Tag: Heidrun Schimmel

Still Crazy…30 Years: The Catalog

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog Cover Naoko Serino and Mary Yagi

Still Crazy…30 Years: The Catalog

It’s big! It’s beautiful (if we do say so ourselves –and we do)! The catalog for our 30th anniversary is now available on our new shopping cart. The catalog — our 46th volume — contains 196 pages (plus the cover), 186 color photographs of work by 83 artists, artist statements, biographies, details and installation shots.

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Naoko Serino Spread

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Michael Radyk Spread

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Lilla Kulka Spread

Still Crazy...30 Years: The Catalog

Jo Barker Spread

The essay, is by Janet Koplos, a longtime editor at Art in America magazine, a contributing editor to Fiberarts, and a guest editor of American Craft. She is the author of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture (Abbeville, 1990) and co-author of Makers: A History of American Studio Craft (University of North Carolina Press, 2010). We have included a few sample spreads here. Each includes a full-page image of a work, a detail shot and an artist’s statement. There is additional artists’ biographical information in the back of the book. Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art can be purchased at www.browngrotta.com http://store.browngrotta.
com/still-crazy-after-all-these-years-30-years-in-art/.
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Still Crazy After All These Years Preview: Stitch in Time – Embroidery

Embroidery stitches – deliberate and in flurries – feature prominently in the work of six of the artists in browngrotta arts’ upcoming exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art, this April 22nd through April 30th.

Heidrun Schimmel Detail

”Was du Weiß auf Schwarz Besitzt
(text/textile/texture) by Heidrun Schimmel Detail, photo by Tom Grotta

Heidrun Schimmel from Germany creates her artwork, which features blizzards of stitches, entirely by hand. She believes her stitch work demonstrates how thread, through its length and quality, acts as a metaphor for human existence.

Åse Ljones embroidery

Sound of the fjord detail by Åse Ljones, photo by Tom Grotta

Different pattern sequences are incorporated by Åse Ljones of Norway into her art pieces. By doing so, she allows each small change in sequence to create a rhythm, tranquility, or excitement for the viewer to enjoy. “I often work in series,” she says, “and build large works from smaller pieces. The small changes in each work communicate and often strengthen the relation to one another.”

silk drawing by Scott Rothstein

Untitled by Scott Rothstein, photo by Tom Grotta

Scott Rothstein, whose work has been collected by the Metropolitan and the Philadelphia museum of art, blends minimal design and traditional materials to create ambiguous art forms that viewers must experience and interpret on their own. His embroideries feature brilliant colors and repeated stitches to add dimension.

horsehair thread sculpture

Grow – Grid 16.11 by Marian Bijlenga, photo by Tom Grotta

Marian Bijlenga of the Netherlands has a fascination with dots, lines and contours that is evident in her artwork. She playfully introduces unique contour lines of color and symmetry through her stitched work, using a variety of textile fabrics and materials, including paper, thread and horsehair. Rather than draw on paper, she draws in space using textile as a material and leaves enough distance between the structure and its aligning wall to create what she refers to as a “spatial drawing.”

Adela Akers Small Blue Tapestry

Dark Horizon, 3016 by Adela Akers, photo by Tom Grotta

Delicately combining a series of horsehair, recycled wine foil, and acrylic paint, Adela Akers creates her embroidered pieces by hand with careful insertion of each fine material.“Even when I don’t know the outcome,” she says, “it is the transformation of the materials by the repetitive hand manipulation that leads me to the final expression.”

embroidered sculpture

Growth 2 by Anda Klancic, photo by Tom Grotta

Anda Klancic uses transparency and coloring to address the visual play of perception between the mimetic and the abstract. Her work in this collection, as well as in previous pieces, attempts to express the relationship between humanity and nature.
Slovenian artist Anda Klancic uses a combination of innovative embroidery techniques, many of which are patented under her name, allowing her to meticulously blend metal with cloth cotton or tree bark to fashion abstract pieces that crystallize the aesthesis of nature.

For more information and a complete artist’s list, please visit http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php.


Books Make Great Gifts 2016

Another year of widely divergent books. Art, biology, history and biography are all represented in the answers we received to the questions we asked of artists that work with browngrotta arts: What books cheered you? Inspired you? Provided an escape?

Dona Anderson, wrote that she is reading Herbert Hoover: A Life by Glen Jeansonne (NAL, New York, 2016) who calls Hoover the most resourceful American since Benjamin Franklin. “I recently had a birthday and remember that my mother went to vote on the day I was born, November 6th, and she voted for Herbert Hoover. Consequently, I started to think about what the political atmosphere was like then — as ours was so crazy and even more so now. When I went to the library in October, the Hoover book was brand new and it appealed to me.” Rachel Max is reading Materiality, edited by Petra Lange-Berndt (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2015), one of the latest additons to the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series. It’s a fantastic series. Each volume in the series focuses on a specific theme and contains many thought-provoking essays from theorists and artists. Materiality not only addresses key geographical, social and philosophical issues, but it also examines how artists process and use materials in order to expand notions of time, space and participation. As the publisher notes, “this anthology focuses on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes.” Max has also been dipping into the diaries of Eva Hesse. “They are extremely private and were never meant for publication. But, as a huge fan of her work it is interesting to read her thoughts,” Max writes.

