Ed Rossbach | Katherine Westphal | Marion Hildebrandt | Judy Mulford | Deborah Valoma | Adela Akers | Sylvia Seventy
California has played a seminal role in both the history of the Contemporary Fiber Arts Movement and artists from California have played an equally significant role in browngrotta arts’ exhibition archive. You’ll find California artists represented in nearly all our group catalogs: Lawrence LaBianca in Stimulus: Art and its Inception (vol. 36); Carol Shaw-Sutton in 25 for the 25th (vol. 25); Nancy Moore Bess in 10th Wave I (vol. 17) and 10th Wave II (vol. 18); Karyl Sisson in Karyl Sisson and Jane Sauer (vol. 12) and Ferne Jacobs in Blue/Green: color/code/context (vol. 44).
California Dreamin’, an online exhibition on Artsy from May 11 to June 5th, features seven artists: Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma, Adela Akers and Sylvia Seventy. The exhibition borrows from three browngrotta catalogs (vols. 6, 20, 26) and highlights decades worth of art.
Best-known of the group, Ed Rossbach, completed his graduate studies at Cranbrook in 1946. He, along with Marianne Strengell worked within the narrow parameters of Euro-Bauhaus-Scandinavian weaving traditions for industry. “In reaction to this tight definition of textiles,” Jo Ann C. Stabb wrote in Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture (vol. 37), “Rossbach became fascinated by indigenous textile processes and the use of found materials as he studied artifacts in the anthropology collection at University of California, Berkeley, as a faculty member from 1950 to 1979. Noted for creating three-dimensional, structural forms from unexpected, humble materials including plastic, reeds, newspaper, stapled cardboard, twigs, Rossbach inspired a renaissance in basketry and vessel forms and influenced other artists, including his students Gyöngy Laky and Lia Cook.”
Katherine Westphal, who was married to Rossbach, generated experiments of her own. In the late 60s she was among the first artists to use photocopy machines to make images for art. In the 1970s, in addition to drawings to baskets, she began creating wearable art, which, according to Glenn Adamson, former director of the Museum of Arts and Design. was a genre she essentially invented. She wanted it said of the graments she created: “there wasn’t another one like it in the world, and most people probably wouldn’t be caught dead in it.” Few were worn, most were hung on the wall like paintings. Her work displayed wide-ranging, autobiographical themes, arising from her travels: Native American art from trips through the Southwest, cracked Greek pots viewed on a trip to the Met, portraits of geishas after visiting Japan. “I want to become a link in that long chain of human activity, the patterning on any surface available,” she said.
Also in the 70s, Sylvia Seventy, inspired in part by her studies of the art of the Pomo Indians, was exploring her own innovative techniques in paper making. In 1982, The New York Times said of her works, “The vessel forms of Sylvia Seventy, all produced over molds, are rich, earthy bowl shapes, with embedded bamboo, cotton cord and sisal. From a distance they appear to be hard, perhaps stoneware; on closer inspection, they are fragile works.” Her vessels feature an accretion of items: compositions of beads, feathers, fishhooks, googly eyes, hand prints, and buttons, creating what Charles Tally called “emotionally poignant landscapes within the interior of the vessel[s].” (Artweek, November 29, 1990).
Deborah Valoma, author, art historian and creator of both textile and sculpture, heads the Textiles Program at the California College of Arts and Crafts (Oakland). Valoma credits numerous influencers for her work: “I first learned to knit in Jerusalem from a Polish refugee of the Holocaust. I learned to stitch lace from my grandmother, descendant of Armenian survivors of the Turkish massacres. I learned to twine basketry from one of the few living masters of Native American basketweaving in California. These dedicated women tenaciously pass the threads of survival forward. When their memory fails, my hands remember. My hands trace the breathless pause when I teeter on the sharp edge of sorrow and beauty.” Using hand-construction techniques and cutting-edge digital weaving technology, her work hugs the edges of traditional practice. She upholds traditional customs and at the same time, unravels long-held stereotypes. Valoma believes that students must locate themselves within historical lineages in order to understand the historical terrain they walk — and sometimes trip — through daily.
