Tag: Hisako Sekijima

Catalog Lookback: Fan Favorites, an online exhibition

Portraits of Hisako Sekijima, Gyöngy Laky, Mary Merkel-Hess and Kay Sekimachi
clockwise: Hisako Sekijima 1994 solo exhibition at browngrotta arts. Gyöngy Laky 1993 preparing on a piece for her two-person exhibition at browngrotta arts. Our first meeting with Mary Merkel-Hess 1990 at her exhibition at the NY Armory. Kay Sekimachi in her closet selecting works for her 1992 two-person exhibit with Bob Stocksdale at browngrotta arts. Photos by Tom Grotta

In our 50 catalogs, we have showcased the work of 172 different artists. Four of these artists, however — Mary Merkel-Hess, Kay Sekimachi, Hisako Sekijima and Gyöngy Laky —  we have repeatedly chosen as a focus. Each has been the subject of more than one catalog — solo or two-person or special grouping  — and each has been featured in several of our themed survey publications. These artists explore different materials or forms, creating objects and works for the wall.  That willingness to innovate and reinvent has made them continuously collectible for those who acquire works in breadth and for those who pursue the work of individual artists in depth as well.

Details of works by Mary Merkel-Hess
Details of Mary Merkel-Hess’ paper sculptures on and off the wall. Photos by Tom Grotta

Mary Merkel-Hess’s work was the subject of one of our first catalogs in 1992 (#2) Mary Merkel-Hess. The work in our first solo exhibition of her work was brilliantly colored — vessels of green, indigo, cornflower, red and bronze — but our catalog technology was strictly black and white. Despite the noncolor depiction in the small catalog, the lyrical works of papercord and reed were popular and sold out. Her work was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that year — one of the first contemporary baskets to enter the Museum’s collection. The success of that exhibition spurred us to host a second show, work by Merkel-Hess and Leon Niehues, in 1996 (#15). Merkel-Hess threw us a curve, though, by skipping the color that we considered her hallmark and producing, instead, a show of work made of translucent white papers — gampi, kobo, abaca, flax — some of it tinged with gold.  These works turned out to be as popular as those in color. Since then, her works have become larger and more sculptural and her recognition has grown while her popularity with collectors has remained a constant.  Her work will be part of Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50), in September of this year. 

Details of works by Kay Sekimachi
Details of baskets and sculptural weavings by Kay Sekimachi. Photos by Tom Grotta

In catalog (#3) Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi, also 1992 and still black and white, Kay Sekimachi’s work made its first appearance, coupled with wood bowls turned by her husband, Bob Stocksdale. Sekimachi has reinvented her practice several times in her lengthy career. She studied weaving with Trude Guermonprez in San Francisco and Jack Lenor Larsen at Haystack in Maine in the 50s. By the 60s she was working with complicated 12-harness looms to create ethereal hanging sculptures of monofilament, then a new material. They were featured in MoMA’s Wall Hangings exhibition in 1963, Deliberate Entanglements at UCLA in 1971 and the Lausanne Biennial in 1975 and 1983. Sekimachi was also part of the contemporary, nonfunctional basket movement with other California artists in the 1960s and 1970s.  This body of work included small woven baskets and woven paperfold-like boxes made of antique Japanese papers. For our exhibition in 1992, she created gossamer flax bowls and patched pots of linen warp ends and rice paper. For our our 1999 exhibition, (#24) Bob Stocksdale Kay Sekimachi: books, boxes and bowls, she created woven boxes and books, and bowls in typical Japanese ceramic shapes that she formed using Stocksdale’s turned bowls as molds. Still the subject of museum recognition and collector acclaim, Sekimachi continues to work at 94, weaving intimate, abstract weavings reminiscent of drawings in pen and ink. 

