy was India: Photographs (2019). The third, Then and Now: China, opens October 8th, 2021.

Women Take the Floor
September 13 – November 28, 2021
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115 
617-267-9300
https://www.mfa.org/exhibition/women-take-the-floor

Women Take the Floor challenges the dominant history of 20th-century American art by focusing on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists. The exhibition, began in 2019. The current reinstallation—or “takeover”—of Level 3 of the Art of the Americas Wing advocates for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. It features women painters, photographers and fiber artists among others.

The Social Fabric: Black Artistry in Fiber Arts, An Exhibition in Homage to Viki Craig
Through October 24, 2021
Morris Museum
6 Normandy Heights Road
Morristown, NJ 07960
(973) 971-3700
info@morrismuseum.org

Deeply rooted in quilt-making tradition, today’s Black fiber arts incorporate conventional textile skills with contemporary art and design practices. The exhibition features 50 works by over 27 artists, including Aminah Robinson, Beverly McCutcheon, Bisa Washington, Carole Robinson, Clara Nartey, Denise Toney, Ellaree Pray and Faith Ringgold.

Abroad:

Echigo-Tsumari Mail Art Exhibition
Through October 31, 2021
Echigo-Tsumari Art Field
Gallery YUYAMA
446 Yuyama matsunoyama
Toka-machi Niigata-ken
025-532-2218 

Echigo-Tsumari Mail Art Exhibition including Reborn by Kyoko Kumai

Kyoko Kumai‘s 19.5″ stainless-steel sphere, Reborn, is included in an exhibition at the Gallery YUYAMA in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field through October 31st. Day trips are available to the Art Field which includes a number of out sculptures and structures. The site’s motto: “artworks waiting in the vast nature. Let’s go on a satoyama art walk!”

Britt Smelvaer: Around his father’s boat
Bømlo Kulturhus
Through August, 15 2021
Kulturhusvegen 20
5430 Bremnes, Norway
53423500 
post@bomlokulturhus.no
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&u=https://www.bomlokulturhus.no/program/sommarutstillinga-britt-smelvaer-omkring-baaten-hans-far/&prev=search&pto=aue

In Norway, graphic works by Britt Smelvaer tell of memories, knowing the connection and having roots fixed in the environment by the seacoast, and not far from what was in childhood. Learn more about the project here: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=da&u=https://svfk.dk/project/omkring-baaten-hans-far&prev=search&pto=aue

Britt Smelvaer work at the Hovedøya exhibition

A Sky of Mirror
Though September 12, 2021
Hovedøya Kunstal
Hovedøya, 0150 
Oslo, Norge
920 62 866
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&u=https://kunstsalen.no/&prev=search&pto=aue

The summer exhibition at Hovedøya features works by various artists including work by Britt Smelvaer created after a trip she made to Damascus, Syria.

The Nook Exhibition
Kunstbygningen in Vrå 
Through September 1st
Højskolevej 3A 
Vrå, Denmark-9760 
+45 9898 0410 
info@kunstbygningenvraa.dk
https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=da&u=https://www.kunstbygningenvraa.dk/vraa-udstillingen/&prev=search&pto=aue

Polynesian boat
Polynesian boat transformed to artifact by Jane Balsgaard. Photo by Nils Holm Christensen

In Denmark, an exhibition of mixed media scuptures and acrylic paintings by Jane Balsgaard appear in a group exhibition.

Carole Frève, Glass Sculptor
September 24, 2021 to January 23, 2022
Musée des métiers d’art du Québec (MUMAQ) 
615, avenue Sainte-Croix 
Montréal, QC, H4L 3X6, Canada
+1 514-747-7367

Open Up to You, Carole Frève
Open Up to You, Carole Frève, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

Carole Frève has always included two major components in her work: on the one hand, constant research on the combined techniques of glass and electro-formed copper and, on the other, the story the work tells the observer. This exhibition highlights work she ahs created over the span of a 20-year career.


Acquisition News – Part II, Abroad

More on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in the last two years. We have 18 works to report on that have been acquired by institutions outside the US — from Norway to Lithuania to Italy to Japan and places in between.