Marion Hildebrandt lived and worked in Napa Valley, gathering most of the plant material used in her baskets from the region until her death in 2011. “My works are a coming together of my life experiences,” Hildebrandt said. “My basketmaking reflects a longtime interest and study of native California flora and fauna.” Hildebrandt employed the same materials that Native Americans used when they inhabited the area. “It is still possible to find plants here that were used by basketmakers 4000 years ago,” she noted. Although she never attempted to replicate their baskets, she shared a similar appreciation for the natural materials that surrounded her. “Ever so subtly, plants cycle from winter to summer,” she observed. “Each day, week, month brings changes that effect the materials that I collect and use for my baskets.”
Further down the California coast, Judy Mulford continues to create her narrative sculptures and baskets of gourds. Mulford studied Micronesian fiber arts and in the 70s was one of a group of women who worked on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. She says each piece she creates “becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, surprise or a giggle. And always, a feeling of being in touch with my female ancestral beginnings.” Her sculptures integrate photo images, drawings, script, buttons and small figures. Mulford explains: “The gourds are surrounded by knotless netting – an ancient looping technique – symbolic because it is also a buttonhole stitch historically rooted in the home.”
In the 1970s, Adela Akers on the East Coast teaching at Temple University, but she has been creating art as a resident of Califonia for the last 25 years. Drawing inspiration from African and South American textiles, Akers creates woven compositions of simple geometric shapes, bands, zigzags and checks. Many of her works incorporate metal strips — meticulously measured and cut from recycled California wine bottle caps. Her techniques and materials produce images that change under different lighting conditions. Akers also frequently incorporates horsehair into her weavings, adding texture and dimensionality. Over time, Akers’ work has evolved in scale, material and construction. Yet, several themes reoccur, notably the use of line which, in conjunction with light, brings forth the transformative quality that uniquely characterizes her work.
From May 11th to June 7th, view an assortment of works by these artists at California Dreamin’ on Artsy
The Resurgence of Interest in Fiber Sculpture and Art Textiles Will Continue in 2015
Last year was an extraordinary one for those of us who appreciate contemporary art fiber and art textiles. More than 10 exhibitions opened in the US and abroad. In October, the art newspaper reported that “textiles are gaining international stature in art museums” and further that “[c]ommercial interest is on the rise,” quoting art advisor Emily Tsingou: “Textile [art] has entered the mainstream.” Soft Fabrics-Have Solid Appeal. Below is a roundup of exhibitions and reviews from last year and a guide to what to expect in 2015.
Mainstream attention began with the coverage of Sheila Hicks‘ inclusion
Sheila Hicks, Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column, 2013-14 (installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Photograph by Bill Orcutt
in the Whitney Biennial in March and was followed by coverage of the restoration of her remarkable 1960s tapestries at the Ford Foundation in New York Sheila Hicks Tapestries to Again Hang at Ford Foundation. In June, the Art Institute of Chicago’s textile galleries reopened, featuring 96-year-old Ethel Stein’s work, in Ethel Stein, Master Weaver.
September saw three fiber-related exhibitions; the Museum of Arts and Design opened What Would Mrs. Webb Do? A Founder’s Vision (closes
February 8, 2015),Kay Sekimachi, Ed Rossbach, Françoise Grossen, Katherine Westphal and others Museum of Art Design installation of What Would Mrs Webb Do?, Photo by Tom grotta
February 8, 2015), which featured significant textiles from the permanent collection by Anni Albers, Kay Sekimachi, Katherine Westphal, Ed Rossbach, Françoise Grossen and Trude Guermonprez, while The Drawing Center’s: Thread-Lines offered Anne Wilson creating fiber art in situ
Ann Wilson’s In Situ Performance at the Drawing Center, photo by Tom Grotta
together with a collection of works by Lenore Tawney, Louise Bourgeois and others. Contemporary 108 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, featured a series of large photographic weavings by Aleksandra Stoyanov of the Ukraine
Contemporary 108 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, curated from the 2013 “Aleksandra Stoyanov” Tefen Open Museum, Israel exhibition. photo copyright Tefen Open Museum
and now Israel, described as “warp and weft paintings.”
