Art Assembled: New This Week in July

Things certainly don’t slow down in the summer over here at browngrotta arts, and July was a testament to that. This month, we’ve introduced you all to works by Lewis Knauss, Shoko Fukuda and Laura Foster Nicholson in our New This Week series. Read on to see what impressive work these artists have been busy creating.

Lewis Knauss
35lk Fire Fright, Lewis Knauss, hemp, linen, acrylic paint, 14.5″ x 14″ x 1.5″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta.

This colorful piece was created by American artist Lewis Knauss. This particular work was inspired by the environment; more specifically, fires and climate change that has occurred as an impact of over consumption of fossil fuels.

Knauss uses his work as a tool to explore his memories of place and his surroundings in a meaningful way.

Shoko Fukuda
2sf Bound Corners, Shoko Fukuda, ramie, monofilament, plastic, silicone, 5.5″ x 4.75″ x 5.5″, 2021

This complex and ethereal artwork comes from Shoko Fukuda. Fukuda is a basketmaker and Japanese artist that’s been making monumental strides in the art world for over a decade. Often, her work features materials like sisal, ramie and raffia.

She has said she’s interested in “distortion” as a characteristic of basket weaving:
“As I coil the thread around the core and shape it while holding the layers together, I look for the cause of distortion in the nature of the material, the direction of work and the angle of layers to effectively incorporate these elements into my work,” said Fukuda. “The elasticity and shape of the core significantly affect the weaving process, as the thread constantly holds back the force of the core trying to bounce back outward.”

Laura Foster Nicholson
Laura Foster Nicholson, 22lf CMA CGM, wool, mylar, cotton, 27.5” x 68”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Last, but not least, we introduce you to the unique textile artwork of Laura Foster Nicholson. This American artist is known for her powerful hand woven tapestries that feature whimsical, engaging imagery. Much like the work of Lewis Knauss, Nicholson’s work is often created with the state of the world in mind – including theme’s of how climate change and over consumption is impacting our world today.

With fall quickly approaching, we want to give you all plenty of warning that we have some very exciting exhibitions in the works for you all. Keep your eyes pealed and follow along to see what impressive artwork we bring into our fold in the months to come!


Portraits in Thread

The Textile Museum at George Washington University in DC has a portrait exhibition in the works. Learning about the Museum’s plans got us thinking about works created by browngrotta artists that feature human likenesses. We have a preference for abstract works and find them easier to exhibit as a group in the gallery. As a result, we don’t exhibit many works that are figurative, but we do find faces rendered in textiles consistently appealing. They record a person’s existence, but traditionally reflect much more — power, status, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, learning or other qualities of the sitter. Portraiture can be popular with artists because of the freedom of composition it involves — lighting, angle of the head, hair, clothes, background, facial expression — almost endless options. Below is a gallery of some engaging portraits by artists who have worked with browngrotta arts.

Process piece by ed Rossbach
Process Piece, Ed Rossbach, 15” x 15” x 2.5”, 1981. Photo by Tom Grotta

This deconstructed portrait by Ed Rossbach works on two levels — it appears to be a model of the way a likeness can be formed, and of course, it revels the likeness in black transferred onto fabric.

Ethel Stein portrait
Portrait, Ethel Stein mercerized cotton lampas (pre-dyed warp and weft) drawloom , controlled, 47” x 34.75” x 1” 1999. Photo by Tom Grotta

Portrait by Ethel Stein is an imagined depiction of a woman in contemplation while Helena Hernmarck’s On the Dock seems to capture an actual moment in time.

Helena Hernmarck tapestry
On the Dock, Helena Hernmarck, wool, 43″ x 57″, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marijike Arp portraits
DNA Unique, Marijike Arp, transparent foil, threads and paper, 66″ x 118″ x 1.5″, 2000. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marjike Arp made a statement about gender in DNA=Unique. The pair of subjects resemble one another and raise questions for the viewer: Are they related? Are they more similar than different? 

Iria Kolesnikova portraits
Photoatelier #11, Irina Kolesnikova, flax, silk, hand woven, 15.5” x 11.75”, 20” x 16” frame, 2004

Other artists also work from photographic images. Irina Kolesnikova, for example, likes old black-and-white old photos. “I play with images of these pictures, using silhouettes, details of dress, signs of profession. I make collage and imitate collage in woven technique. You can not recognize an exact person in these pieces, because it is not important for me …. I like a paradoxical combination of contemporary art language and ancient handweaving technque.”