Heidrun Schimmel
One of two works that comprise Hanging by a thread IV, handstitched by Heidrun Schimmel, 1986-1987, acquired in 2021 by the Diocesan Museum in Bamberg, Germany. Photo by: Monika Meinhart.

Heidrun Schimmel

Seven works by Heidrun Schimmel have been acquired since 2020. Two by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, two by Museum of Applied Art, Frankfurt and three by the Diocesan Musuem in Bamberg.

Kyoko Kumai
Furious Anger by Kyoko Kumai acquired by the Janina Monkute-Marks Art Museum in Kedainai, Lithuania. Photo by Takashi Hatakeyama

Kyoko Kumai

One work by Kyoko Kumai was acquired by the Angers Museums in Angers, France (Jean-Lurçat and the Museum of Contemporary Tapestry) and another by the Janina Monkute-Marks Art Museum in Kedainai, Lithuania.

Carolina Yrarrázaval
Medioevo, jute and linen, Carolina Yrarrázaval. One of two tapestries acquired by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto. Photo by Patricia Novoa.

Carolina Yrarrázaval

Two tapestries were selected on May of this year at Yrarrázaval’s exhibition in Kyoto by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto.

Åse Ljones

Åse Ljones

Åse Ljones‘ work, Atterskin, was purchased by Nordenfjeldske Art and Craft Museum in Trondheim , Norway in 2020 and Mylder was purchased The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, March 2021. 

Federica Luzzi
Federica Luzzi’s work acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Salerno, Italy. Photo by Federica Luzzi.

Federica Luzzi

An encased textile, Shell-Omaggio a Costanino Dardi, by Federica Luzzi was acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Salerno, Italy for a collection curated by Fondazione Filiberto e Bianca Menna – Centro Studi D’Arte Contemporanea.

The textile object is suspended and anchored with nylon thread in a plexiglass box. Like a seed, with an aerodynamic shape that is structured for long movements and transport, it is closed in a box that prevents its natural and complete movement, it is trapped in it. “This work was done just before the outbreak of the pandemic,” Luzzi says. “So without knowing what would happen, but continuing my research on envelopes, I visualized even better the containment condition of a body.”

Simone Pheulpin
Eclosion Epingles by Simone Pheulpin, photo courtesy of Galerie Maison Parisienne.

Simone Pheulpin

Two artworks by Simone Pheulpin have been acquired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs i(MAD) inn Paris in December 2019: Jéromine, Série Eclipse (2019); Eclosion Epingles (2019). Another, Détail VII (2021), will be acquired by the same museum in 2021. The acquisitions were organized by the Galerie Maison Parisienne in Paris.

Wlodzimierz Cygan
Organic by Wlodzimierz Cygan, acquired by TAMAT in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by This Way Design.

Wlodzimierz Cygan

In 2021, Organic (2018) by Wlodzimierz Cygan was acquired by the Musée de la Tapisserie et des Arts Textiles de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (TAMAT) in Tournai, Belgium.


Acquisition News – Part I, US

We last reported on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in 2019. There has been continued interest in acquiring work by these artists in the two years since by museums and art programs in the US and abroad. browngrotta arts has placed several works and acquisitions have occurred through the efforts of other galleries, artists and donors. As a result, we have a long list of aquisitions to report. In this, Part I, acquisitions in the Untied States:

Polly Adams Sutton
Polly Adams Sutton, Facing the Unexpected, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Polly Adams Sutton

Polly Adams Sutton’s work Facing the Unexpected has been acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Musuem. It’s going to be part of the Renwick’s 50th anniversary exhibition in 2022.

Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s, Goodbye My Friend, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz

Goodbye My Friend by Norma Minkowitz was gifted to the Renwick, Smithsonian American Art Museum, in memory of noted fiber art collector, Camille Cook.