Gyöngy Laky recommended, highly, Daughters of the Samurai, A Journey From East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura (W.W. Norton, New York, 2016). “This book is a fascinating biographical history chronicling the lives of three young Japanese girls sent to America in 1871 by the just barely 22-year-old Empress, Haruko. Their mission was to become educated and to bring back to Japan western ideas to advance the role of women and to help Japan adopt western knowledge and technology. Haruko […”something of a prodigy: reading at the age of three, composing poetry at five, studying calligraphy at seven and plucking the koto (a stringed instrument) at 12] had earlier married the 16-year-old Emperor who ascended the throne in 1868. He had adopted the name, Meiji, or Enlightened Rule—to usher in the beginning of a new era. The new era was a plunge into modernization. Sending three young girls to the West turned out to be more enlightened than expected. Sutematsu Yamakawa, 11; Shige Nagai, 10 and Ume Tsuda, the youngest, a tender, 6, remained in the U.S. for 10 formative years and then changed the future and subsequent history of Japanese women forever.

Nimura’s skillful crafting of a can’t-put-it-down narrative of their experiences on two sides of the Pacific is a vividly rich visual, as well as historical, account. She produced for the reader, through captivating descriptions illuminating the startling differences between these two very different cultures, the contrasting worlds we could easily visualize.

Stacy Shiff, Pulitzer Prise-winning author of Cleopatra wrote: “Nimura reconstructs their Alice-in-Wonderland adventure: the girls are so exotic as to qualify as ‘princesses’ on their American arrival. One feels “enormous” on her return to Japan.” It is just this Alice-in-Wonderland aspect of their story that caught my imagination. As in Louis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it is the environment and the material culture that sets the stage for remarkable events. The tangible aspects of two vastly contrasting cultures – intellectually, technically, behaviorally and in terms of the accoutrements of every day life, express well the often conflicting, peculiar and unexpected events in the girls’ lives. The girls move from Japanese clothing, furniture and customs to western style and then back again feeling more comfortable in western settings than in their birth homes kneeling on the floor and lavishly swathed in yards and yards of embroidered silks.

In the late 19th century the US was bursting with inventions and change. Planning begun in the 1850s for the Chicago World’s Fair was well under way, ushering in the Gilded Age of rapid industrial growth, design innovation and expansion of popular culture. A startlingly appropriate time for the girls’ cultural experiment to take place. Nimura, who moved to Japan for three years with her Japanese/American nesei husband, was adept at utilizing her keen sense of design and broad knowledge of the two disparate material cultures. She skillfully brought to life the vast differences between the two civilizations through masterful and insightful descriptions of clothing, hairstyles, furniture, interiors, architecture as well as the cities in which they existed. This, combined with her extensive research, presents the reader with many insights into the relations between the two countries and their intertwined histories through the lives of these exceptional girls and their extraordinary adventures.

As Miriam Kingsberg of the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote, “Daughters… is, perhaps, less a story of Japanese out of place in their country, than of women ahead of their time.” Laky adds that while she was a professor of art and design at the University of California, Davis, she encouraged her students to study abroad. “This book illustrates how education and experience in a foreign country enhances understanding of other cultures and peoples – perhaps more important today than in the 1870s and 80s. I believe travel also greatly inspires creativity.”

The Box Project, edited by Lyssa C.Stapleton (Cotsen Occasional Press, Los Angeles, 2016), “is one of the very best catalogs I have ever seen and not only the precious book binding!,” wrote Heidrun Schimmel. “I´m still reading the important essays again and again…and I´m learning again and again…” The Box Project is a limited edition book. It will be available at browngrotta.com next week. John McQueen wrote that The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, Vancouver, 2016), will change your next walk in the woods. “Trees will never seem the same again. This is a scientific study on how trees communicate with each other among many other things that I, for one, never thought about.”