Details of works by Gyöngy Laky
Details of of sculptures on and off the wall by Gyöngy Laky. Photos by Tom Grotta

In 1993 we produced our first catalog featuring Gyöngy Laky’s work (#5) Leon Niehues and Gyöngy Laky. The exhibition included 13 vessel shapes and one wall work. In 1996, we visited Laky’s complex construction again (#16) Gyöngy Laky and Rebecca Medel. “I think of myself as a builder of sketches in three dimensions,” she said of her textile architecture. The 1996-1997 exhibition featured Laky’s three-dimensional words, an important aspect of her oeuvre. The two versions of the word “No” or “On” illustrated the myriad ways in which such themes are deftly articulated by Laky. Affirmative No. 1 was made of brightly colored, coated telephone wire, piled and sewn. Affirmative No. 2  was much larger — the “O” made of branches still covered with bark, the “N” made of pieces of stripped, unfinished wood. The catalog also contained an image of That Word.  Now in the collection of the federal court in San Francisco, it spells out “ART” in larger-than-life, 3-d letters made of orchard prunings that are seven feet tall. Laky has continued creating word sculptures that combine natural and manmade materials, as disparate as bleached cottonwood branches, plastic army men and construction bullets of metal. In 2008, The New York Times Magazine commissioned her to create titles for its environmental survey, “The Green Issue.” The works that resulted were awarded a Type Directors Club Award. Laky will have two works in Volume 50: a large vessel-shaped sculpture and a type-related, free-standing arrow.

Details of works by Hisako Sekijima
Details of Bark basket sculptures in varying materials by Hisako Sekijima. Photos by Tom Grotta

Last, but certainly not least is Hisako Sekijima, whose innovation and artistry seem to know few bounds. We have focused on her work in three catalogs — (#8) Hisako Sekijima/1994; (#19) Glen Kaufman and Hisako Sekijima/1998; (#30) Japan Under The Influence: Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition/2001. Bark and vine become fabric and thread, framing and nails as Sekijima conducts her experiments in volume and void. The first catalog of Sekijima’s work (#8) included works in wide variety of materials — cherry bark, kudzu vine, cedar, willow, hackberry, bamboo. We were particularly pleased when The New York Times made the 1994 exhibition and the variety of work included the subject of a full-page article in its Connecticut section. They turned to her work again in The New York Times Magazine, including a work of kudzu vine in an article on the uses of the invasive species. We visited Sekijima’s work again in 1998, pairing her pieces, this time of zelikova, apricot, hinoki, walnut and palm hemp bark, with jacquard weavings by Glen Kaufman featuring photographic images of Kyoto. In 2001, we combined works by seven basket artists in Japan: Under the Influence, Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition #30). Sekijima was included, as were four of her students from Japan — Norie Hatekeyama, Kazue Honma, Noriko Takamiya and Tsuroko Tanikawa— each of whom had, like their teacher, had mastered Japanese basketmaking tradition, only to give it a twist. Sekijima wrote in Japan Under the Influence, that Kay Sekimachi (also featured in the catalog) was one of the American artists whose “new notions of basketmaking” and “new forms” had a decisive impact on her as she studied basketmaking in the late 70s. “Since then,” she wrote, “Sekimachi has always been one of my teachers at a distance. Her work has always reminded me of a Japanese respectful expression orime tadashii, which literally means, ‘one’s kimono preserves neat lines of folding which connotes integrity of behavior.’” Sekijima’s work, A Line Willow IV is part of our September exhibition. Like the works these artists have produced over nearly three decades, A Line Willow IV,  represents a line innovative art making that is knotless, homogeneous and flexible. 

See more at our September exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50).


Creative Quarantining: Artist Check-in 3

In our third set of reports creating under corona, artists in Japan, the UK and the US weigh in.

Hisako Sekijima at home wearing a mask
Hisako Sekijima at home wearing a Mask. Photo by Hisako Sekijima

For Hisako Sekijima, writing from Japan, wearing a mask is not that unusual. “Wearing sanitary masks has long been my mother’s remedy against flu and all kinds of infections. In my childhood, I felt awkward that I was always wearing  a mask of white gauze (of course handmade!) while no other friends in my class had to do so,” Hisako recalls. “But she might have learned by experience through the harder health situation of wartime when there was a lack of proper medicine and infection control required tangible protection.  My mother was born in 1919 when the Spanish Flu was pandemic. She is living her 100th year now. When the senior citizens home allows the families to visit, I will print and show her photos of fashionable masks. What will be her reaction? I cannot wait for that normal day to come.” 