From the First Person  by Aleksandra Stoyanov
Aleksandra Stoyanov, From the First Person I, wool, sisal, silk, cotton threads 55.6” x 49.25”, 1999

Ukrainian-born artist Aleksandra Stoyanov began making tapestries in 1987, building on her background in graphic and set design. Some of these are based on photographs from her family album. The images evoke memories; the position of the subjects’ heads on their sides suggests the importance of one’s vantage point in interpreting events.

Lia Cook Su Series
Su Series, Lia Cook cotton, rayon, woven 72” x 132”, 2010-2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Lia Cook is a master of creating woven portraits from photographic images. Her Su Series Installation features 32 individual portraits. The exact same face, an image of Cook as a child, is used in each of the pieces but it is physically and materially translated differently each time through the weaving process. “The specific way each is translated creates a subtle and sometimes dramatic variation in emotional expression.” Cook says. “As one moves through the installation each iteration evokes a new response. The experience of the person viewing the piece is what is important to me. I am interested in the threshold at which the face dissolves first into pattern and then into a sensual tactile woven structure.  What does this discovery and the resulting intense desire to touch the work add to our already innate, almost automatic emotional response to seeing a face?… The viewer can experience sadness, happiness anger fear etc.  They don’t believe it is the same image”. It is fascinating to Cook — and to viewers of her work — that how an image is translated through the technical weaving process can change the emotional expression of the work.


Lives Well Lived: Ritzi Jacobi (1941 – 2022)

Ritzi Jacobi working on Exotica Series, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, cotton, goat hair and sisal, 114″ x 60″ x 6″, 1975. Photo provided by the artist.

We write with sadness about the loss of prominent fiber sculptor, Ritzi Jacobi this past June. Along with artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jagoda Buic, Ritzi Jacobi was one of the European pioneers of textile art, who has established work with textile fibers in expansive, gestural, impulsive installations internationally since the 1960s. Jacobi was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1941, and studied at the arts academy there. The reliefs and objects she created together with her husband Peter Jacobi caused a sensation as early as the 1969  International Tapestry Biennal in Lausanne, Switzerland (the first of 11 in which she participated) and the 1970 Venice Biennial. The works were densely woven from vibrant fibers, and their “shaggy” mass and monumental size convey a rough physicality and are reminiscent of the mountains of their Transylvanian homeland. They represented nature and the archaic and at the same time dealt with conscious and unconscious elemental experiences.  Much of the freshness of the “new tapestry” movement resulted from this juxtaposition of layers, and focus on materials, Giselle Eberhard Cotton observed (“The Lausanne International Tapestry Biennials (1962-1995) The Pivotal Role of a Swiss City in the ‘New Tapestry’ Movement in Eastern Europe After World War II,” Giselle Eberhard Cotton, Textile Society of America, Symposium, September 2012).

Detail of Breeze, Ritzi Jacobi coconut fiber, sisal, cotton 49” x 49” x 8”, 2000. Photo by Tom Grotta

After moving to Germany in 1970, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi initially continued their work together with the various textile fibers and layers of fragile paper and then turned to other fields of work separately. In her own work, Ritzi Jacobi continued to create large reliefs that underscored the sculptural possibilities of fiber, drawing in three dimensions, creating light and shadow with fiber cables and bundles of wrapped fibers. Ritzi Jacobi also worked with large, untreated cardboard elements, that conquered the surrounding space in a succinct and determined manner. Since the 1990s, she had been expanding her material repertoire to include metal and here, too, she showed abstract hatching and layers between surface and space, concentration and dissolution. Solo exhibitions and some together with Peter Jacobi, have taken place at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and the Cleveland Institute of Arts in Ohio. Works by the artist can be found in major museums around the world. In recent years, Ritzi Jacobi has mainly worked on large-format tapestries, partly as commissioned works, and has been in demand internationally as an expert in juries and committees.  Her last solo exhibition took place at Galerie Diehl in Berlin in 2019. She died in Düsseldorf, where she has lived since 2000, after a long, serious illness. 

Ritzi Jacobi Blue Zone, coconut-fibre, acrylic paint, 57″ x 57″ x 3″, 2007; and Floating Matter, coconut fiber, cotton, acrylic paint, 53.5″ x 53.5″ x 6″, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Adapted from an obituary by Thomas Hirsch.


