These are exciting days at the Tate Modern in London for fans of art textiles. You’ll find fiber works by important artists in several different galleries.
Beyond Craft, in the Boiler House, curated by Ann Coxon features three pioneers, Lenore Tawney, Olga de Amaral and Sheila Hicks, who experimented with different weaving techniques, often looking to historical or indigenous textiles for inspiration. De Amaral and Hicks were particularly inspired by the technical brilliance of Peruvian weavings made before European colonization. The Museum notes that many artists in the 1960s were using weaving and knotting to create innovative hangings and sculptures, integrating traditional craft techniques into fine art practice. “The 1960s saw several high-profile exhibitions of ‘fiber art’: textile techniques used to create unique art objects without a practical function. These three artists were among those who attempted to collapse the hierarchy that sets fine art above craft. While this distinction has not entirely disappeared, in recent years fiber art has become a source of inspiration for a new generation of artists and curators and the artists displayed here are receiving fresh consideration.”
In Magdalena Abakanowicz, also in the Boilerhouse, viewers can explore Abakanowicz’s stitched cloth sculptures inspired by biological systems, organic matter, and regeneration. “Made at a time of political tension between the Soviet Union and Poland, Abakanowicz has said the work ‘could be understood as a cry from behind the Iron Curtain’,” says the Museum notes. (That was the time frame in which Anne and Jacques Baruch brought Abakanowicz’ work to the US, the subject of browngrotta arts’ catalog, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection.)
Elsewhere in the Boilerhouse is a work by El Anatsui, who completely transforms the most pedestrian materials into art. By flattening bottle tops and stitching them together into a shimmering metal cloth, he turns familiar disposable objects into something that appears precious and alters them in the viewers’ eyes. Taking a similar approach to the mundane, Sheela Gowda from India has created a room-sized installation made of car bumpers and handwoven human hair, an observation on “the coexistence of ritual and superstition alongside modern urban and economic transformation.”
Want to know more? Visit the Museum’s website to see images and to read New Yarn, Tate, etc. Essay: Textiles and Art by Kirsty Bell: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/new-yarns
No matter on what side of the political divide you sit, it’s been a long 16 months. And for some of us, the next 16 months will likely feel even longer. In our house we’re hunkering down – old movies, dinners with friends, letter writing and getting to all those to dos, like organizing our art books – and a news ban, at least for the next few weeks. We’re also aiming for an art fix. We are going out in search of what’s inspired, exhilarating, thought provoking. The markets are holding steady; why not invest in art? Surround yourself with what brings you joy. Here are four works that brought us feelings of peace, gratitude, tolerance and awe.
Lenore Tawney’s The Path II, is meditative and reflective of a passage she marked in a favorite book: “[t]he spiritual path, the path of purification, of emancipation, of liberation, is a path where we change our inner nature.”
In his “fugue weavings” like Vertical to Horizontal and Vice Versa, Toshio Sekiji, imagines a harmonious confluence of disparate cultures, languages and nationalities, so different than the facts on the ground. Mariyo Yagi’s art is infused with concern about the Cosmos. “Art is committed to the energy of human life,” she says. In creating her sculptures she has been informed by the study of nawa –– which means a spiral cord, which for Yagi provides a link between earth and heaven and all living things, creating a spiritual loop from DNA to the cosmos. Enlightening and innovative, Anda Klancic’s work combines creative use of machine-embroidered lace technique with experience from other disciplines, including photography. In Aura, Klancic says, “I wanted to show the vital energy in the human species: that the light, connected from man to the earth and the universe, has the rhythm of breath, of life.”
Have you other works to recommend? Let us know.
After a few-year hiatus, browngrotta arts will return to the Sculpture, Objects, and Functional Art Exposition at the Navy Pier in Chicago next month. We’ll be reprising our most recent exhibition, Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now, with different works for a number of artists, including Naoko Serino, Kay Sekimachi, Anda Klancic, Ritzi Jacobi, Randy Walker, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Carolina Yrarrázaval and Lenore Tawney. Other artists whose work will be featured in browngrotta arts’ exhibit are Magdalena Abakanowicz, Adela Akers, Lia Cook, Sheila Hicks, Masakazu Kobayashi, Naomi Kobayashi, Luba Krejci, Jolanta Owidzka, Ed Rossbach, Sherri Smith, Carole Fréve, Susie Gillespie, Stéphanie Jacques, Tim Johnson, Marianne Kemp, Federica Luzzi, Rachel Max, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, Michael Radyk and Gizella K Warburton. SOFA will publish a related essay, Fiber Art Pioneers: Pushing the Pliable Plane by Jo Ann C. Stabb,
on the origins of the contemporary fiber movement.