Gizella Warburtons view from the bottom of her garden
Gizella Warburtons Garden view. Photo by Gizella Warburton

“… I have taken the ‘weaving’ out to the bottom of my garden,” says Gizella Warburton who is in the UK. “… listening to the birds… a rare and precious moment. I am busy developing new pieces, in-between planting veg and battling slugs.” And, she has tentatively launched an Instagram page: www.instagram.com/gizellakwarburton.

Chris Drury at Home
Chris Drury at Home. Photo by Tom Grotta

“We are on lockdown here,” writes Chris Drury of he and his wife, poet Kay Syrad who are also in the UK, “but it is as good a place to be as ever and we are both busy. Luckily for me, my third year of the Lee Krasner award come through. Gives me the time to work on my retrospective book – Edge of Chaos.”

Pat Campbells view from th across the street
Pat Campbell’s view from across the street

“Just to let you know that Maine is in full spring bloom,” writes Pat Campbell. “I am back in the studio, now that it is warm and beautiful to work out there. I am making smaller pieces. Just across the street from me is a hill of thousands of daffodils  with the river beyond it. This is where I walk. I also walk on the beach. That is quite wonderful especially on a nice warm day. All goes well.”

Stéphanie Jacques home studio. Photo by Stéphanie Jacques

“At the begining of the lockdown,” wrote Stéphanie Jacques from Belgium, “I continued to drive to my studio which is on the other side of Brussels. But it was too depressing to meet no one there. So I moved my etching press and my needlework to my living room (and put my big dining table in my small kitchen). In the beginning, it was difficult to concentrate — too much information in my mind and too many emotions. I’ve tried to stopped listening to the news. To sew and to cycling are my remedies (Oh and Spotify also:-). I’m lucky, my apartment is very close to the countryside, so I can catch some feelings of freedom on my bike everyday. Lockdown does not change my way of working so much (well, that’s not completely true, in April I had to work on a community project that is postponed, until I don’t know when). But even as I try to focus on the positive, there is something frightening to see our lives reduced to fetching food … all this has further strengthened me in my desire to pursue the path of creation!”

Stay Safe, Stay Separate, Stay Inspired!


Art Assembled: New This Week February

Structural Discussion VI, Hisako Sekijima cedar and walnut, 10.75” x 14.5” x 7”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Winter is slowly but surely coming to a close (finally!) and the sunny months are not too far ahead. Also rapidly approaching is this year’s Art in the Barn exhibition: Art + Identity: An International View, which seeks to take an expansive look at identity and art in a global context.

We started February’s “New This Week” series with Structural Discussion VI by Hisako Sekijima. Woven using cedar and walnut, Sekijima’s Structural Discussion VI’s explores structure, form and shape. Though Sekijima’s baskets were not created to function in a utilitarian manner she feels that they have been a useful tool in exploring herself. Unlike traditional basketmakers, Sekijima has chosen to not work with one specific plant throughout her life, but instead work with various plant materials. Her openness to other plant materials has allowed her to explore and experiment with each material’s sculptural possibilities.

Material Pleasures: Artemisia, Lia Cook, acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77” 1993. Photo by Tom Grotta.

The sensual nature of Lia Cook’s Material Pleasures: Artemisia is sure to immediately captivate the viewer. Cook’s Material Pleasures series explores the “sensuality of the woven image” and the emotional response that comes with it. Cook has continued this exploration of sensuality and emotion in her current work, combining it with technology that measures and maps emotional responses.

Orchid, Marianne Kemp, horsehair, gold lures thread, wooden frame, 15” x 18.5” x 2”. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Next up was Marianne Kemp’s stitched and woven Orchid. Dyed red horsehair woven in between a delicate herringbone background brings light to Kemp’s supreme eye for detail. For Kemp weaving is a form of meditation. “It is the only time of day that I do one thing at the time and think (solely) about one thing,” Kemp explains. Weaving allows Kemp to give her brain a rest and explore her creative intuition.

Blue/Green Weaving, Włodzimierz Cygan, polyester, linen, sisal, fiber optic, 41” x 41” x 15”. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We concluded February with  Włodzimierz Cygan’s Blue/Green Weaving. The piece, which is designed with both textiles and fiber optics, resembles a peacock feather in daylight and slowly shifts shades in the dark. Cygan, a Polish artist, is an innovator in the field of fiber art, challenging the boundaries of the medium.