Currently, Jane Balsgaard is reading The Wind is my Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Marcellus “Bear Heart” Williams and Molly Larkin (revised edition, Berkeley Publishing Group, New York 2012) and Diary of an Stupid Man, by Uschi Tech, published in Denmark by Forlaget Helle.
It is a sad and exciting story about a typical lonely man in today’s Denmark, she wrote. “Written in a wonderful language – so one can just imagine him, by reading it and it is just as sad as StonerMary Merkel-Hess has three recommedations. “I heard Cornelia Mutel read from her book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (University Of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2016), last March just after it was published” she writes. “I bought it immediately. Connie Mutel is a trained scientist but in this book she has written a very personal account of climate change occurring in her own small woodland here in Johnson County, Iowa. She has woven stories of her own life into observations of the possibly irreversible changes that are happening around us. It is a beautifully written and thoughtful book, but not a hopeless one. She ends with a discussion of things that we can do and strategies for our policymakers.”
Her second recommendation is Food Power: the Rise and Fall of the American Postwar Food System by Bryan L. McDonald. Bryan is Merkel-Hess’s son-in-law, a history professor at Penn State and long-time student of security issues. This book details how the unprecedented abundance of food mid-century was used to advance U.S. goals and values around the world. That food can influence global policy is an issue that Merkel-Hess never considered until now, but one she found fascinating.
The third book, is one for the Sinophiles and academically inclined among us, is The Rural Modern: Constructing the Self and State in Republican China by Kate Merkel-Hess. Merkel-Hess has another academic connection: Kate is her daughter and also a history professor at Penn State. This book about rural reform in China before the Communist revolution documents a desire for modernity rooted in Chinese rural traditions and institutions. Merkel-Hess found it interesting that American foundation money and the YMCA were involved in these early modernizing efforts.
We also have two limited-edition, artist-designed books to highlight: Judy Mulford: 80 Chairs by Judy Mulford and Marian Bijlenga: Miniatures, An autobiographical archive reflecting 30 years of work by Marian Bijlenga. In each case, the artist has created a reflective work — celebrating a full and accomplished career. The books are available at http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/books.php.

As always, enjoy!


Dispatches: Los Angeles for The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum

In the 2000s, collector Lloyd Cotsen and his then-curator the late Mary Kahelberg began what would become The Box Project: Uncommon Threads, commissioning 36 international, contemporary artists to work within a given set of parameters. They were challenged to work within the confines of an archival box—to create one-of-a-kind works of art. What followed were years of fascinating correspondence with the artists who would participate in the project. As expected, each interpreted the challenge in his or her own way, resulting in an exceedingly diverse collection of works that reflects the artists’ skill and creativity. Most of the pieces in the show are presented in their accompanying 23″ by 14″ by 3” or 14” by 14″ by 3″ boxes.

The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum Opening

The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum Opening

 

The exhibition showcases these skilled artists’ ingenious use—and often-expansive definitions—of fiber, while exploring the collector/artist relationship. The exhibition couples the box commissions with other examples of the participating artists’ larger works. Also included are some of the letters and drawings and maquettes for the exhibition — a fascinating glimpse of the creative process.

Helena Hernmarck installation, The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum. Photo by tom Grotta

Helena Hernmarck’s “box” installation and one of her larger tapestries. Photo by Tom Grotta

The 36 artists whose work appears in this exhibition are Masae Bamba, James Bassler, Mary Bero, Zane Berzina, N. Dash, Virginia Davis, Carson Fox, Shigeki Fukumoto, John Garrett, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Helena Hernmarck,  Pat Hodson, Kiyomi Iwata, Gere Kavanaugh, Ai Kijima, Hideaki Kizaki, Lewis Knauss, Nancy Koenigsberg, Gerhardt Knodel, Naomi Kobayashi, Gyöngy Laky, Paola Moreno, Jun Mitsuhashi, Kyoko Nitta, Hisako Sekijima, Barbara Murak, Cynthia Schira, Heidrun Schimmel, Carol Shinn, Sherri Smith, Hadi Tabatabai, Koji Takaki, Aune Taamal, Richard Tuttle, and Peter Weber. Work by 10 of those included is available through browngrotta arts.

Artist Talk. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artists’ panel. Photo by Tom Grotta

On September 10th, three of the artists involved, Gere Kavanaugh, Gyöngy Laky, and Hisako Sekijima joined the curator of the Cotsen Collection, Lyssa C. Stapleton, in a conversation about their respective processes and resulting “boxes.” We were fortunate to attend their talk and to catch up with a number of artist, collector and curator friends.

Hisako Sekijima in front of her works at The Box Project Exhibition at the Fowler Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Hisako Sekijima in front of her box project. Photo by Tom Grotta

“The box is a technical tool and also a spatial construct,” Sekijima told the audience, “which gave me freedom.” The artist used the box, she explained, as a mold in which multiple baskets were integrated whole.” Kavanaugh spoke at length of her work as a designer for Lloyd Cotsen, including her design of the brightly colored Neutrogena headquarters.

Laky talked about her work and the influence of the environment and feminism on her work — including her free-standing word sculpture, Slowly, composed of letters that can be read as LAG or GAL, and which was motivated by Laky’s efforts in improve gender equity in hiring in the University of California system.

Gyongy Laky. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gyongy Laky with her box project to the right and a larger work above. Photo by Tom Grotta

On October 14th, in Culture Fix, Lacy Simkowitz, curatorial assistant at the Cotsen Collection, who worked closely with artists featured in The Box Project, will discuss how the exhibition developed. From mining the archives to decisions about the exhibition checklist, Simkowitz played a key role in the development of the traveling exhibition. In this gallery talk, she will discuss case studies by James Bassler, Ai Kijima and Cynthia Schira and she share behind-the-scenes stories about the exhibition planning process.