Kiyomi Iwata
Kiyomi Iwata’s Red Aperture, 2009 and Fungus Three, 2018. Photos By Tom Grotta

Kiyomi Iwata 

Two works, Red Aperture and Fungus Three by Kiyomi Iwata were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two works by Iwata, Grey Orchid Fold V made in 1988, and Auric Grid Fold made in 1995 were donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Adela Akers
Adela Akers, Traced Memories, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Adela Akers

Adela Akers‘ work, Traced Memories from 2007 was acquired by the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, California in 2020.

Dawn MacNutt
Dawn MacNutt’s, Larger Than Life, 2021.

Dawn MacNutt  

Dawn MacNutt’s 9 foot-high willow sculpture, Larger Than Life, was acquired by Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York in 2021.

Naoko Serino
Naoko Serino’s Existing-2-D, 2017 and Generating Mutsuki, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Naoko Serino

Two works by Naoko SerinoGenerating Mutsuki and Existing 2-D, were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ferne Jacobs

A work by Ferne JacobsSlipper, made in 1994, was donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Another, Centric Spaces, from 2000, was donated to Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook

Lia Cook

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) purchased Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook, in 2019.

Gyöngy Laky
Gyöngy Laky’s, Noise at Noon, 1996. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Gyöngy Laky   

The Oakland Museum of California in California acquired Noise at Noon by Gyöngy Laky this year. In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Historical Society, added That Word to its collection and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, added Ex Claim!  The Art in Embassies program of the US Department of State, acquired Seek, for the US embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.

Congratulations to the artists and acquiring organizations!


An Artist Evolves: Lia Cook’s Five Bodies of Work

Lia Cook is a relentless innovator who has been involved in textile experimentation since her graduate and undergraduate work in Arts and Design at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s. 

While Cook has created varied bodies of work in her storied career, her explorations have a consistent theme. They all involve the experience of touch, the sensation of the body and the physicality of cloth. “Cook’s work defies the ‘ocular-centricity’ of Western art by overturning the hierarchy of the senses and repositioning the sense of touch in the foreground. While the work is never handled in the gallery or museum, the sense of touch is so fully activated that the experience of the work is startlingly touch-sensory,” writes Deborah Valoma, in Lia Cook: In the Folds — Works from 1973 – 1997

Space Dyed Weaving
48lc Space-Dyed Weaving II, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 33″, 1975

Cook’s early work aimed to envelop the viewer in monumental cloth. “The work was imposing, strident and typically employed magnified imagery of weave patterns as the subject,” writes Valoma, “depicting both in realization and representation the structural realities of weaving.” Space-Dyed Weaving-2, created in 1975, is an example of work from this period. So is Spatial Ikat III-2, the prize for the winner of our Art for a Cause 2021 sweepstakes with UncommonGood (uncommongood.io.), which continues through July 31st.

Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed
13lc Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, Lia Cook dyes on rayon; woven, 5’ x 18.5’, 1986

In the 1980s, cook turned her attention to textile structures — curtains, pockets and crazy quilts. Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, which hints at curtains on a stage, is from this period. In the 1990s, Cook created works that took inspiration from images of fabric painted during the Renaissance, when images of drapery were an essential part of a painter’s training.  

Material Pleasures: Leonard I
8lc Material Pleasures: Leonard I, Lia Cook acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77”, 1993

As Valoma describes, in works like Material Pleasures, created in 1993, Cook painted the imagery of draped fabrics on linen or abaca with acrylics or oil paints. The canvases were finely stripped and inserted as weft into hand-painted warps and woven on a 32-harness loom, purposefully defying conventional definitions.

Big Susan
43lc Big Susan, Lia Cook, woven cotton, 168” x 48”, 2005

In the mid-90s, after two artists-in-residencies, one in Italy and one in Germany, Cook’s work took yet another turn — focusing on the Jacquard loom and incorporating photography, to create works that were narrative and personal. This body of works was featured in The Embedded Portrait, her solo exhibition at the University of Wyoming Art Gallery in 2009.