30 Years of Japanese Baskets, Hisako Sekijima and Friends, Part 2

Poster from this year's Basketry Exhibition

Poster from this year’s Basketry Exhibition

“In Japan,” writes influential basketmaker Hisako Sekijima,”the idea of making ‘non-utilitarian baskets’ is still not so properly appreciated  even after 30 years!!”  Undaunted, for three decades, Sekijima and a loosely organized group of 80 or so other artists have continued to pursue what she calls contemporary basketmaking, but the Victoria & Albert Museum terms a “journey of radical experimentation,” maintaining a website, newsletter and mounting an annual exhibition in the process. For the 30th anniversary of this exhibition at the Yamawaki Gallery, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo, this fall, Sekijima wrote text to refresh insider artists’ vision and to expand the understanding of outsiders, artists and their audience. The statement below is adapted from that text.

 

Contemporary Basketry Influences
Ed Rossbach’s Baskets as Textile Art lead to a surge of contemporary basketmaking in 1970s.  The notion of baskets, as stated well in its title, has been spreading and stimulating basketmakers’ creative minds beyond US, to other countries in the world. In Japan, basketmakers have committed significantly to this worldwide, challenging trend in the last 30 years. Their output has been found in show catalogs as well as international publications, for example, those published by browngrotta arts.
I can explain first, why this notion of baskets is new and also, why it was taken up with interest by a wide range of makers. Prior to the 70s, baskets had been discussed either in terms of ethnology/folk culture or in relation of certain local traditional connoisseurship in tea ceremony, flower arrangement and daily life style design. In Rossbach’s book baskets were re-evaluated beyond those local cultural and historical confinements. That is, baskets were abstracted in their formal or conceptual expressive possibility. Baskets came to be challenged from various angles without consideration of conventional requirements. More recent results of this challenge include exploration of new material/structure, or of new spatial expression of linear elements.

 

The 90s
In 1999, at Yokohama Art Museum, an exhibition, Weaving the Worldpresented a term, “contemporary art of linear construction” to link a wide range of artistic expressions from artists including John McQueen, Norma Minkowitz, Hisako Sekijima, Kyoko Kumai along with Martin Puryear, Richard Deacon and Oliver Herring. This new context resulted in a fresh look of sculptural works which were not carved nor molded but made of linear substances. Baskets and fiber arts spoke clearly there.

 Red/White Revolving, Noriko Takamiya, paper constructions, 6" x 7" x 6", 2010

Red/White Revolving, Noriko Takamiya, paper constructions, 6″ x 7″ x 6″, 2010

 

The Present
More recently, in April 2017, I saw Women Artists in Post-War Abstraction at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, another show affirming the dawn of contemporary textile arts as an abstract expression. Under the category of “Reductive Abstraction” were combined works by Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Sheila Hicks and Kay Sekimachi.  Well expressed by the works in the exhibition was these artists’ eager search for abstract expression, which they did by depriving textile techniques of conventional functions, materials and pictorial patterns. Though Rossbach was not there in the show featuring “women artists,” I was sure his new attitude toward baskets was rooted in the same soil.

 

Our Basketry Exhibition Group
Through 1980, I explored basketmaking, especially focusing on the interplay of material and structural mechanism.  And I started a class to introduce a conceptual approach to basketmaking in Japan. Some of my students from that period have been presiding over an annual basketry show since then to cultivate a new ground in Japan. The first show was held at Senbikiya Gallery, Chuo-ku Tokyo in 1986.The objective was then, and still is now, to generate mutual learning and promotion. In Japan, compared with the government-supported field for traditional art bamboo basketry and mingei folk basketry, the field for the contemporary basketry remains small and still not well known. The group avoided forming a so-called art/craft association or exclusive school of a core artist. I knew that in the Japanese cultural climate such attempts had seen quick rise and fall in a short time, for the exclusive/authoritative nature of organizations tends to distort its original ideal. It is a shared regard that binds our group and the conviction that each should be a leader to oneself and to the group, besides being a creative basketmaker.