Crowds lining up for the opening reception of The Box Project at the Fowler Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

Crowds lining up for the opening reception of The Box Project at the Fowler Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Box Project: Uncommon Threads is at the Fowler through January 15, 2017. The Fowler is located on the UCLA campus, 308 Charles E. Young Drive, North, Los Angeles, California 90024; 310.825.4361.


Books Make Great Gifts: Our Annual Artists’ Reading Round Up

Another year of interesting and inspirational book recommendations from browngrotta arts’ artists and staff. History, humor, poetry, philosophy — it’s all here. I recently read Listening to Stone: The Art & Life of Isamu Noguchi by Hayden Herrera

Dona Anderson reports, “I recently read Listening to Stone: The Art & Life of Isamu Noguchi by Hayden Herrera. Noguchi created Black Sun, a sculpture in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. Postwar, Noguchi was increasingly involved in designing public spaces — the UNESCO garden in Paris, Yale University’s Beinecke Library Garden, the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden in Jerusalem — while still creating personal work. His aim, he said was to form ‘order out of chaos, a myth out of the world, a sense of belonging out of loneliness.’ Building Art: The Life & Work of Frank Gehry by Paul Goldberger

My current read is Building Art: The Life & Work of Frank Gehry by Paul Goldberger.” Chris Drury loved John McPhee’s Coming into the Country – although, he notes, it is an older book now – about Alaska. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini Ceca Georgieva read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and is currently reading, The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel by F.G. Haghenbeck. Don't Despair by Matias Dalsgaard Helena Hernmarck recommends, Don’t Despair by Matias Dalsgaard (www.pinetribe.com; Twitter:@MatiasDalsgaard). Dalsgaard is a Danish scholar who has a background in comparative literature and postdoctoral degree in philosophy. The book offers a Lutheran-Kirkegaardian perspective on life, criticizing the modern perspective of being self-centered and ultimately despaired. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story, by Dan Harris Helena also found 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually WorksA True Story, by Dan Harris, a fun read. For Tim Johnson, 2015 was a great year for personal book discoveries! “After years of being out of print and hard to find Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver’s influential Adhocism, The Case for Improvisation was republished in 2013 (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/adhocism). Adhocism, The Case for Improvisation When I first held this book in the 1980s it offered a thoughtful contextualization to the real life process of gathering and recycling urban materials for my sculptures and installations. With contemporary concerns of upcycling and sustainability, Jencks’ and Silvers’ assertions seem more apt than ever.” Nancy Koenigsberg recommends a favorite from 2014, Fiber Sculpture: 1960-Present by Jenelle PorterFiber Sculpture: 1960-Present by Jenelle Porter. Mary Merkel-Hess says her favorite book on art this year was Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry, a British ceramic artist, described by one reviewer as “a man in a frock who makes pots with rude designs.” Mary describes it as “a quirky, personal and lively journey through the issues facing the contemporary art world and a lot of it is hilarious – especially the illustrations.”
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt Heidrun Schimmel read, “with great pleasure,” The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Simon and Shuster, New York 2014). “And not always with great pleasure,” Heidrun says she read, All the World's Futures: 56 International Art Exhibition All the World’s Futures: 56 International Art Exhibition, the catalogues for this year’s Venice Bienniale. “Most of the essays are very interesting and important,” she writes. “There were some very good pavilions in the Giardini this year, for example the Japanese Pavillon for the textile art scene.” Hisako Sekijima recommends a book in Japanese, U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Japan in the Cold War Era Tokyo Press U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Japan in the Cold War Era (only the title is in English; the contents are in Japanese. It’s a 300-page hardcover book published by University of Tokyo Press, 2015) It is an extensive study done by Fumiko Fujita, ex-professor at Tsuda College. “Actually, the author is my college friend,” writes Hisako. Reading this book, she “happily” realized that she had been exposed to much of this cultural climate after the World War, as she grew up. “From home comedies, like Lassie to Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man, I learned — and was surprised — at the large extent to which numberless cultural programs had been politically planned to create a good partnership between US and Japan.” She was also surprised to learn such programs had been also worked to be less political or more culturally meaningful by the efforts done by enthusiastic and respectful private people like cultural attachés, artists or sports players. “I liked this latter part of the story! Though planned politically, such rich programs proved to influence us so much. I studied English and could enjoy my chance to live in NYC, where I came across with new waves in crafts.” Kay Sekimachi recommends Masters of Craft: Portraits by Paul Smith (and so do Tom and Rhonda) and also The Monocle Guide to Cozy Homes, edited by Tom Morris, Monocle (Gestalten, Berlin. 2015). Last Spring, Wendy Wahl began teaching, Soft Materials, a course in the department of Constructed Environments at Parson’s New School in New York. “In researching books for the course,” she writes, “I was reintroduced to Fabrics: A Guide for Interior Designers and Architects, by Mary Paul Yates (W.W.Norton). Imagine my delight to see the inclusion of Fiber Art and the images from browngrotta arts. At a rare and used bookstore I came upon The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery and Lore of the Persian Carpet by Brian MurphyThe Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery and Lore of the Persian Carpet by Brian Murphy (Simon and Schuster). The author takes the reader on a magic carpet ride traveling in the regions of its origins and destinations to tell the stories of the dyers, weavers and sellers of this remarkable art form. At my local public library I found Textiles --The Whole Story: Uses, Meanings, Significance by Beverly Gordon Textiles –The Whole Story: Uses, Meanings, Significance by Beverly Gordon (Thames and Hudson, 2011). With words and images she beautifully covers the uses, meanings and significance of textiles in the course of human history, as the subtitle suggests.” The Genome Rhapsodies
Randy Walker writes, “At the risk of appearing immodest, I’m recommending a book of poetry, The Genome Rhapsodies, that has one of my pieces on the cover. And I’m not even an avid poetry reader. When I was approached by Anna George Meek, a friend and accomplished poet, about using an image of my first public art installation, Woven Corncrib, on the cover of her new collection of poems, I was, of course, honored. But that’s not why I’m recommending this book. As we worked together to find an appropriate image, a series of conversations ensued over several months. These conversations were about histories, found objects, genetic material, fibers of all kinds woven throughout our lives. Gradually, I began to see clearly why Anna would venture to adorn her book, winner of the Richard Snyder Publication Prize and a product of over 15 years of work, with an image of an old steel corn crib woven with 300 pounds of salvaged fiber. Reading these poems, some deeply personal, opened an expansive view to me of a world that, as a primarily visual person, I don’t usually glimpse.” Tom and Rhonda recommend Organic Portraits, a photography book by John Cooper. Organic Portraits by John CooperCooper’s organic portraits will be on exhibit this Spring at the Morris Museum in New Jersey in conjunction with Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers, from March 19 to June 26, 2015. “From the beginning,” Cooper explains, “the intent of the Organic Portraits project was to create a series of timeless and fundamentally beautiful images that would create awareness for—and help preserve—the world’s rainforests. In the 1950s, around the time I was born, about 15 percent of Earth’s landmass was covered with oxygen-generating and carbon-dioxide storing rainforests. At the time of this book’s publication, fewer than 70% of those forests remain. The aim of this project is to drive home the understanding that our rainforests— the lungs of our Earth— are both vital and in dire need of protection.” Cooper published Organic Portraits through a Kickstarter campaign; he is donating all profits from the book to the Rainforest Action Network Fund.

