For this year’s Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to enter a blue or green period of their own and send us a work that conveyed one of the many meanings, connotations and moods of these colors. The result is Blue/Green: color/code/context, an exhibition of remarkably diverse works from more than 50 artists from 15 countries. Marian Bijlenga of the Netherlands, for example, has created an enigmatic wall work inspired by Dutch blue china fragments. The work is inspired, she says, by the patterns of Chinese porcelain and the Japanese philosophy of the reuse of broken tiles and her collection of Dutch blue shards, collected in Amsterdam.
Yasuhisa Kohyama has created, Kaze, a ceramic with a grey-greenish cast, hand built and wood fired in an anagama kiln. “With the properties of the shigaraki clay and its inclusions of feldspar and silica, the high heat, the atmosphere in the kiln and the falling of the wood ash on the pots all present, warm colors as well as attractive markings can be captured on the surface of the clay,” Kohyama explains. “The blue-green and red-orange colors develop in the mid-section of the kiln; In the back of the kiln, a heavily reduced atmosphere creates rich dark gray and brown colors.”
The Green Horizon is the striking abstract tapestry created by Gudrun Pager of Denmark for the exhibition. “Perhaps it is the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth – or the line between heaven and earth?” Pagter muses. “The thin, horizontal line is made with many shades of blue and green thin linen. The main color is blue, but the thin, green horizon is essential to the whole picture.”
Encylopedia Britanica pages are the material Wendy Wahl uses to express our station in time, recognizable as they are as a part of a particular collective consciousness. Wahl’s Changing Tides is made of 275 pages of the 1988 Encyclopedia Britannica Annual of World Data, the only book in Wahl’s collection of EB volumes that contained blue paper. The pages were cut into seven sections, for each of the continents, contemplatively scrolled and compressed into 1925 whorls to symbolize the reality of rising water around the globe. These four are just a sampling of the more than 70 works that will be on display in the Blue/Green: color/code/context exhibition and in the companion catalog, which will be available at www.browngrotta.com after April 28th. To visit Blue/Green: color/code/context, here are the details: Saturday, April 28th, 1-6 pm: Opening and Artists Reception
Last Friday, the Westport Arts Center opened up its new exhibition, Handmade: Women Reshaping Contemporary Art, which includes three artists, Chiyoko Tanaka, Carolina Yrarrázaval and Norma Minkowitz, represented by browngrotta arts. The exhibition was curated by Elizabeth Gorayeb, the Executive Director of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc., a New York based non-profit committed to art historical research. Handmade also features work by Ghada Amer, Anna Betbeze, Ligia Bouton, Orly Cogan, Lesley Dill, Terri Friedman, Sermin Kardestuncer, Sophia Narrett, Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Judith Scott, Beverly Semmes, Rosemarie Trockel and Margo Wolowiec, all of whom utilize fiber and textile in their art.
“As visitors to a gallery or museum, we are expected to engage with works of art though the act of looking. We consider the final product of the artist’s creation, but rarely do we think of the tactile experience of the artist’s process,” explains Gorayeb. “Fiber art — works of art created from wool, silk, cotton, flax and other forms of textiles — present us with a dynamic, multi-sensory experience.” It is because of this tactile experience and physical commitment that Narrett prefers embroidery over painting, “when an object is developed by human hands for hundreds of hours, it leaves a quality in the surface that can be sensed,” she notes.
Six years later, Ethel’s work received the wider recognition it deserved. We were thrilled to attend the opening of her one-person exhibition, Ethel Stein, Master Weaver, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. “Ethel Stein is an artist who only now, at the age of 96, is beginning to get the recognition she deserves from the broader public,” the Institute wrote. “Stein’s great contribution to weaving is her unique combination of refined traditional weaving techniques, possible only on a drawloom and used by few contemporary weavers, with modernist sensibilities influenced by Josef Albers, who trained in the German Bauhaus with its emphasis on simplicity, order, functionality, and modesty.” There were photos of her at work, a video and a dinner after with family members and supporters of the museum and crowds of visitors to the exhibition — a well-deserved tribute.
These artists and their lengthy careers, raise the question, is fiber art a key to longevity? Ethel Stein continued to weave even after she was discovered and lauded at 96. When we visited Katherine Westphal in Berkeley in 2015 we found her still drawing or painting every day in a series of journals she kept, something she continued to do until just a few weeks before her death. Lenore Tawney died at 100, Ruth Asawa and Magdalena Abakanowicz each at 87. Helena Hernmarck tells us that she knows several fiber artists who are 100. So those of you who are practitioners — keep it up!