 

Fuhkyoh Tsuruko Tanikawa, linked copper, 17" x 16" x 6.5", 2002, stainless steel wire

Fuhkyoh,
Tsuruko Tanikawa, linked copper, 17″ x 16″ x 6.5″, 2002, stainless steel wire

Cooperative Administration
We’ve aimed to keep the group healthy and growing.  A kind of standing committee is organized for each exhibition. Administrative jobs and budgets are shared equally and paid accordingly among the participants. Besides entry fees, the sales of the catalog and a 10% commission from sold works cover the costs. Often we win an invitational support or a subsidiary discount of the rental fee from galleries or art schools. Over time, the regular participants have learned to create show announcements and catalog booklets by computer and to set up a job grading for payment to the respective participants for contributed works. And all of the participants are now able to submit their own pages in digital data to a catalog editor. Each participant has individual pages of work and a statement of intent in the catalog.
For new entries, anyone can submit a portfolio one year in advance. These are reviewed by all of the exhibitors during the ongoing show.  Considerations are made not only for the work but also for the administrative contributions. It is not a juried show, but each participant should be responsible to preserve or better the quality of the show both aesthetically and operationally. Eighty artists have participated over the years — about 30-40 artists participate each year. Participants have included Noriko Takamiya, Kazue Honnma, Tsuruko Tanikawa, Chizu Sekiguchi, Hisako Sekijima,  Shoko Fukuda, Masako Yoshida, Shigeru Matsuyama, Rittsuko Jinnouchi, Nobuko Ueda, Haruko Sugawara.

Capricious Plaiting, Kazue Honma, paper mulberry plaiting, 56 x 43 x 20cm, 2016

Capricious Plaiting, Kazue Honma, paper mulberry plaiting, 56 x 43 x 20cm, 2016

 

Into the Future
Long-time participants such as Noriko Takamiya, Kazue Honma, Tsuruko Tanikawa and me have adopted our own co-operational, open system to keep the show going. We have been careful that this group activity not be for the benefit of exclusive members but should promote independent creative minds through basketmaking. Besides the annual exhibition, Kazue Honma’s editorship of Basketry News Letter and Noriko Takamiya’s handling of our website have been instrumental in keeping this loose group intact. The long list of topics include not only international exhibitions but also iworkhops, technical analysis into structure, experiments/researches of plants, accomplishments in archaeological reproduction and social commitments in developing countries.This year 350 people attended the exhibition, including art writer Janet Koplos and Scandinavian artists, Ingrid Becker and Kristin Opem and Professor Wu, Pei-shan, and students from the Textile Section of the Graduate Institute of Applied Arts of Tainan National University of Arts.

 

 

We wish Sekijima and her fellow artists another creative and inspiring 30 years!

Anniversary Lookback: Hisako Sekijima at browngrotta arts

For our 30th Anniversary exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years…30 Years of Art, Hisako Sekijima provided us Structural Discussion VI, a work made in 2016. In 1994, the first year Sekijima showed with browngrotta arts, we sold another work from the Structural Discussion series, #312, which she had made 30 years before in 1987. Even as she addresses a single theme, Sekijima’s use of varied materials and approaches makes the results of these explorations remarkably diverse.

NYT portrait of Hisako Sekijima

Portrait of Hisako Sekijima at her first solo exhibition with browngrotta arts in 1994; baskets of Kudzo vine, walnut, cedar, cherry bark, hackberry shavings and willow bark. Photo by Tom Grotta. The exhibition was reviewed in The New York Times, “Cherishing the Space and the Forms that Define It,” Bess Liebenson, July 1994.

Sekijima writes below about her many-year basket journey in Japan where, she explains, “making non-utilitarian baskets is not so properly appreciated after these 30 years!!” Her journey has included a collaboration with other basketmakers in Japan who have prepared an exhibition and catalog each year for 30 years. Information about that group and its anniversary will form Part 2 of this series of posts and will appear in an upcoming arttextstyle.