We hope your holidays provide you lots of leisure reading time!


The Year in Books: Art, Life and Learning — Part 2

RichardDiebenkornAs always, art books are well represented among this year’s recommendations from browngrotta arts-affiliated artists, and at least one of the volumes offers life lessons, too.  Adela Akers writes that “the best books so far this year are the Diebenkorn catalogs for the exhibition at the de Young Museum,” which includes, Richard Diebenkorn, The Berkeley Years, 1953- 1966. Adela also recommends The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949-1992, both as “good reads that include wonderful reproductions.” 39b.SHEILA.HICKSThe comprehensive volume,  Kyoko_Kumai_bookWorks of Kyoko Kumai Metallic Textile Art, published earlier this year tops Kyoko Kumai’s list. The book’s text appears in English and Japanese and it includes a digital version of the book on cd. Naomi Kobayashi recommends  Sheila Hicks for its content and beautiful binding.  The.Hare.with.Amber.EyesKay Sekimachi listed The Hare with Amber Eyes. In it, Edmund de Waal,  a potter and curator of ceramics at the Victoria & Albert Museum, describes the experiences of his family, the Ephrussis, and explores the family’s large collection of Japanese netsuke, tiny hand-carved figures including a hare with amber eyes. La_Biennale_di_VeneziaIn Heidrun Schimmel’s view, the 55. Esposizione Internazionale d´Arte  was one of the best Biennials in Venice ever, and she enthused about the accompanying catalog, The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th International Art Exhibition: La Biennale di Venezia. Its title was chosen by the director for the 55th Biennale as a reference to the 1955 design registered with the US Patent office by the self-taught artist Marino Auriti, depicting an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge and human discoveries, from the wheel to the satellite.  On the opposite side of Canale Grande writes Heidrun, “there is an important exhibition, Prima Materia, Punta della Dogana, Venezia, Dorsoduro, Pinault Collection, especially for artists who are working with material as matter. This exhibition continues through 2014, and is accompanied by a very good catalog, Caroline Bourgeois and Michael GovanPrima Materia,  edited by curators Caroline Bourgeois and Michael Govan.”  Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information by Manuel LimRandy Walker  read Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information by Manuel Lima this year.  “To me, network diagrams and their many variations are highly suggestive of fibrous connections. I am experimenting with the idea of my lines as connectors of different types of information.  The information can generate the connections. The book played an inspirational role in a new public art project I working on with Roosevelt High School here in Minneapolis to explore the network diagram in three dimensions. Here’s a link to the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the project: Connections Gallery.”