Process Notes: James Bassler

Portrait of James Bassler, Photo by Mark Davidson

James Bassler describes himself as a problem solver. He loves nothing better than to pursue an idea and discover how the final execution differs from his initial “fuzzy” conception. An American Craft Council Gold Medalist, Bassler writes engagingly about his investigations into pre-Columbian and other weaving techniques, his experiments with different dyes and materials, and the influence of current events and modern life on his work. We share some excerpts of his writings below:

Origins
It didn’t hurt me to grow up in a family steeped in hard work and hand processes. My father was brought up in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania. He was a major league baseball player, but interestingly enough, he had other talents including the hooking of rugs. I was introduced to the textile traditions at a very early age. I entered UCLA in the early 1950s. In 1953, I was drafted into the US Army with a tour of duty in Europe, followed by a civilian job in England. In 1960, I returned home via a cargo ship to China and Japan. It was on this journey that I witnessed the importance of world crafts, and their essential role in cultures. A spinning and weaving demonstration in Bombay, was of particular interest, as well as the dyeing processes of Indonesia and Japan. Returning to California, I re-entered UCLA as an art student and began to explore fabric patterning and later, weaving.

To Plait, James Bassler, Wedge weave construction; silk, linen, ramie, sisal, pineapple, nettles weft; indigo-dyed silk and linen warp, 47.25” x 44.25”, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta.

On plaiting
To Plait is part of a series of weavings that propose to illustrate and demonstrate a variety of structures used throughout history and the world to create objects of fiber. Currently, with so much attention and interest directed toward electronics, I have found little curiosity directed toward how material objects are made. How did early people survive? To Plait can help answer that question. To Plait could help someone, some day, actually make something with their hands.

Shop, James Bassler made of brown paper Trader Joe’s shopping bags, cut and twisted and with yellow and red waxed linen thread, 16” X 10″, 2009.

On spinning
My intent to spin and weave Shop [made from “yarn” spun from Trader Joe’s bags] was not to create a handwoven shopping bag. I wove it to draw attention to the important role that vessels have played in ancient history, as they do today. I wove it to draw attention to the honesty and beauty of a simple, and readily available material. I wove it to draw attention to the adaptability of handweaving to create three-dimensional forms, but most of all, I wove it to celebrate the beauty of a handmade object.

On Inca Time, James Bassler, four-selvage weaving, handspun alpaca, commercial wool, silk, linen, ramie, agave, cotton; natural dyes: lac, cochineal, gardenia jasminoides, sophora Japonica, huezache, walnut shells. 42” x 37” Photo by Tom Grotta.

On pre-Columbian textiles
For over 30 years I taught at UCLA. For 12 of those years I offered a course entitled “Textiles of the World: The Americas,” in the Fowler Museum there. With access to the Museum’s vast collection I became much more familiar with the challenges that the early indigenous people faced in order to create an identity to their particular cultures.  In terms of historical woven textiles created in the Americas, in particular areas, a weaving process was developed.  It is identified as scaffold weave, or four-selvaged and it is quite different from the weaving traditions of Europe.

In 1999, I challenged myself to learn scaffold weave, aided, I will confess, by some 20th century modifications, including foam core, straight pins, and large needles.  From that time on a good portion of what I have created uses this ancient technology.  I choose it because of the freedom it gives me.  However, the process does take longer.

Regarding the woven textiles of the pre-Columbian Andean Cultures, one of the most recognizable patterns is the use of the checkerboard. One sees the checkerboard tunic often because it was the uniform of the Inca military, but it was used frequently in other ways.  I was inspired by images I had seen in a catalog of an exhibition at Yale University which Jack Lenor Larsen had sent me. A second inspiration came from beautiful images of pre-Columbian Andean shibori. Simultaneously, I began to explore these ideas, one a black and white checkerboard, scaffold weave, using a multitude of yarns I had been anxious to use.  On the other project, also scaffold weave and checkerboard, I chose to use a great variety of wool yarn since I planned to use natural dyes in the shibori process.

Mi Wari Boro, James Bassler, four-selvage weaving (scaffold weave) and shibori (tie-dye), handspun and commercial wool, natural dyes: lac, cochineal, gardenia jasminoides, sophora Japonica, huezache, walnut hulls, 32” x 35”, 2019. Photo by Mark Davidson.

In the piece Mi Wari Boro, the word “boro” comes from the Japanese tradition of repair and mending. I was faced with the need for numerous patches and mending in this piece due to the variety of wool yarns I introduced and their reaction to the numerous dye baths they were subjected to. Thus, the inspiration came from the pre-Columbian culture and the Japanese tradition of mending. 