Raised in North Carolina and an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sculptor Patrick Dougherty returned to his roots to create Step Right Up for the Ackland Art Museum last October. Internationally acclaimed for his monumental environmental works, Dougherty has produced over 280 large scale stick sculptures all over the world. You’ll know one of Dougherty’s sculptures when you see one. “Some cling to pylons or walls, or roll across the tops of trees; others emerge from a lake, seeming to balance on the surface of it without making a single ripple,” explains Daniel Wallace of Garden & Gun. “His sculptures do impossible things. They could be homes for giants or trolls, the first shelters built by prehistoric men, Gaudí-esque mazes, giant vines, remnants of alien visitations, windblown towers, jokes. They are fun, joyous, friendly, inviting, and public, very public: art conceived by one, built by many, shared by all.”
What separates Step Right Up from Dougherty’s other installations is that it is in his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dougherty earned his B.A. in English from the UNC in 1967 and later returned to study art history and sculpture. Before he began using sticks as his medium, Dougherty sculpted with clay. However, while using clay Dougherty was unable to achieve the scale he desired for his sculptures. While studying at UNC, Dougherty developed the idea of using sticks as his medium. Dougherty found that using sticks allowed him to bend and extend long lines, he could create his own monumental three-dimensional drawings. In order to effectively use sticks to create sculptures, Dougherty had to gain a better understanding of how shelter builders, such as birds and beavers, build their homes. “Sticks have an inherent method of joining…and that tangling allows you to hook them together,” Dougherty explains.
Dougherty often does not know what he is going to build until after he arrives at the installation site. Once he arrives, Dougherty has to source both volunteers and materials. For his exhibition Step Right Up at the Ackland Art Museum Dougherty was able to source his materials—maple and gum saplings—from Duke Forest and Triangle Land Conservancy, organizations Dougherty has had long relationships with throughout his career. Dougherty chooses to enlist the help of volunteers on his projects because he finds it interesting how varying types of characters can come together to create one piece. Dougherty’s creative process has three steps: 1) Structural formation—building the basic shape, 2) Appliqué—appliquéing a look onto the surface of the piece and 3) Cosmetic—fixing up and making it habitable for people to enjoy from both the inside and outside. In creating Step Right Up for the Ackland, Dougherty was inspired by the Ackland’s collection of ancient animal pouring vessels. The vessels, which usually have an animal head from which water is poured, typically have traditional tops. Dougherty liked the idea of having a mixed shape and applied it to his sculpture in Step Right Up.
“I think that part of my work’s allure is its impermanence, the life cycle that is built into the growth and decay of saplings,” explains Dougherty. “The line between trash and treasure is thin, and the sculptures, like the sticks they are made from, begin to fade after two years. Often the public imagines that a work of art should be made to last, but I believe that a sculpture, like a good flower bed, has its season.” Bounded to the installations organic material and outdoor setting, Dougherty’s Step Right Up is a temporary installation. The installation is expected to be on view through August 31, 2018 at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, visit: https://ackland.org/exhibition/patrick-dougherty-stickwork-ackland/.
Inspired by her lifelong love of human condition, Dawn MacNutt’s work remains centered on the “beauty of human frailty. Witnessing small, yet meaningful human interactions, such as seeing people experience pain, love and joy, has had a lasting impact on MacNutt’s work. To obtain material for her work, MacNutt utilizes the nature around her, using willow harvested from the ditches and lanes around her home in Nova Scotia.
Made solely from paper, Cube Connection 09 showcase Noriko Takamiya’s non-traditional basketry techniques. Despite choosing differing methods, Takamiya still feels connected to ancient basketmakers. “I find myself in the same situation,” explains Takamiya. “Even if the resulting objects are different, the ancient basketmakers and I do the same thing, which is to seek the techniques and materials to develop into one’s own work.”
In 1975, Kyoko Kumai began using metallic materials such as stainless steel filaments in her sculptures. The malleable nature of the stainless steel allows it to be woven, twisted or bundled to create sensuous forms in order to express aspects of wind, air and light. “Thin pieces of stainless steel wire create a richly expressive fabric that does not stand solidly, cleaving the air,” explains Kumai. “It has its own language fluttering above the floor; breathing and melting into the air.”
Ex Claim! by Gyöngy Laky is sure to grab your attention. Made using G.I. Joes and bullets, the piece serves as Laky’s personal examination of our complex relationships with the world around us. Laky’s works often have underlying themes of opposition to war and militarism. Born in Hungary in 1944, the physical and emotional effects of war impacted Laky from a very young age. In her opinion, “We are smart enough to have moved beyond war as a means of dealing with problems by now.”