Scrape_Willow_Until_It_Sings_Words_Work_Julia_ParkerAnd From Gyöngy Laky, a recommendation for a book and a for approaching life.  “Two artists I admire enormously, Julia Parker and Deborah Valoma, created, Scrape the Willow Until It Sings, The Words and Work of Julia Parker, one of the best books on basketry, life and art I have ever read. It was published this year by an exceptional book publisher, Heyday, Berkeley, California. Native American basketry, especially the work of indigenous people in California, has been, and continues to be, a major inspiration to me and my creative life. Julia Parker and the author Deborah ValomaValoma writes in the introduction, Julia Parker and other traditional practitioners have much to teach those of us in the academy. I would add, and to those not in the academy, as well. The vast personal experiences, broad and deep scope of historical evidence and creative wisdom that these two thoughtful women have brought together in this book is a gift to us all. Near the end I found a something that Parker said that feels like a guide: In our story – in our Indian way – we stop, look, and listen.  Stop. Think about yourself.  Rest yourself.  Rest your eyes, your hands.  Rest your body.  Look.  Look about you. Look at the smallest insect.  Look at the tallest trees, which have given us shelter and food.  And we listen.  Listen to the sound of the water flowing.  Listen to your elders, your teachers.  Listen to your grandmother, your grandfather, your parents.  And above all, listen to yourself.


25 at 25 at SOFA NY Countdown: Heidrun Schimmel

Day and Night Detail by Heidrun Schimmel, photo by Tom Grotta

Day and Night by German artist Heidrun Schimmel is one of the works that browngrotta arts will exhibit at SOFA NY in April. Schimmel is interested in the connection between fiber/fabric/textile and the human being. Mythologically, she notes, thread is connected to human existence. Its length and quality are metaphors for the duration and character of our lives, thus the expression, “…hanging by a thread…” Schimmel takes her ideas from the special characteristics of textiles, such as softness, flexibility, fragility. Her  working process is very simple: she stitches by hand using white cotton thread on transparent black silk or cotton fabrics. From the tensions between the multiple thread layers result deformations: the work itself finds its final form through the combination of control and chance.This focus on “material as matter” results in forms that cannot be projected in advance. Day and Night was specifically influenced by the work of Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto whose work has inspired Schimmel since the 1980s.

29hsc Day and Night Heidrun Schimmel, white cotton thread, black transparent silk fabric, 71"€ x 34"€ x 7"€, 1995/2010, photo by Tom Grotta

Schimmel’s work has been exhibited in numerous venues in Europe Asia and the US, including the Institute of Modern Art, Nuremberg, Germany; Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead, England; Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pennsylvania; Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York; Sonje Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyongju, Korea; Quinta Isabela Museum, Valencia, Venezuela; Central Museum of Textiles, Lodz, Poland; and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, England.



Books Make Great Gifts 2011: Artist Recommendations

This year we asked the artists we represent just one question:

What was the most enjoyed/most inspirational book you read this year?? Here are their wide-ranging replies:

Nancy Moore Bess and her friend, artist Sharon McCartney share studios with for occasional “play dates” that involve hours of restorative art chat, small handwork and book sharing. It was Sharon, Nancy says. who introduced me to the exhibition catalogue, El Anatsui at the Clark (Clark Art Institute). “I had seen ads for his work,” adds Nancy, “but the catalog was more than glorious photographs – it placed his current work in the larger context of his entire career/life. Known now for his monumental ‘fabrics’ with metals and Nigerian liquor bottle caps, his earlier work with wood, found metals, steel sheets, etc. was equally exciting for me. I love rust! I was extremely sorry to have missed the exhibition which was installed in the Stone Hill Center at the Clark Museum, but delighted to have access to the book.

Sharon loved a book that Nancy owned, Boro, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, who lives and works at the Blue & White shop in Tokyo. When she tried to order it, she found a different book that Nancy recommends,  Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan by Yukiko Koide and Kyoichi Tsuzuki (Aspect). Both books illustrate the traditional practice of reusing rags and stitching them into clothing and household textiles. Amy’s book concentrates on mostly indigo fabrics which she collects. Both books include impressive photographs with the closeup images really illustrating how the fabrics are used. “Sharon and I both do a great deal of top stitching,” Nancy says, “she on her fabric constructions (she is the queen of French knots!) and I on my experimental paper work. The variety of garments in her book and the variety of fabrics really inspires me to get to the book store!!”