I can say that a good amount of time was spent on each piece, including challenges that left fond memories regarding how certain problems were resolved, and what I learned. I really, truly am more comfortable in pre-Columbian time, thus “on Inca time.”

My Letterman Yantra, James Bassler, natural brown cotton, handspun silk, waxed linen – plain weave, brocade – dye immersion with off-set printing method (wicking); large figures, letters and numbers in raised embroidery, with smaller figures also embroidered in part or completely. 28.5” X 32.5”, 2012, Photo by Tom Grotta

On running: My Yantra Jacket
I was one of 11 artists invited to participate in the exhibit Sourcing the Museum at The Textile Museum in Washington D. C., curated by Jack Lenor Larsen. Regarding the process of selecting an object from the museum collection, I was dubious that I could be moved by an image on a computer screen, that I had never seen or touched. Nevertheless, after several searches I kept coming back to a Burmese shirt, with all the writings and mystical symbols covering the surface. After some research, I discovered that the drawings are called yantras, and that they are magical and sacred symbols to evoke protection, good luck, prosperity, support, love and compassion from the cosmic universe. At my age, I thought I could use all that positive energy.

Underlying this selection was the deeper desire to finally celebrate, with bravado, my achievements of competing in numerous marathon races. In order to complete these and other shorter runs, I had clothed my body in a variety of yantras, from puritan simplicity to blatantly annoying symbols of products I never used, love of God, city, state, or political alignment. This was the opportunity to create something regal, that captures the focused endurance of the individual marathon runner, along with the chants and ultimate tacky trophies and medals that await the victors. Yesterday’s yantras, today’s tattoos.

In remote mountain communities of the Sierra region of Oaxaca, women continue to collect and spin silk cocoons found on native oak trees. Bound by tradition, threads are dyed in a strong magenta dye and allowed to dry, unrinsed. These specific yarns are woven to create brocade images into a cotton ground. After being woven, the cloth is folded and bound, and submerged into a hot water bath, allowing the dye to bleed (wick), creating a pattern. Using this same silk, I created many brocade images of runners, leaving spaces for the images to print, or wick, during the dyeing process. Separately, the three panels of cloth that make up the piece were each carefully folded, clamped and submerged into the hot water, permitting the dozens of runner figures to emerge.


Art Assembled: New This Week in June

We kicked off the beginning of summer in true browngrotta arts style – with lots of creativity and outstanding art. Throughout the month we introduced our followers to a wide variety of new art from impressive artists, including: Jeannet Leendertse, Toshio Sekiji, Judy Mulford, and Rachel Max. Curious what these artists are bringing to the table this summer? Read on for the full scoop.

Jeannet Leendertse
3jl Vase-shaped seaweed vessel, Jeannet Leendertse, coiled and stitched basket, Rockweed [ascophyllum nodosum], waxed linen, beeswax, tree resin, 15″ x 11″ x 11″, 2022 Photo by Tom Grotta.

This complex and detailed art comes from talented Dutch fiber artist, Jeannet Leendertse. Having grown up on the Dutch shore and migrating to the rugged coast of Maine in the states – her fiber work often finds sculptural form in landscapes she’s familiar with.

She often explores the concept of belonging in her work by incorporating work that feels like home within the marine environment that surrounds her.

Toshio Sekiji
28ts Subcontinent, Toshio Sekiji, Red, green, yellow, black, and natural lacquer; Hindi (Delhi) and Malayalam (Kerala State) newspapers, 61″ x 61″, 2001. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Up next we have art from internationally acclaimed Japanese artist, Toshio Sekiji. When creating pieces like Subcontinent, Sekiji often explores and merges cultures in his art, telling new stories atop of the old. His technique makes for pieces that are both contemporary and nostalgic.

Sekiji’s works are often made of lacquered newspapers from Japan, India, Korea and the US and are exemplary of the traditional Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

Judy Mulford
30jm A Day at the Beach, Judy Mulford, mixed media, 6″ x 9.5″ x 9.5″, 1997. Photo by Tom Grotta.

A Day at the Beach comes from Californian artist, Judy Mulford. Mulford created groundbreaking art for over 50 years. She is known in the art world for complex creations that celebrate women and the family. When asked about her art and inspirations, Mulford said:

 “My art honors and celebrates the family,” said Judy Mulford. “It is autobiographical, personal, narrative, and a scrapbook of my life. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, a surprise, or a giggle.”