January 21 – May 6, 2018
Written languages are just one of the many ways human beings attempt to communicate with one another. In Text Message: Words and Letters in Contemporary Art, currently on exhibit at the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, contemporary artists, recognizing the power and complexity of the written word, utilize text—individual letters or words—to explore theoretical, social, symbolic, and aesthetic concerns.
The exhibition includes works that use words, letters, and script to convey meaning. Tangible three-dimensional objects made of fiber, clay, polymer, paper, and metal along with two-dimensional works on paper underscore how contemporary artists recognize the power and complexity of the written word. John McQueen and Gyöngy Laky are among the 77 artists whose work is included. The exhibition ends on May 6, 2018. For more information, visit: https://www.ramart.org/content/text-message-words-and-letters-contemporary-craft. To pique your interest, here are some images of art by various artists who incorporate or reference text in their work.
Ed Rossbach/Katherine Westphal: Ed Rossbach and Katherine Westphal were both innovators — he a maker of nonfunctional art baskets; she in her work with xerography and art quilts. The pair loved to travel and images and influences from those visits appear in their work in various ways. Images from the American West, including bison and feathers, appear in both Rossbach’s baskets and drawings and in Westphal’s wall hangings of tapas bark. Westphal made color photocopies of photos she took on their travels through Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and with a heat transfer process, inserted these images into her quilts and wearable art. Rossbach took photo images and reconstructed them with stitching and pins.
Kay Sekimachi/Bob Stocksdale: Kay Sekimachi and her late husband, woodturner Bob Stocksdale, collaborated to create an entire series of work, exhibited across the US as Marriage in Form. Sekimachi used his turned wood vessels as a form to shape her own ber vessels from hornet’s nest paper. Sekimachi applies a base layer of Kozo paper to a wood form, then laminates the hornet’s nest paper. The resulting objects appears delicate and ethereal but is actually stiff and stable.
Claude Vermette/Mariette Rousseau-Vermette: For several decades, this couple worked in separate studios, in different media, in different ways. Yet, as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Baie St. Paul, Quebec noted when mounting a posthumous retrospective of Vermette’s paintings, ceramics and sculpture and Rousseau-Vermette’s tapestries, they shared “a common spirit, strong affinities and correspondences, links of course emotional and intellectual, the same historical and sociological context and the crossing of an important period of time.”
We kicked off the new year with pieces by Kay Sekimachi. Sekimachi avoids color in many of her pieces in order to direct more attention to the sculptural qualities of her work as well as the natural properties of her chosen materials. Through her career, Sekimachi has been enamored with antique Japanese paper, using it in a variety of ways to create small pots, large sculptures and bowls, such as she did in Untitled.
In Forest Floor Lewis Knauss uses linen (waxed and natural), reed, twigs and acrylic paint to convey the natural layers and complexity of our landscape. “Landscape serves as witness to the passage of time and the cycle of life, its disturbing beauty often the result of natural or manmade events–drought, fire, flood.” The meticulous process Knauss goes through while constructing a piece cements his life and presence as a maker. For Knauss, the repetitive acts of knotting and long periods of working silence become a mediation through which he can release his gratitude for the environment.
Next up we had two sculptures by Yasuhisa Kohyama. Kohyama pioneered the revival ancient ceramic traditions of Shigaraki by bringing back the use of the anagama, a single chambered tunnel kiln that had not been used since medieval times to create traditional Japanese suemono vessels. Kohyama derives much of his inspiration from nature. “Every time I fire, I’ve come to recognize that I am in Nature; I am a small part of Nature,” explains Kohyama “Intently I watch Nature over and over again; working with clay, inspired by Nature, I am free to allow creation to happen, approaching the experience as the ancients did.”
This month we also featured Kazue Honma’s Capricious Plaiting, a labyrinth-like woven plaited paper mulberry bark basket. Led by Hisako Sekijima, Honma is one of a group of Japanese basket-makers who has radically experimented with traditional Japanese weaving techniques. Plaiting allows Honma to follow strict rules of geometry while also offering her the freedom to create new shapes. When weaving Capricious Plaiting Honma started at the dark square, then plaited in two different directions, continuously shifting directions at the moments she felt she should.
In our last New This Week of January, we featured Golden Red by Adela Akers. The reflectiveness of the metal foil coupled with the contrast of the red and blue linen creates a window-like effect.The dimensionality of Akers’ works can be attributed the reflection of light off of both the metal and horsehair. Akers’ background in science strongly influences the materials and process of her work. The mathematical discipline Akers exercises when working contrasts “the organic process (handweaving) and materials (linen & horsehair) that bring work to fruition.”