“I have one great book to add,” writes Gyöngy Laky, “though only peripherally art related:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown; National Book Award) . This is a semi-autobiographical novel by award-winning author, poet and film-maker, Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has been named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by The Boston Globe as “an important voice in American literature.” He is one of the most well-known and beloved literary writers of his generation, with works such as Reservation Blues and War Dances. He also wrote the screenplay for the film, Smoke Signals, based on a short story from his book, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.   In his novel, Alexie tells the heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautifully written story of a young Native American teen, Arnold, as he attempts to break free from the life he was destined to live.  Arnold’s drawings illustrate the book.”

Kate Hunt’s suggestion was a CD, rather than a book, Souvenirs, featuring opera star Anna Netrebko. The Independent says she is, “in a word, sensational . . . Netrebko’s strength is not just in the mobility of her voice and the razzle-dazzle of her upper register’s big-money notes – no, it’s the fullness and beauty of the middle voice that singles her out . . . properly overwhelming. For once, fullness of heart is truly matched in fullness of sound.”

Mutsumi Iwasaki enjoyed,「朝鮮陶磁図録」(tyousen toji zuroku), a book on ancient Korean pottery that accompanied last year’s exhibition of Korean Ceramics – 50 Years After the Death of Muneyoshi Yanagi at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo.

Lawrence LaBianca recommends The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford (Modern Library) and Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (Simon & Schuster) by Thor Heyerdahl. Both are true accounts of heroism and determination and creative reasoning used to reach historic goals in exploration — Huntford in the South Pole and Heyerdahl in the South Seas..

Sue Lawty, wrote to us about Edward R. Tufte’s Envisioning Information (Graphics Press), a book I bought for Tom a few years ago.  Sue bought the book, which covers wide-ranging systems, patterns or logic for presenting information from mathematics to maps, a couple of weeks ago in London as a present for her nephew, but now she wants a copy of her own. “It stimulates thinking,” writes Sue.  “For example, in the micro/macro design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, artist Maya Ying Lin had the vision of ordering names chronologically (resolutely resisting pressure for a more pedestrian telephone directory-type listing) thus, within the overwhelming density of 58,000 named dead, the unique loss of each individual is retained. I know I need this book on my shelves to dip into at sly moments and be informed by.”

“I read a good book called The Craftsman by Richard Sennett (Yale University Press),” Mary Merkel-Hess  wrote. “It is a broad-ranging analysis of what it means to do good work. His definition of a craftsman extends beyond those who work with their hands to include everyone who wants to do a job well. So many references to literature, sociology, society — it was fascinating.” Mary also enjoyed Architecture of Silence: Cistercian Abbeys of France, photographs by David Heald which contains marvelous photos of stone buildings and their simple but inspiring interiors and the catalog from Stimulus: art and its inception (browngrotta arts). “[S]peaking of inspiring, thanks for the Stimulus catalog! It’s great!”

For Lija Rage, her most-enjoyed book this year was Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Penguin), the first work by Salman Rushdie after The Satanic Verses (Random House Trade Paperbacks). She’s also been reading about Chinese culture in preparation for her next exhibition.

“The most important book this year is for me,” writes Heidrun Schimmel, “is the catalog of the Venice Biennial, 54.Esposizione Internazionale d´Arte Illuminations. I visited most of the exhibitions in Venice for three days and of course there are many ‘pros’ and ‘cons.’ But this year the catalog is very good and there is an English edition, The Venice Biennale. 12th International Architecture Exhibition. People meet in architecture (Marsilio Editions). In Munich now you can see two wonderful exhibitions with works of Ellsworth Kelly. In Pinakothek der Moderne you see 60 drawings of plants (through January 8th) http://www.pinakothek.de/en/kalender/2011-10-07/14412/ellsworth-kelly-plant-drawings. And the catalog is an inspirational artwork for itself! But there is only a German edition.”

Karyl Sisson reports that, “Sometimes I just need to laugh.  Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books) did it for me.”

Wendy Wahl, writes that, “It is with pleasure I sing the praises for a book that is pure joy to consume in a vicarious living sort of way. Rosamond Bernier has written Some of My Lives, A Scrapbook Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The author’s voice comes alive as she tells the stories of her amazing life’s experiences with leading personalities of the 20th century in the world of art and music. She has lead such a vivid and unique life; the book is fabulous armchair travel.” (Full disclosure: my day job is with this publisher’s parent.)

Sensual Relations by David Howes (University of Michigan) is Deborah Valoma’s recommendation.

Randy Walker  found Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century by Carl Schoonover (Abrams) to be inspirational. His wife bought the book for her sister, who is a Doctoral student in Psychology, but when Randy saw the images in the book, he nabbed it and his wife had to buy another one for her sister.

Lena McGrath Welker loved Jane Urquhart’s  Sanctuary Line (MacAdam/Cage Publishers).


Quiz: Sleight of Hand: Can You Identify these Remastered Materials?

Sleight of Hand, currently on exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, celebrates artists, including Lia Cook and Norma Minkowitz, who create works of art that challenge viewers’ perception, through their innovative use of materials and textile techniques. There are a several other artists represented by browngrotta arts who do the same. Inspired by the concept, we created a quiz.  See if what you can guess about the materials and methods used to create the works in these images. The short answers appear at the end. You can click on each answer to see a larger version on our website (but not until you’ve made a guess!).