Rachel Max
12rm Balance, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 12″ x 16″ x 9″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Last, but not least, we have art from esteemed artist and sculptural basketmaker, Rachel Max. Max created Balance during the height of the pandemic for our Crowdsourcing exhibition. When creating this piece, Max discussed how she aimed to have her artwork reflect on the new found spatial awareness and of “sense touch” throughout society as the air between us and the surfaces we touch became dangerous.

“My aim was to distort the form, but still create something that is both finite and infinite,” said Rachel Max. “It’s rare that the title of a piece comes to me during the making process but as I was weaving this I became aware of its changing weight and stability, forcing me to rethink how I originally intended it to be seen. It became a subconscious reflection on the world we are in now: everything seems to be in the balance.”

If you enjoyed this series – there will be no shortage of new art that we’re bringing into our fold this summer. Be sure to follow along to see what other artwork and projects we will be launching!


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

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

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

Sun Stream, 1995 and Flat Figure, 1992

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

Line, 1992 and Oll Korrect, 1998

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

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

Material Matters: Horsehair

The works of art in our last exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textile and mixed media art utilized a abundance of unusual materials — hog gut, kibiso silk, seaweed and agave among them. Over the next several months, we’ll take a closer look at less-than-common materials and the artists who use them. This week: horsehair.

Marian Bijlenga, 33mb Korean Bojagi, horsehair and fabric , 22″ x 20″, 2017. photo by Tom Grotta

In the early 1990s, Dutch artist Marian Bijlenga’s drawing tool narrowed to a single material: horsehair. (Jessica Hemmings, Embroidery magazine, March/April 2008, pp. 22-27). The fiber provides Bijlenga the necessary strength and flexibility to construct embroidered compositions of lines and dots. Bijlenga uses textiles in her work, but textile application is not her real interest. She secures the horsehair in her works with embroidery, but she has said “for me it is not real embroidery. Sometimes my work is in an embroidery exhibition, but it could also be in a sculpture exhibition. For me it is not so important.” 

Marian Bijlenga working with horsehair

Bijlenga studied textile design but for her, weaving was too slow. “It takes a lot of time before you could start,” she says, “and I did not like the technique. I was looking for a more direct way of working.” Bijlenga took the threads held by the loom and began instead to make drawings, stiffening the fiber by dipping it in glue. ” I work with thread, fabric and horsehair, fishscales and parchment, materials which are soft, light, flexible and open to endless development.”

Marianne Kemp weaving horsehair. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marianne Kemp has developed a unique specialty in weaving with horsehair. She uses techniques that she has developed which enable her to mold, knot, curl, and loop the material — which she interweaves with linen, cotton, silk, or wool — in unconventional ways. “Through the different properties and qualities like texture, color, and the shining of horsehair, the end result can be shiny and smooth – organic and wild – flexible and stiff,” wrote Sam at TextileArtist.Org (https://www.textileartist.org/ marianne-kemp-horsehair-weaving/).

2mk Red Fody, Marianne Kemp, cotton, horsehair, acrylic, 56” x 19” x 8”, 2013. Photos by Tom Grotta

Some of her works are meditative in their repeat of patterns, others boisterous in their choice of bright colors. In 2001, Kemp created a small collection of designs based on her hand weavings with John Boyd Textiles, professional weavers of horsehair in the UK. She was excited to discover that it was possible to weave her design mechanically. Kemp spent three-and-a-half years in London, then traveled to Cape Town South Africa. With just one tail of horsehair and a loom borrowed from the local Weavers Guild of Cape Town, Kemp designed many interesting new weavings, including a large wall hanging, called Africa. “It was a great time, learning from local weavers and giving them workshops too, helping them discover new techniques,” Kemp told Sam at textileArtist.Org.

60aa Night Curtain, linen, horsehair, paint & metal. 38” x 36”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

A third artist who works in horsehair is Adela Akers. Before Akers devoted her life to the arts, she completed studies to be a pharmacist, which influences her artwork. “There is a mathematical discipline in the way the work is constructed,” ​says Akers. “This mathematical sequence is in strong contrast to the organic process — handweaving — and materials — linen and horsehair — that bring the work to fruition.” In the 1970s, Adela Akers lived on the East Coast teaching at Temple University, but she has been creating art as a resident of Califonia for the last 25+ years. Drawing inspiration from African and South American textiles, Akers creates woven compositions of simple geometric shapes, bands, zigzags and checks. She incorporates horsehair into many of her weavings, adding texture and dimensionality. She also cuts metal strips —  from recycled California wine bottle caps — and stitches them into the woven linen strips that make up these works. Her techniques and materials produce images that change under different lighting conditions. In Night Curtain, the horsehair becomes a veil through which metal can shine through, reminiscent of stars peeping through a thin curtain of clouds in the night sky.