Now in its 22nd year, SOFA CHICAGO is a must-attend art fair, attracting more than 36,000 collectors, museum groups, curators and art patrons to view museum-quality works of art from 70+ international galleries. After a nationwide competition, SOFA CHICAGO recently placed #7 in the USA Today Reader’s Choice 10 Best Art Events.New this year, SOFA CHICAGO will unveil a revamped floorplan created by Chicago architects Cheryl Noel and Ravi Ricker of Wrap Architecture. The re-envisioned design will create a more open and cohesive show layout, allowing visitors to explore the fair in a more engaging way. Changes include a new, centrally located main entrance where browngrotta arts’ booth, 921, will be located. Cheryl Noel of Wrap Architecture adds, “The most effective urban contexts contain distinct places within the larger space, corridors with visual interest and clear paths with fluid circulation. We believe this new floorplan will capture the spirit of the art and be an expression of the work itself, exploring form and materiality, with the same level of design rigor applied.”
On Friday, November 6th, from 12:30 to 2:30, Michael Radyk will be at browngrotta arts’ booth to discuss his Swan Point series, Jacquard textiles created to be cut and manipulated after being taken off the loom, in which Radyk was trying “to bring the artist’s hand back into the industrial Jacquard weaving process.” SOFA opens with a VIP preview on Thursday, November 5th, from 5 pm to 9 pm. The hours for Friday and Saturday are 11 am – 7 pm; and 12 to 6 pm on Sunday the 8th. SOFA is in the Festival Hall, Navy Pier, 600 East Grand Avenue Chicago, IL 60611. Hope to see you there!
We are excited to be featured in the July issue of selvedge magazine. We have long been fans of the UK magazine, which is artfully designed with lush photos and creative illustrations, and, like browngrotta arts, economical in its use of capital letters. We have a large collection of back issues, stockpiled for reference and inspiration.
Issue 10 was a particular favorite, not surprisingly, with an insightful profile of Sue Lawty, “A rock and a slow pace” followed by an update on bamboo artwork by Nancy Moore Bess, “Mutual Admiration: Bamboo Has Inspired Artists Worldwide.” But we also loved the piece on fashion drawings in the letters of Jane Austen, “Detailed statements” in the Romance issue (34) and the introduction to Indian embroidery in Issue 00. The magazine is a great source of information about what’s current and what’s past in textile art and design, interiors, fashion — around the world. Founded by Polly Leonard in 2003, selvedge is intentionally produced “with the time, thought and skill” required in textile practice. The magazine ably succeeds in its aim of “see[ing] the world through a textile lens, but cast[ing] our eye far and wide looking for links between our subject and achievements in other fields from architecture to archeology”— in this case, as far as Wilton, Connecticut.
As we were preparing our Of Two Minds: Artists Who Do Two of a Kind exhibition in 2014, selvedge sent Rhonda Sonnenberg to interview us for a piece. Sonnenberg has written about fiber artists for some time, including Kate Anderson, Lisa Kokin and Fran Gardner, and we’ve talked shop with her at SOFAs in years past. Over the couple of hours she was in Wilton, we discussed with her the changes we have seen in the field in our two-dozen plus years promoting art textiles and we talked about some of the artists we were watching with interest. The conversation was a good prelude to our show that followed in 2015, Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now, in which we highlighted work by 15 of the newer-to-the field artists whose work we admire. The selvedge article, “Consuming Fibre,” features photographs of work by many browngrotta artists. You can buy a copy online, through the Selvedge store at: http://www.selvedge.org/shop/64-ageless.
Our Spring exhibition Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now explored the impact 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. In Influence and Evolution, we paired early works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Lia Cook, Kay Sekimachi and Françoise Grossen — artists who rebelled against tapestry tradition — with works from a later generation of artists, all born in 1960 or after. Fiber sculpture continues to evolve through this second group of artists, including María Eugenia Dávila and Eduardo Portillo of Venezuela,
Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium, Naoko Serino of Japan and Anda Klancic of Slovenia. In our 160-page color exhibition catalog, Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now, you can see the works in the exhibition. Each artist is represented by at least two works; images of details are included so that readers can experience the works fully. The catalog also includes an insightful essay, Bundling Time and Avant-garde Threadwork by Ezra Shales, PhD, Associate Professor, History of Art Department, Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. Influence and Evolution, Shales write in his essay, “poses rich comparisons and asks the mind to sustain historical linkages. We feel the uneven texture of time, luring us into a multiplicity of artistic pasts and an open road of varied fibrous futures. An emphasis on plural possibilities makes this exhibition quite distinct from a tidy biblical story of genesis or masters and apprentices. We witness multiple intra-generational passing of batons as well as many artists changing horses midstream, as well they often do.” The three works in Influence and Evolution by Adela Akers that traverse five decades provide a fascinating view of the artistic progression Shales refers to. The curvilinear, draped forms of Summer and Winter
(1977; restored 2014), he notes, resemble “both a ruffle and a row of ancient mourners.” Midnight, from 1988, by contrast, is hard-edged, “a monumental window into an alternative architectural space.” And Akers recent work, Silver Waves, completed in 2014, is “an intimate surface with linear imagery” whose horsehair bristles “almost invite a caress if they did not seem to be a defensive adaptation.” Juxtapose Silver Waves with American Michael Radyk’s Swan Point (2013) and and Dutch artist, Marianne Kemp’s Red Fody (2013) that also features horsehair, and catalog readers are likely to understand Shales’ query: should we categorize woven forms as a logical temporal narrative or inevitable sequence of linked inquiries? Shales is a guest curator of Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and
Today currently at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York which features more than 100 works, by a core cadre of women—including Ruth Asawa, Sheila Hicks, Karen Karnes, Dorothy Liebes, Toshiko Takaezu, Lenore Tawney, and Eva Zeisel—who had impact and influence as designers, artists and teachers, using materials in innovative ways. To order a copy of Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now, our 43rd catalog, visit browngrotta.com.