Sekijima featured in <em>The New York Times</em>

Sekijima featured in The New York Times

“In the 40 years I have been working with baskets, my concerns have extended beyond basket topics toward sculptural ones. Not only I have used rather common basket materials including tree barks, vines, splints of bamboo or woods, but also I have chosen extended concepts of vessel forms with negative spaces and linear constructions.  Both of my aesthetic and technical ideas such as revaluing negative space and examining the natural property of materials are illustrated in my explorations into the nature and history of basketmaking. It brings me a deeper understanding of physical rules of interplay among materials’ property, constructing method and a form, while it brings me a tactility or real touch of abstract ideas of numbers/counting, time, order, and etc. With coordination of hands, spirits and sense, physical experiences and conceptual ones come together in baskets.

Over the years, basketmaking has continued to inspire my inquiry into how and why human beings are motivated to make objects as well as how object-making forms and develops makers’ way of looking at things in general. As I explored baskets, I came better understand the interaction of human beings and our natural environment. My interest is not confined to representing personal inner imagery, but is widened to research the function of human hands and intellect through our interaction with nature.

Sekijima’s Structural Discussions

On the wall: Structural Discussion IV & V, plaited and woven cedar, 1997-98 from left to right: Structural Discussion VI, plaited cedar and walnut, 2016; Multiple Axis II, looped chamaecyparis (cyprus) and cedar, 2013; Structural Discussion I, plaited cedar, walnut, ginkgo, 1987; From 2 to 3 Dimensions V, plaited and folded walnut.

In 1994, when I was invited to show at browngrotta arts for the first time, basket #312 was among the first sales. It was entitled Structural Discussion and made in 1987, same year browngrotta had opened. Around that time, I concluded my classification of baskets into six primary types: looped, knotted, plaited, coiled, warp/weft woven and twined. Since 1987, visions of structural concepts have continued to return to me and have resulted in varying expressions. A set of two square baskets, #434 and #435, Structural Discussion IV and V made in 1997 and 1998, shows the comparison of plaited structure and warp/weft structure. You see in IV oblong negative spaces put in parallel to the edges, while in V they appear sideways at a 45-degree angle to the edges. IV shows the nature of warp/weft structure; V that of plaited structure. I find it interesting, that as you look at the edges of negative spaces, you see the structural elements behave in the same way in both. How things look depends on where or what you look at: either as a part or as a whole? Different names might be given, or might not.
Structural Discussion I, which I also made in 1987, uses plaited cedar, walnut, ginko and willow to highlight angles and openings. 2 to 3 Dimensions and Structural Discussion VI I made in 2016. VI is a basket in a basket that can be shifted to highlight one angle and then another. For 2017, I plan to create another piece in this discussion, to join browngrotta arts in expressing myself being ‘still crazy about it after 30 years!’”
-Hisako Sekijima

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/.
Our shopping cart is mobile-device friendly and we now take PayPal.


Artist RSVPs—International Artists Travel the World to Attend browngrotta’s Opening April 22nd

From across the globe to the beautiful rural and coastal landscape of Connecticut, artists traveling from four different countries and nine US states will attend browngrotta arts’ artist reception and opening this Saturday, April 22, 2017.

We are delighted to welcome these 16 national and international artists as we celebrate our 30th anniversary exhibition, Still Crazy After All These Years…30 years in art.

Jennifer Falck Linssen

Jennifer Falck Linssen

Wendy Wahl

Wendy Wahl

John McQueen

John McQueen

Blair Tate

Blair Tate

Nancy Koenigsberg

Nancy Koenigsberg

Tamiko Kawata

Tamiko Kawata

Lewis Knauss

Lewis Knauss

Mary Giles

Mary Giles

Mary Merkel-Hess

Mary Merkel-Hess

Norma Minkowitz

Norma Minkowitz

Ferne Jacobs

Ferne Jacobs

Gizella K Warburton

Gizella K Warburton

Hisako Sekijima

Hisako Sekijima

Kyomi Iwata

Kyomi Iwata

Jin-Sook So

Jin-Sook So

Helena Hernmarck

Helena Hernmarck

As with our world-renowned collection of art textiles, dimensional art pieces and mixed media, many of our visiting artists represent acreative blend of diverse cultures and countries from all over the world, including Helena Hernmarck, originally from Sweden, now Connecticut, who continues to work with weavers in Sweden to create her tapestries; Jin-Sook So, from Korea, who has also lived for more than two decades in Sweden; Hisako Sekijima of Yokohama, Japan; and Gizella K Warburton from the UK.