An butterfly of horsehair from Chile. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Finally, we were introduced this month to crin, a unique traditional form of horsehair art making from Chile by Caroline Yrarrázaval. When the artist visited bga in June, she brought us a beautiful example of that work. Artisans from a remote rural area of Chile create miniature flowers, animals, butterflies, birds, angels, and witches, woven out of crin de caballo, dyed or natural-colored horsehair. Their delicate creations are unique to this part of the world, largely due to their geographic and historical isolation. The horsehair weaving in Chile uses strands from the horses’ tails — thicker, longer and sturdier than that of their manes — combined with the imported vegetable fiber ixtle to keep the structure more firm and durable. The decorative pieces come almost exclusively from two neighboring rural villages, Rari and Panimavida, located 22 kilometers east of the town of Linares in the Andean foothills, roughly 300 kilometers south of Santiago. “Sitting in their doorways or under a tree, during the evening or between domestic tasks, some 150 women carry out the intricate labor of weaving the horsehair, a tradition that has been passed down for over two hundred years, using only their hands and a needle to finish off their creations,” wrote Maria Vallejos, for AARP International (Mariela Vallejos, “Tightly Woven Community,” AARP International, https://www.aarpinternational.org/the-journal/current-edition/tightly-woven-community). The horsehair used by Kemp and Akers, by contrast, comes from live horses overseas, mainly from the Far East, China and Mongolia.


Exhibitions of Interest — here and abroad

A list of engaging exhibitions in the East, South, the Midwest and abroad. Add them to your summer must-see list.

New York, New York 
Ernesto Neto: Between Earth and Sky
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
Through June 
521 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011
t: 212 414 4144

https://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com/exhibitions/639-ernesto-neto-between-earth-and-sky-tanya-bonakdar-gallery-new-york/

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Ernesto Neto's Earth Tree Life Love
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Ernesto Neto’s Earth Tree Life Love, courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Ernesto Neto has become known for his immersive environments of vibrant color, fragrance and sound, and for his use of natural materials. This expansive exhibition features major installations. In the downstairs gallery is the culmination of Ernesto Neto’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between humans and the environment as inseparable entities. The cotton crochet carpet is made with spiral formations that represent the earth and the ocean, and the top of the sculpture represents the sky and leaves falling from a tree nd the ocean, and the top of the sculpture represents the sky and leaves falling from a tree, highlighting the cycle of nature. Viewers are able to take off their shoes, lie down on the carpet and gaze up to experience a moment of meditation and contemplate their connection with the natural world. On the second floor, Ernesto Neto has created a sculptural garden beneath the skylight that is comprised of spices, mulch, pebbles, soil, and plants. Neto will invite the public to plant the garden in a special presentation, where visitors can connect with the natural environment and one another.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Fiberarts International 2022

Various locations
Through August 20, 2022
5645 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
412-261-7003

At the End of My Rope, Adrienne Sloane
At the End of My Rope, Adrienne Sloane, 2019, knit cotton, rope, 57″ (top of the noose) x 14.5″
Photo by the artist.

The 24th juried exhibition at Fiberart International 2022 seeks to exhibit the best of contemporary art and invites submissions that ­­­reflect a wide range of works related to the fiber medium. Previous Fiberart Internationals have featured Yeonsoon Chang, Heidrun Schimmel and Simone Pheulpin. The jurors for this year’s exhibition are Jessica Hemmings, Argentinian artists Chiachio & Giannone and artist Nnenna Okore, who works the US and Nigeria. Among the works selected for this are At the End of My Rope, by Adrienne Sloane a fav of browngrotta arts.

New York, New York
Japan Society
Kazoko Miyamoto: To perform a line
Through July 10, 2022
333 47th Street
New York, NY 10017

Kazuko Miyamoto_Press_image_credits.docx Yoshiko Chuma in Kazuko Miyamoto: A Girl on Trail Dinosaur, 1979. © Kazuko Miyamoto. Courtesy of the artist and EXILE, Vienna

The Japan Society presents a solo exhibition Kazuko Miyamoto: To perform a line between through July 10, 2022. The exhibition is the first institutional survey of Miyamoto (b.1942, Tokyo), a relatively little-known but significant artist. The exhibition provides an overview of the artist’s work, moving from her contributions to the Minimalism movement through early paintings and drawings from the 1960s, and her increasingly spatial string constructions in the 1970s, to her conceptual experiments in performance, culminating in her kimono series from 1987 through the 1990s. There is a 3D tour on the Japan Society website that features more images of Miyamoto’s work: https://www.japansociety.org/arts-and-culture/exhibitions/kazuko-miyamoto