In 2010, Cook’s shifts again. As an artist-in-residence at the University’of Pittsburgh’s TREND program (Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience and Development, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine), Cook was able to compare the emotional responses of viewers to actual photographs and to her weavings of photo images “I wanted to explore the nature of people’s emotional connection to woven faces,” she explains. “I thought that the material and structural aspects of the textile, the physical evidence of the hand and the memories associated with these tactile experiences might intensify the reactions. Something about the textile engenders embodied emotional response beyond that of the two–dimensional photo.”

Neural Networks
23lc Neural Networks, Lia Cook woven cotton and rayon, 83″ x 51″ x 1.5″, 2011

To test her hypothesis, Cook, in collaboration with scientists at TREND tried several approaches. Cook and the scientists could see noticeable differences in individual images from MRI data and in records of electrical brain activity from EEGs when volunteers compared flat and woven images. She underwent this MRI imaging on herself and then, using software from MGH/Harvard, Biomedical Imaging Lab, she manipulated the images for a series of weavings that combine faces and images of brain fibers, as you can see in Neural Networks, 2011.

Cook’s experiments in neuroaesthetics continue — and as always, she makes adjustments and changes her gaze to produce something new. Recently, she has merged three fibers into her imagery — neural fibers, plant fibers and the parallel lines that she used in the 1970s. “Art and science are more similar in their process than many people think,” says Cook. “Each requires starting with a question, being curious, discovering something new, being willing to take the answers or lack of answers — good or bad — and building on that for the future.” 

Keep watching, as this remarkable artist continues to experiment, innovate and create remarkable work.


Basket, Vessel, Object, Sculpture … the Challenge of Reinvention

Experimentation can fuel creativity and spark unexpected results. At browngrotta arts, we are continually impressed by our object-making artists’ ability — and willingness — to reinvent themselves rather than remain in a successful, but predictable, lane.

Ed Rossbachs
Ed Rossbach’s Open Structure, 1982 and Cedar: Export Bundle, 1993. Photos by Tom Grotta

Foremost among the experimenters was perhaps Ed Rossbach who tried unexpected materials and symbols in his baskets, vessels, and assemblages including plastic, cotton balls, cardboard and Mickey Mouse. When plaiting, weaving and lace-making had been thoroughly explored, he taught himself cedar basketmaking and turned to images of bison and Native Americans.

John McQueens
John McQueen’s Deer Head, 2010 and Untitled, 1983. Photos by Tom Grotta

John McQueen has also made deviations. Most of his sculptures are made of sticks and bark, but he sometimes veers from that path, incorporating cardboard, plastic and found objects.

Dorothy Gill Barnes
Dorothy Gill Barnes, Summer Pine, 1997, and Bark and Glass Triptych, 2010. Photos by Tom Grotta

The late Dorothy Gill Barnes was a weaver and manipulator of twigs and bark, as well, but later in her career, she changed her approach after collaborating with woodturners and glass makers. In Bark and Glass Triptych, for example, the rustic bark is still a primary component, but echoed by sleek glass interior.

Mary Merkel-Hess
Mary Merkel-Hess’s Rose Tipped Basket. 1992; Green-Tipped Basket, 1992 and Umbel, 1996. Photos by Tom Grotta

One of our first exhibitions at browngrotta arts featured Mary Merkel-Hess‘ jewel-toned vessels of reed and paper in blues and reds and even purple. The works were very popular and we sold nearly every one. Two years later, we asked Merkel-Hess to create work for another two-person exhibition. Rather than recreate her first successful show, however, she sculpted works of no color — new shapes, made of translucent gampi paper. They were wildly different, but equally well-received, inspiring collectors to acquire multiple works by Merkel-Hess, accompanying her on her artistic journey. Since then she has continued to work in color — but in larger scale and different forms. She still makes room for the minimal, however, like Among the Trees, II, her 2020 wall work of gampi and pencil.

Nancy Moore Bess
Nancy Moore Bess’s From Biwa to Tahoe, 2001 and Shiro Katach i-White Form, 2008, Photos by Tom Grotta

A difficulty with her hands and the movement required to make her small, twined basket forms, led Nancy Moore Bess to invent a new process involving carved foam shapes. Still working with variations of twining and knots, the carved forms allow her to rest her hands as she worked. The result was a completely new body of work that built on previous efforts.