We’ll be sad to see the last of Don Draper and Peggy Olson tonight (is it just me, or does anyone else think that Peggy and Jimmy Olsen could be related, except for the spelling, of course?). The series is set in between 1960 and 1970 — remember Pete’s father dying on American Airlines Flight #1 in 1962; Kennedy’s assaination the day before Roger’s daughter’s wedding in 1963; Don getting tickets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965 and this season’s premier with Don watching Nixon announcing troops in Cambodia in 1970?. The series’ sets and costumes are carefully designed, to highlight the clothing, furniture and design of the period. That’s a period that we are nostalgic about. Happily, we live with some classic furniture from those years, including a desk, server and beds by the late Edgar Anderson, a couple of Kennedy rockers, Bertoia side chairs, a Saarinen table, re-issued Uten.silo Wall-Alls and an Arredoluce Monza Triennial floor lamp. We also have the good fortune to promote important artworks from that period, which was a seminal one for contemporary textile art. Here, in honor of Don, Joan, Peggy and rest of the guys, a gallery of fiber art from the Mad Men years.
(For still more on mid-century design, there’s Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today currently at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, which considers the important contributions of women to modernism in postwar visual culture. In the 1950s and 60s, when painting, sculpture, and architecture were dominated by men, and women had considerable impact in alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics, and metals.)
Fiber art experimentation by artist in North America including Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Françoise Grossen (a Swiss living in the US) and Mariette Rousseau-Vermette in Canada was a feature of the 1960s. The Museum of Modern Art recognized this directional shift in the seminal 1969 Wall Hangings exhibition, curated by Jack Lenor Larsen and then-MOMA curator, Mildred Constantine. The last 10 years “have caused us to revise our concepts of this craft and view the work within the context of 20th century art,” the curators explained. The exhibition featured 13
artists from North American including Tawney, Hicks, Grossen, Rousseau-Vermette, Ed Rossbach, Sherri Smith and Kay Sekimachi. “The American works tend to be more exploratory and less monumental,” the curators noted, “as illustrated by the ‘sketchy’ and transparent quality of the free-hanging, gossamer piece of nylon monofilament by Kay Sekimachi.” Sherri Smith used gradated color to reinforce the three-dimensional effect of the expanded waffle weave that forms Volcano No. 10. Several of these American artists were featured in the 4th International Tapestry Biennial in Lausanne that the same year, across the Atlantic. “What an event!” writes Erika Billeter in her historical essay, “The Lausanne Tapestry Biennials,” (16th Lausanne International Biennial: Criss-Crossings, 1995, pp. 36-53). Sheila Hicks shows a free-hanging work inspired by ancient Peruvian techniques and Françoise Grossen approaches macrame, thought to be “old hat”, says Billeter, “with such freedom, she transforms it into a hitherto unexplored contribution to this avant-garde textile art.” By 1969, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette was already a “favorite” of the Biennials, getting noticed for her “abstract and highly pictorial pieces with their highly worked surfaces.” Lenore Tawney did not have work in the 4th Biennial, but she had an influence nonetheless, through Susan
Weitzman’s Homage to Lenore Tawney, a transparent mural leaf, made solely of warp yarn. Lia Cook would join this influential group a few years later, finishing her masters degree and gaining international recognition at the 6th Biennial in 1973, with a 10-foot by 12-foot black-and-white optic weaving entitled, Space Continuum. Also gaining recognition in the
1970s, was Adela Akers whose work was included in the Inaugural Exhibition of the American Craft Museum in New York. Her work illustrates how timeless these artists’ explorations have been. “Contextualizing Adela Akers,” writes Ezra Shales, in the catalog for Influence and and Evolution, “one could say that she was born in Spain and trained in Cuba as a pharmacist before she went to Cranbrook, or that she taught at Tyler for decades, but one could not, relying on eye and hand alone, place [her] works as a fixed chronology with any absolute surety.” Works by Tawney, Hicks, Grossen, Rousseau-Vermette, Rossbach, Smith, Cook, Sekimachi and Akers from the 1960s through the 2000s will be among those featured in Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture…then and now at browngrotta arts, Wilton, Connecticut from April 24th through May 3rd. The Artists Reception and Opening is on Saturday April 25th, 1pm to 6pm. The hours for Sunday April 26th through May 3rd are 10am to 5pm. To make an appointment earlier than 10am or later than 5pm, call: 203-834-0623.
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
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), 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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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,
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