Tarrytown, New York
The Woman’s Work Exhibition
Lyndhurst Museum
Through September 26, 2022
635 South Broadway
Tarrytown, New York 10591

Sabrina Gschwandtner Quilt
Sabrina Gschwandtner Quilt, Shoshana Wayne Gallery. Women’s Work Exhibition catalog cover

This groundbreaking exhibition tracks the deep, pervasive, and continuing influence of the historic female domestic craft tradition in the practice of contemporary women artists and invites new investigations into the position of women in the contemporary art world. Historic works and contemporary pieces displaying their influence are placed side-by-side throughout the Lyndhurst mansion in the domestic setting and the exhibition gallery. This allows the Museum to establish the pervasiveness of the traditional influence among contemporary artists and show the broad diversity of traditional handcraft mediums employed. The exhibition is also a mini-retrospective of the emergence of women artists in the 1960s and 1970s including important early examples of works by some of the feminist pioneers of the time. These include objects and works by Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold, Yoko Ono, Miriam Schapiro, Harmony Hammond, Sheila Hicks, Idelle Weber, Louise Bourgeois, Valerie Hammond, Kiki Smith, Elaine Reichek, and Jenny Holzer.

Jyväskyla, Finland
Artapestry 6
Central Museum of Finland
Through September
Alvar Aallon katu 7, 40600 
Jyväskylä, Finland

https://www.jyvaskyla.fi/en/museum-central-finland/current-exhibitions

hat’s it, Gudrun Pagter
That’s it, Gudrun Pagter, 2020, 228 x 252, cm, Photo: Atelier Egtved 

After stops in Sweden and Denmark, Artapestry 6 has arrived in Finland. The exhibition showcases works by 40 artists from 16 different countries., including Gudrun Pagter, Wlodmiericz Cygan, Nancy Koenigsberg and Helena Hernmarck. The exhibition is produced by the European Tapestry Forum (ETF). 

Durham, North Carolina
Beyond the Surface: Collage, Mixed Media and Textile Works from the Collection
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
From June 16 – February 23, 2023
2001 Campus Drive
Durham, North Carolina 27705
https://nasher.duke.edu

Silvia Heyden, Hurricane, 20th century. Silk and linen, 80 3/4 × 94 1/4 inches (205.1 × 239.4 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Mary D.B.T. Semans and James H. Semans, M.D.; 1976.101.1. © Silvia Heyden Estate. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

Since opening in 2005, the Nasher Museum has been dedicated to building a groundbreaking collection of contemporary art centered on diversity and inclusion. The museum’s emphasis is on artists historically underrepresented, overlooked or excluded from art institutions, with a particular focus on artists of African descent. In this effort, the museum supports global artists of extraordinary vision, whose works spark opportunities for thoughtful engagement. Beyond the Surface includes approximately 40 works, primarily from the Nasher Museum’s collection. With a focus on collage, mixed media and textile works, Beyond the Surface explores how artists bring together disparate materials and ideas to create artworks that engage with all audiences.

Enjoy — in person or online!


Art Assembled: New This Week in May

May was a busy month for the browngrotta arts family. Throughout May, we launched our spring exhibition, Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art, and it was quite the success! Throughout the month, we introduced some exceptional art to you all. Just in case you missed it, we’re recapping it all here.

Blair Tate
16bt RePair, Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum 83” x 58”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

this piece, RePair, was created by American artist Blair Tate. Tate has been exploring flat woven grids in her work since the 70s. When interviewed about her art, more specifically weaving, Tate said:

“In weaving there is a direct analogy between textile and text – the construction of fabric and the process of writing. Both have methodical underpinnings that provide the framework for development. Both woven strips and written sentences can be rearranged to re-contextualize, to forge relationships, to develop meaning.”  

James Bassler
14jb On Inca Time, James Bassler, four selvedge weaving (scaffold weave) handspun and commercial wool, silk, linen, ramie, sisal, cotton, natural and synthetic dyes, 43″ x 36.75″, 2019. Photo by Tom Grotta.

American textile artist James Bassler did not disappoint when it comes to On Inca Time. This piece was created with inspiration from Pre-Columbian Andean Cultures, which you can see displayed through the checkerboard pattern throughout the four-selvedge weave. For decades Bassler has applied ancient techniques and materials to create works with contemporary themes, and we remain in awe of the outcome!