Stépahnie Jacques
Séphanie Jacques’s Paniers-liens II & III, 2011 and Wall / Mur, 2013. Photos by Tom Grotta

Stéphanie Jacques is another relentless reinventer. Her basket-like sculptures have incorporated yarn and woodworking and clay. She has added performance, video and still photography to the mix as well.

Kari Lønning’s Bridge to Blue, 1995 and With a Flash of Blue, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Kari Lønning invented the double-walled basket of smooth, round rattan, then reinvented her baskets with fine and variegated akebia vines.

Other artists at browngrotta arts have also made changes in materials and approach. Contact us at art@browngrotta.com if you want to know more about the specific path for any artist whose work we represent. Their predisposition to change and exploration keeps viewers engaged.


Craft is Now an Art Market Force: Just 3 Weeks to Win a Lia Cook of Your Own

Lia Cook Spatial details
Details of Spatial Ikat III_1976; Spatial Ikat III-2, 1976; Space-Dyed-Weaving-2, 1975

Craft is now an “art market force,” according to the art platform Artsy, “How Craft Became an Art Market Force,” Benjamin Sutton, February 10, 2021. “The boundaries separating painting, ceramics, weaving, drawing, glassblowing, printmaking, and other processes and practices are now porous if not completely antiquated. This is plainly clear from visiting most major art museums where, increasingly, textiles share wall space with abstract paintings and glass, and clay sculptures sit on plinths alongside bronzes.”

The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art: Selections from the Linda Leonard Schlenger Collection at the Yale Art Gallery in 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuNAdtbxRPw) provided an early exhibition example of impactful intermixing of media. The exhibition featured over 80 objects from the Schlenger collection by leading 20th-century ceramicists—including Toshiko Takezu, Ruth Duckworth, Kenneth Price, Lucie Rie, and Peter Voulkos—alongside works in other media from the Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection by artists such as Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Isamu Noguchi, Mark Rothko, and Edward Ruscha. The Gallery recognized that, allthough critically lauded within the studio-craft movement, works by these ceramicists were only then coming to be recognized as integral to the wider field of contemporary art. This ecumenical approach is further illustrated in Making Knowing; Craft in Art 1950-2019  at the Whitney in New York (November 2019 until February of next year; https://whitney.org/exhibitions/making-knowing). The exhibition “foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. Some expand techniques with long histories, such as weaving, sewing, or pottery, while others experiment with textiles, thread, clay, beads, and glass, among other mediums.” It includes artists like Robert Raushenberg, Kiki Smith and Agnes Martin beside Robert Arneson, Sheila Hicks and Ron Nagle. Also exhibiting currently, Women in Abstraction, at the Pompidou Center through August 23rd (https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en/program/calendar/event/OmzSxFv) .Transcending the traditional reductionist hierarchies between high and low art, the exhibition presents a history that includes dance, the decorative arts, photography and cinema and artists that include Ruth Asawa, Barbara Hepworth and Lenore Tawney. 

Fiber art has played a major part in this surge of interest and now through July 31st, you can be a part of this emerging trend. Enter the UncommonGood sweepstakes for an important Lia Cook tapestry. You’ll promote her work, fiber arts and the Breast Cancer Alliance in the process, and just maybe, add a remarkable work to your your personal collection.

Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art
Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 22, 2019–January 2021). From left to right: Peter Voulkos, Red River, c. 1960; Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954; Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1955, refabricated 1957-58. Photograph by Ron Amstutz.

Spatial Ikat III-2, woven by Lia Cook in 1976 during a formative period for fiber art, will be the prize in a sweepstakes organized by UncommonGood, along with a $7,500 prize, a Zoom call with the artist and a copy of the catalog: Lia Cook: In the Folds – Works from 1973 – 1997. The tapestry was donated by browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut, as the latest of its Art for a Cause projects. The proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to the Breast Council Alliance.