Ed Rossbach, Axel Russmeyer, Sue Lawty, Adela Akers, Karyl Sisson, Kazue Honma, Tomiko Kawata, Kate Hunt, Dani Marti, Merja Winqvist, Heidrun Schimmel, Wendy Wahl, Toshio Sekiji, Simone Pheulpin, Heidrun Schimmel

 

Answer Key:
a) Ed Rossbach – plastic tubing
b) Axel Russmeyer – bobbins with thread
c) Sue Lawty – woven lead
d) Adela Akers – linen, horsehair, paint and metal wine foil
e) Karyl Sisson – cloth measuring tapes
f) Kazue Honma – Japanese strapping tape, tannin
g) Tamiko Kawata – safety pins on canvas
h) Deborah Valoma – woven copper
i) Dani Marti – marine rope — polypropylene and nylon
j) Merja Winqvist – florist paper
k) Kate Hunt – newspaper, gold leaf, burnt plaster
l) Wendy Wahl – industrial paper and yarn
m) Toshio Sekiji – newspapers from Japan. China and Korea
n) Simone Pheulpin – folded cotton
o) Heidrun Schimmel – heavily stitched cotton, large sewing needle

 


Dispatches: Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, UK

Calculus, by Sue Lawty, 2m x 3m, natural stone on gesso. photo by John Coombes

 

 

 

Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution, opens February 12th at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and runs through April 9, 2011.  The exhibition, which was curated by artist Helen Carnac for Craftspace, “considers how the practice of contemporary craft making embraces similar values and philosophies to those supported by the Slow Movement.  Both think through where things are made, by whom and the importance of provenance. They ask us to slow down, perhaps not literally but certainly philosophically, and to reflect on other and perhaps more thoughtful ways of doing things.”  Taking Time features 19 international artists, makers and designers, including Sue Lawty, Matthew Harris, Heidrun Schimmel and Sonya Clark, whose making practice and work connects with these ideas. In different and sometimes overlapping ways they examine the world through making and in places quietly ask questions about global and local conditions that we find ourselves in today. The exhibition aims to show that contemporary craft practice and its methodologies can generate a modern and timely response to current social debates.

Sue Lawty provided in-progress images and described the process of making of Calculus, her work large and meticulously crafted work for the Taking Time exhibition on her V&A blog  http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1395_lawty/wordpress last January. In making the work, she wrote, “hundreds and thousands of decisions were wrestled and questioned in researching, collecting, sorting, selecting, organising, ordering, laying out, composing… The process is by its nature, a meditative and slow affair. I found myself considering how each tiny found fragment of rock laid out in each single row, echoed the minute subtle nuances and individualities embedded in all the rows of all the fragments of woven cloth I’d encountered in the V&A stores. Each unique mark and decision of infinitesimal difference subscribing to the language of the whole.”

The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery was home to another fascinating installation, Labelled, by Dail Behennah, from February 2009 to May 2010  http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/lookingin_lookingout.pdf.

Labelled-by-Dail-Behennah

Labelled was made of 490 suspended enamel labels, hung in three layers forming a circle over 2m wide. Each enamel was printed with a label from natural history specimens within the Museum’s collections. These specimens were collected and intended for study. The labels were written by curators and collectors over the centuries and record various details about the specimens. One of the core aims of Labelled was to provoke viewers into thinking about why we collect and what can be learned from these specimens. The collections have a genuine scientific importance and are studied to help understand species and habitats in the past as well as in the present. The glittering enamels Behennah used reflected the preciousness of the natural world and different species. The circle was punctuated by red labels, which indicated an endangered or extinct species and reminded viewers of the fragility of the natural world.

Behennah says she was always interested in the idea of the collector’s cabinet which aimed to collect and preserve knowledge. “Without natural history collections in museums, and their associated information, we would not know which species are threatened, on the verge of extinction or already extinct,” says Behennah. “Some, such as the dodo and passenger pigeon, may live on in folklore, but species of insignificant-looking insects or fish can disappear without trace if they have not already been recorded, classified and labelled by collectors in the past, and preserved in museums today.” It was Behennah’s hope that the installation would engender debate about museums and their role, as well as debates surrounding species diversity and conservation. “These are important topics,” Behennah notes, “especially now that we are appearing to witness climate change and habitat movement and reduction.” The Museum’s website still includes additional information, including and interview with Behennah, images of the installation process and some of the specimens and more. http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/lookingin_lookingout.pdf

An example of an enamel label, of the sort Dail Behennah prepared for her installation work, Labelled. A large part of the value of a museum is contained in its labelling and scholarship, a fact that is generally not acknowledged. Each of the 490 enamels in Labelled is printed with a label from natural history specimens within the Plymouth City Museum’s collections.

The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is at Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AJ.