In October, Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present, opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston with works by 34 artists including
Fiber: Sculpture 1960 — present opening, photo by Tom Grotta
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ritzi Jacobi and Naomi Kobayashi. The Boston Globe called the exhibition “[s]plendid, viscerally engaging…groundbreaking;” the exhibition catalog (available at browngrotta.com) was pronounced by Blouin art info, “an amazing resource for anyone interested in learning more about the medium.” Art Info – Art in the Air Fiber Sculpture 1960 Present October also saw a survey of the work of sculptor and poet, Richard Tuttle, at the Tate in London, Richard Tuttle:
I Don’t Know, Or The Weave of Textile Language in which Tuttle investigated the importance of textiles throughout history, across his remarkable body of work and into the latest developments in his practice. Tate Modern – Richard Tuttle I Don’t Know or Weave Textile Language
Throughout the year, Innovators and Legends, with work by 50 fiber
artists, including Adela Akers, Nick Cave, Katherine Westphal and Sherri Smith toured the US, exhibiting at museums in Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky. The fiber fanfest culminated at Art Basel in Miami Beach in December, where Blouin’s Art Info identified a full complement of fiber works and textiles in its listing, “Definitive Top 11 Booths, “ including Alexandra da Cunha’s compositions of mass-produced beach towels and various colored fabrics at Thomas Dane Gallery, a Rosemarie Trockel embroidered work at Galerie 1900-2000, marble and dyed-fabric pieces by Sam Moyer at Galerie Rodolphe Janssen and woven paintings by Brent Wadden at Mitchell-Innes & Nash Blouin Art info – The Definitive Top-11 Booths at Art Basel Miami Beach.
And what’s ahead in 2015?
More auctions and exhibitions that include fiber sculpture and art textiles are scheduled for 2015. Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present will
open at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio on February 7th and travel to the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa in May. Innovators and Legends will open at contemporary 108 in Tulsa, Oklahoma in February, as well. In April, the Tate in London will open The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay, which will show how the artist
Sonia Delaunay Prismes electriques 1914 Centre Pompidou Collection, Mnam / Cci, Paris © Pracusa 2013057
dedicated her life to experimenting with color and abstraction, bringing her ideas off the canvas and into the world through tapestry, textiles, mosaic and fashion.
Also in April, the Museum of Arts and Design will host Pathmakers:
Lenore Tawney in her Coenties Slip studio, New York, 1958.
Courtesy of Lenore G. Tawney Foundation; Photo by David Attie
Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today, featuring work by Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Dorothy Liebes http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/pathmakers.
In June, the Toms Pauli Foundation in Lausanne, Switzerland will celebrate the International Tapestry Biennials held there from 1962 to 1995 and display work by the Polish textile artist and sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz, in an exhibition entitled, Objective Station.
Also this summer, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Baie St Paul in
Mariette Rousseau Vermette Portrait by Tom Grotta
Quebec, Canada will examine the work of Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, who participated in five of the Lausanne Biennials.
From April 24 – May 3, 2015, browngrotta arts will host Influence and Evolution, Fiber Sculpture then and now at our barn/home/gallery space in Wilton, Connecticut. In its 27-year history, browngrotta arts
has highlighted a group of artists – Sheila Hicks, Ritzi Jacobi, Lenore Tawney, Ed Rossbach and others – who took textiles off the wall in the 60s and 70s to create three-dimensional fiber sculpture. The influence of their experiments has been felt for decades. Influence and Evolution, Fiber Sculpture then and now, will explore that impact and examine how artists have used textile materials and techniques in the decades since, by juxtaposing works by artists who rebelled against tapestry tradition in the 60s, 70s and 80s,
Françoise Grossen, From the Mermaid Series IV, 1983, photo by Tom Grotta
including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Lia Cook, Kay Sekimachi and Françoise Grossen, with works from a later generation of artists, all born after 1960, through whom fiber sculpture continues to evolve. These artists, including María Eugenia Dávila and Eduardo Portillo of Venezuela, Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium and Naoko Serino of Japan, work in a time when classification of medium and material presents less of a constraint and fiber and fiber techniques can be more readily explored for their expressive potential alone.
“It is rare to find so many inventive, compelling works in one show, and it astounds that many are so little known,” wrote Kirsten Swenson in Art in America, about Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present, in October 2014. Art in America Magazine – reviews: Fiber Sculpture 1960-present. This spring, in Influence and Evolution, browngrotta arts will offer dozens more significant works of fiber art for collectors to appreciate and new audiences to discover — more than two dozen works by fiber pioneers and another 30 more recent fiber explorations. We hope you will visit the exhibition, order the catalog or both. Please contact us for more information about what’s in store. firstname.lastname@example.org