Lia Cook works in a variety of media combining weaving with painting, photography, video and digital technology. Her current practice explores the sensuality of the woven image and the emotional connections to memories of touch and cloth. Long recognized as an innovator, Cook’s work has been featured in dozens of group and solo exhibitions worldwide. Her work is found in dozens of museum collections, including that of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

In Spatial Ikat III-2 Cook aimed to envelop the viewer in a work that was imposing and strident. She perfected the technique used in this work over a period of years. Distorting a plain weave with strenuous physical intervention, the lines undulate and create a topographical terrain, creating the illusion of massive threads moving over and under one another.

Spatial Ikat III-2
Spatial Ikat III-2 by Lia Cook

Donating to win this important tapestry, aids the Breast Cancer Alliance. BCA funds innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved. 

Enter the sweepstakes here: https://uncommongood.iohttps://uncommongood.io/sweepstakes/win-a-lia-cook-art-piece-valued-at-35000-and-7500-in-cash


Process Notes: On Making Variant by Gyöngy Laky – Material

Gyöngy Laky tells us more about the making of her recent work, Variant. Specifically she answers, Why golf tees?

Detail: Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Detail: Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red, 30” x 20” x 4” 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My current interest in use of golf tees in my sculptures arose during the Trump presidency.  He had criticized President Obama for spending time playing golf. Trump, however, spent much more time on the golf course than Obama had – another of Trump’s hypocrisies. Golf tees became emblematic representation of Trump for me, as were his ubiquitous red neckties.  I searched for red golf tees to suggest a connection to Trump in some of my artwork.  

Golf Tease by Gyöngy Laky
Golf Tease, wooden, red golf tees, 16” x 25” x 2” , 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Having been glued to the news during all of 2020, by the beginning of 2021, I was convinced that the pandemic in the U.S. could have been far less damaging and deadly had Trump not dismantled the government’s infectious disease unit, undermined the CDC, pulled out of the WHO.  If early in 2020 Americans had been urged to wear masks numerous deaths and illnesses could have been avoided.  A number of experts believe that 80-85% mask wearing during the first few weeks/months of the appearance of the virus would have avoided the pandemic levels in the U.S. and saved many lives. The virus would not have had a field day to grow and spread in millions of noses.  I felt a strong urge to create an artwork that addressed the virus and its association with Trump’s trivializing of the danger of Covid-19.  

Fifth Avenue 1/23/16 by Gyöngy Laky
Fifth Avenue 1/23/16, AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees, golf ball, 23″ x 9.5″ x 3.75”, 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

The golf tees heads looked like the graphic representations of the virus in the daily news. I had used golf tees in my art work, but I had never used them as a structuring element.  As I handled the golf tees I realized that they were much like pins or nails or toothpicks (another small wooden wonder) or could even provide the kind of joining that the screws I use to structure sculptures did. The ones I found are 3 1/4″ HUGE Ripstixx Mustang Red extra long. 

Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red 30” x 20” x 4”, 2021, Photo by Tom Grotta

Had it not been for the virus I would not have discovered how effective and beautiful golf tee connectors could be.  Not only do the tees hint to Trump, using twigs connects to nature and the climate crisis’s role in the pandemic as well.  Painting the branches white suggests bones – a nod to the avoidable deaths of so many.”


Process Notes:  Gyöngy Laky’s Variant — Meaning

Gyöngy Laky’s work, Variant, a three-dimensional sculpture of “V” was featured in browngrotta arts’ recent exhibition, Adaptation: Artists Respond to ChangeLaky often creates words and symbols. In this post she tells us why the “V.” In next week’s post, she shares the impetus behind her choice of materials — specifically, golf tees. 

Q with No A, Gyöngy Laky, Photo by Tom Grotta

“A recurring theme in my art lexicon is language, symbols, signs and glyphic shapes and communication they inspire when in sculptural form,” says Laky.  “Words fascinate me, their origins and what playing with them explores.  Letters are word’s vehicles.  Letter forms, like symbols, are lyrical, suggestive. A letter standing alone can convey much. ‘Q,’ a favorite subject of several sculptures, is no longer… given the assault on democracy on January 6, 2021.