We’re also pleased to welcome the following artists who are traveling from across the United States, including California, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, and of course our home state of Connecticut:

Each of the 16 artists expected to attend browngrotta arts’ artists reception and opening this Saturday will be available to offer insights into this unique combination of art forms, including textiles, sculptures, stitched work and sculptural baskets among others. Visit our Artists pages to learn more about our visiting artists’ techniques, inspirations and remarkable art forms.
The Artists Reception and Opening for Still Crazy After All These Years…30 Years in art is at browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897, April 22nd, 1 pm to 6 pm.


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.


Contemporary Art Influenced by Korea and Japan: An Unexpected Approach

Opens September 16th in Greenwich, Connecticut

Mary Yagi Outdoor Sculptor Art from Japan

Mariyo Yagi preparing her outdoor sculpture “A cycle- Infinity” for the upcoming exhibit in the US. Photo by Yuna Yagi

From September 16th to November 4, 2016, the Bendheim Gallery of the Greenwich Arts Council in Greenwich, Connecticut will present Contemporary Art Influenced by Korea and Japan: An Unexpected Approach, curated by browngrotta arts. The exhibition includes select works of ceramics, textiles, baskets and sculptures by artists from Japan, Korea and the United States that each reflect an Asian sensibility.

Textiles and Ceramic Art from Korea and Japan

Weaving by Chiyoko Tanaka, Ceramic by Yasuhisa Kohyama. Photo by Tom Grotta

Varied materials and techniques

The 23 artists in this exhibit have a close relationship to a traditional craft aesthetic, manifested in a contemporary manner. They have chosen conventionally Asian materials and/or techniques (dyes, papers, gold leaf, persimmon tannin, kategami) used in both time-honored and unconventional ways. Examples include studies by Hiroyuki Shindo of the vanishing art of natural indigo dyeing and by Jun Tomita on ikat dyeing.  Jennifer Linssen’s innovative sculptures of katagami and Keiji Nio’s Interlacing-R, which references complex Japanese sumihimo braiding reimagine conventional techniques. Masakazu and Naomi Kobayashi, Naoko Serino and Kyoko Kumai also create new relationships among disparate material and techniques.

Kiyomi Iwata Gold Mesh Sculpture

Auric Grid Fold, Kiyomi Iwata, aluminum mesh, french embroidery knots, gold leaf, silk organza, 19″ x 18″ x 10″, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

In other works, like Kiyomi Iwata’s Auric Gold Fold, Glen Kaufman’s Shimogamo Scrolls: Studio View II and Jin-Sook So, Pojagi Constructions I and II, gold and silver leaf play a role, their luster and longevity suggesting immortality, power, divinity. The artists share a concern for surface and material interaction, evident in Chiyoko Tanaka’s Grinded Fabric-Three Squares Blue Threads and Blue #689, of linen distressed with earth and stones, Hideho Tanaka’s Vanishing and Emerging series of stainless steel and singed paper and Mariyo Yagi’s twisted rope sculpture, A cycle-Infinity. The artists in Contemporary Art Influenced by Korea and Japan: An Unexpected Approach create work that is formal and contained while visibly involving the hand of the artist. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Greenwich Arts Council and browngrotta Arts.

The complete list of artists participating in this exhibition is:

Nancy Moore Bess (United States); Pat Campbell (United States); Kiyomi Iwata (Japan); Glen Kaufman (United States); Masakazu Kobayashi (Japan); Naomi Kobayashi (Japan); Yasuhisa Kohyama (Japan); Kyoko Kumai (Japan); Jennifer Falck Linssen (United States); Keiji Nio (Japan); Toshio Sekiji (Japan); Hisako Sekijima (Japan); Naoko Serino (Japan); Hiroyuki Shindo (Japan); Jin-Sook So (Korea/Sweden); Norkiko Takamiya (Japan); Chiyoko Tanaka (Japan); Hideho Tanaka (Japan); Takaaki Tanaka (Japan); Jun Tomita (Japan); Mariyo Yagi (Japan); Chang Yeonsoon (Korea); Jiro Yonezawa (Japan); Shin Young-ok (Korea).

The Bendheim Gallery is located at 299 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, Connecticut; 203.862.6750; info@greenwicharts.org.


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!