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila
22pd Océano Cósmico, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, silk, cotton,
alpaca, indigo and copper leaf, 59” x 31”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Océano Cósmico was created by Venezuelan artists Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila

These artists’ work is often driven by their relationship with their surroundings and how their ideas can be communicated within a contemporary textile language. Océano Cósmico reflects their conception of an imagined Cosmos, “a parallel world that we still see in the midst of changing times.” They also aim to promote an understanding and appreciation of natural dyes as an element in textiles, their importance as a means to preserve and disseminate cultural values and as a medium of contemporary expression. 

Norma Minkowitz
95nm Mother Mine, Norma Minkowitz, Mixed media
(My Mother’s Gloves) and fiber, 6.5″ x 11.75″ x 8″, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta.

This profound artwork comes from one of our favorite artists, Norma Minkowitz. This particular piece of work incorporates a pair of gloves her mother owned as a tribute. 

Pat Campbell
36pc Mandela IV, Pat Campbell, rice paper, reed and wood, 19.75″ x 14.5″ x 9.875″, 2012

This exceptional piece of art comes from American artist, Pat Campbell. Often, Campbell’s intricate, airy pieces are influenced by Japanese shoji screen, which is traditionally made of rice paper. When asked about the why behind the her medium of choice, Campbell said: 

“Paper is exciting to work with. It is a fragile material that can be easily ripped or torn,” said Pat Campbell.” It is a natural choice of material for my work. It provides the translucency I am seeking in constructions.”

We drop new art every week, so follow us on social media to keep up with the art we bring into the fold! To get your hands on some art of your own, checkout our exhibition: Crowdsourcing the Collective: a survey of textiles and mixed media art, which is available online until June 13.


Hot off the Press: the Crowdsourcing the Collective: survey of textiles and mixed media art (our 53rd volume)

Crowdsourcing the Collective Catalog

We’ve made our reputation on documentation and photography of art at browngrotta arts (“Beyond Measure,” Glenn Adamson, Volume 50: Chronicling fiber art for three decades (browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT 2020)). Crowdsourcing the Collective: survey of textiles and mixed media artour 53rd volume, is the latest of our efforts. 

Lia Cook Spread

In an essay titled “State of the Art: where we are/how we got here” the catalog takes a look at fiber and art textiles today, as these art forms bask in renewed popularity. It also sheds some light on where fiber art has come from — featuring work that ranges from 1982 to 2022. The 42 artists featured in the exhibition (from 13 countries), are both a part of that legacy and a reflection of fiber’s current state.  In the 1960s, Adela Akers was creating large-scale weavings; by the 1970s, her works were noted for their spare designs and darker colors — brown, black and maroon. Gyöngy Laky has been a force since founding Fiberworks in the 1970s, a prestigious textile gallery and academic program in Berkeley, California. Lia Cook and Naomi Kobayashi participated in the prestigious Lausanne Biennials of International Tapestry in the 1970s; Laky in the 1980s. Artists in the exhibition who began exhibiting in the 2000s continue this legacy. Stéphanie JacquesRachel Max and Neha Puri Dhir all claim textile artist pioneers as an influence — Ed Rossbach and Claire Zeisler for Jacques;  Anni Albers and Ruth Asawa for Dhir and Max.

Adela Akers Spread
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The catalog also includes the artists’ perspectives in their own words in “State of the Artist: how we are working/what’s front of mind?” and in the comments on their individual works. Not surprisingly, their preoccupations vary. For some, like Lewis Knauss and Laura Foster Nicholson, it’s the environment in the large sense — fires and climate change and the impacts of over consumption. For Lia Cook, and her garden, it’s more immediate. For still others, like Caroline Bartlett and Polly Barton, an abstract consideration is underway on the power of thread as a medium to reflect the fragility and connectivity of our world, and the cross fertilization of the senses as expressed in fiber. 

Laura Foster Nicholson spread

Crowdsourcing the Collective: survey of textiles and mixed media art is in full color, 148 photographs, 42 artists from 13 countries. You can obtain your copy at browngrotta.com. Learn more about the exhibition by joining our Zoom presentation on June 3rd at 5 pm EST, Art of the Rocks: an exhibition walkthrough with spiritsWe will talk about the works in Crowdsourcing the Collective and toast the artists with a curated cocktail by our own mixologist, Max Fanwick @DudeWhoCooks.

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