“Learning languages is play for me:  Early, I spoke Hungarian and German (mother, also Polish and French, father, English). Age 5, as refugees to the U.S., came English (French fluency in High School and a Paris year). Short studies of Russian, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Italian and Spanish and playing with Catalan, Yiddish, Greek and Dutch followed.

“Many words came to play new, large roles with Covid 19.  Early in 2020, ‘novel’ caught my eye.  Articles I read with urgent interest to understand the new virus, to my surprise, used ‘novel’ corona. Novel? New?  New crown?  It was puzzling.  Scientists use ‘novel’ as a provisional name until a permanent makes sense.  We all know coronas as the common cold… but this one is devastating – a pandemic within weeks of appearing.

Gyöngy Laky 201L Variant ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red 30” x 20” x 4” 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

I became curious about the Latin plural form of virus discovering ‘viri’ translates as ‘men.’

The label ‘variant’ is ubiquitous warning us of impending danger. In the months of creating Variant it was everywhere, every day, accompanied by warnings and on April 5, 2021, I read about the new variant, ‘Eeek,’ a double mutation!  ‘Eeek?’  Again, the scientists got right to the crux.  A mutation named ‘Eeek’ calls for immediate high alert to danger.

As the word ‘variant’ drilled deep it occurred to me that we had recently experienced another devastating variant, a political variant, a leader with no governmental, administrative experience who was as unexpectedly dangerous as the following Covid 19.”

More on Variant on next week’s arttextstyle.


Women Artists Get Their Due: Learning About Lia Cook

Women didn’t win the vote until 1920. It took another 100 more years, but in the last few, women artists have finally begun to win the comprehensive, worldwide recognition they long deserved. Exhibitions like Women Take the Floor, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Anni Albers and Dora Maar at the Tate Modern in London, Sheila Hicks at the Centre Pompidou and A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana at the Prado in Spain are just some of the ways female artists are getting their due. 

Bamian by Sheila Hicks (American (lives and works in Paris) 1968, Wool and acrylic yarns, wrapped. Charles Potter Kling Fund and partial gift of Sheila Hicks © Sheila Hicks * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Bethany CT. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London. Photography: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Lia Cook is one of those artists. Receiving critical acclaim from the onset of her career, innovating, experimenting and creating art for nearly five decades, Cook’s recent work in neuroaesthetics in the last decade has gained her a broader audience.  Since the 70s, Cook’s work has promoted a reconsideration of weaving, long-considered women’s work and thus inferior to high or fine art. While pursuing a Master’s degree in Art at UC Berkeley, she joined a group of progressive women in forming Fiberworks Center for Textile Arts. Just out of graduate school, she was issued an invitation to the prestigious Lausanne Biennial in 1973, where she exhibited with fiber art pioneers Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks. Viewers of Cook’s work find craft/fine art distinctions superfluous — a view that has finally taken hold in the art world at large.

space-continuum-1-portrait , Continuum I, exhibited at the 1973 International Biennial of Tapestry, Lausanne, Switzerland

Through July 31st, you have the chance to win an important work from Cook’s early explorations, Spatial Ikat III -2 (1976). The tapestry is a prize in a sweepstakes organized by UncommonGood, a B-corp that helps nonprofits of all sizes expand their reach and do even more good. The sweepstakes prize includes a $7500 prize, a 20-minute Zoom call with the artist and a copy of Lia Cook: In the Folds – Works from 1973 – 1997 (browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT 2007). The tapestry was donated by browngrotta arts as the latest of our Art for a Cause projects; the cash prize is from UncommonGood. The proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to the Breast Council Alliance https://breastcanceralliance.org which funds innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved. 

browngrotta arts is thrilled to partner with UncommonGood and Breast Cancer Alliance in this sweepstakes. UncommonGood provides comprehensive software solutions for nonprofit organizations. With these tools, groups like the Breast Cancer Alliance can engage more donors and amplify their reach.

This sweepstakes presents an opportunity to create a new fans for Lia Cook’s work while benefiting a worthy cause in the process. A winning combination!

To enter the sweepstakes: https://uncommongood.io