Dispatches: Norwalk, New Canaan, Ridgefield, CT

Norwalk Art Space. Photo by Tom Grotta

When our in-person exhibition of Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences closed earlier this month, we headed out to enjoy some art-related activities in our neck of the words. First stop, the new Norwalk Art Space. The vision of the late-Alexandra Davern Korry, a trailblazing M &A lawyer, educator, civil rights advocate, and philanthropist. Korry wanted to create a space that would serve as a free hub for the arts, promoting under-represented local artists, enhancing educational opportunities for under-served students, and providing the public a welcoming space to enjoy art and music.  The former church has been transformed into an attractive and light-filled gallery and features the exceptional Art Space Cafe which provides foods from local vendors like Hoodoo Brown Barbecue, Darien Cheese Shop and Cloudy Lane Bakery. We enjoyed the work of Robert Cottingham on exhibit through October 21st, and look forward to seeing what’s next.

Views of Grace Farms, New Canaan, CT. Photos by Tom Grotta.

Next stop: Grace Farms in New Canaan which was established with the idea that space communicates and can inspire people to collaborate for good. To realize this vision, Grace Farms Foundation set out to create a multipurpose building nestled into the existing habitat that would enable visitors to experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith. Approximately 77 of the 80 acres are being preserved in perpetuity as open meadows, woods, wetlands, and ponds. The architect SANAA’s goal was to make the sensuous River building become part of the landscape without drawing attention to itself. 

Temporal Shift by Alison Shotz and a view from the walking paths at Grace Farms in New Canaan, CT. Photos by Tom Grotta.

We enjoyed the architecture and the artwork, particularly Temporal Shift by Alyson Shotz, a site-responsive sculpture that reacts with natural light, but nature is the big star here. The walking paths are expansive— rocks, ponds and cattails. The property can accommodate large crowds — in many spots, we felt as if we had the paths to ourselves.

Tim Prentice, Stainless Steel Banner, 2009, in the sculpture garden of the Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Photo by Tom Grotta.

We also took in an opening at the The Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield. We went, in particular, to see Karla Knight: Navigator. Knight has spent the last 40 years creating an impressive body of work that spans painting, drawing and photography, including a body of work she calls, “tapestries” which include reclaimed cotton cut from circa 1940s–50s seed and grain bags purchased on eBay. We wound up, however, most impressed by Hugo McCloud: from where I stand, curated by Richard Klein. McCloud’s career, says the museum, has been defined by “restless experimentation, an ongoing engagement with process, an exploration of the value of labor, a concern with disparities in social and racial economics, and with the nature of beauty.” He has integrated roofing metal, tar, and most recently single-use plastic shopping bags into his canvases in truly fascinating ways.

Hugo McCloud works, the Aldrich Museum. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Also on view at the museum is Tim Prentice: After the Mobile | Outdoor Installation and a painter, Elise Tarver, whose exuberantly colorful works we liked a lot.Adrienne Elise Tarver: The Sun, the Moon, and the Truth.


Artist Focus: Tamiko Kawata

TAmiko Kawata portrait
Tamiko Kawata at SOFA NY exhibition. Photo by Tom Grotta

At first glance, Tamiko Kawata’s work is elegant and engaging. On closer inspection, viewers grow more intrigued as they recognize the materials are unexpected — safety pins, rubber bands, used pantyhose and newspaper. She has created arresting jewelry, sculpture, “painting” on canvas and installations. “I like to use overlooked, indigenous objects from our daily life for my medium,” she explains. “Discarded materials are important to me not only for environmental issues but also to reflect my current life.” Kawata studied art in Japan, receiving her BFA in Sculpture at Tsukuba University.  She explains that she was influenced by Bauhaus and Dada, and then the emergence of the Gutai Group, a Japanese avant-garde movement that began in 1954. All three art philosophies were particularly interested in unconventional materials. “These philosophies became a foundation for my way of thinking and for my art-making direction,” she says. In 1962, when she was 26, she came to New York, where she continues to live. 

While Kawata has made large works of newpapers and pantyhose, she is perhaps best known for her works made of safety pins. On arriving in the US, Kawata needed them to make her American-sized clothes fit. She found the pins

Rain Forset Installation
Rain Forest Photo courtesy of the artist.

in abundance in a dime store and has explored their potential as an art material ever since. The extent of that potential is surprising. Kawata has used pins of different size and colors to create dramatic installation works, like Rain Forest in which chains of pins that end in circles on the floor recall a rippling pond in Kyoto and the victims of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. “I wanted to connect this beauty of nature and the atomic bomb victims,”
 she has explained. She uses the pins to create standalone sculptures of all shapes that can be displayed indoors or out.  She uses them to “draw” on canvas, too.

Saftey pin canvas
19tk Stillness Within, Tamiko Kawata, saftey pins, acrylic on canvas, 42″ x 48″, 2002-2004. Photo by Tom Grotta

Works like Stillness Within, surprise viewers who think they are looking at a painting or drawing but as they draw nearer that the artist’s “marks” are actually intentionally placed safety pins.

safety pin canvas
36tk Permutation 7, Tamiko Kawata, Japanese safety pins, canvas on a wood board 32” x 29.5” x 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Permutation 7, pins of different colors create a meditative mosaic. 

saftey pin sculpture
32tk Cactus, Tamiko Kawata , saftey pin, stainless steel wire, 16” x 18” x 17”, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Kawata’s work is in numerous collections, including: Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York; Honolulu Contemporary Art Museum, Hawaii; Ishiguro Art Collection, Tokyo, Japan; Lafcadio Hearn/Yakumo Koizumi Art Museum, Matsue, Japan; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Brooklyn, New York; Yusuke Aida Collection, Tokyo, Japan; Davis Brody & Bond Architects, New York, New York; Ishiguro Art Collection, Tokyo, Japan; LongHouse Reserve, East Hampton, New York; PREC Institute, Tokyo, Japan; Buenno Premesela Art Collection, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including the Ucross Art Residency; American Academy for Arts and Letters, 2015 Purchase Award; Meet Factory Art Foundation Award,Solo Show and Residency, Prague, Czechoslovokia; Pollock/Krasner Foundation Grant; McDowell Art Colony Residency and the Yaddo Art Colony, Louise Bourgeois Residency Award for Sculpture.

Safety pin installation
August Grove by Tamiko Kawata. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“My works are personal.” she says. “They are my visual diaries.”


Textile Happenings in the UK

October heralds the British Textile Biennial. You can download a guide to exhibitions, workshops and related events throughout the UK: https://britishtextilebiennial.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BTB21-Whats-On-Guide-web.pdf. Among events of note: a solo exhibition of work by Caroline Bartlett, a group exhibition, Connected Cloth, featuring the 62 Group of Textile Artists and Sharon Brown’s, Stitched Stories, at the Queen Street Mill.

CAROLINE BARTLETT
Stilled by Caroline Bartlett installed at Salts Mill. Photo by Caroline Bartlett.

CAROLINE BARTLETT: A Restless Dynamic
Through December 11, 2021
Crafts Study Centre
University for the Creative Arts
Falkner Road
Farnham, Surrey GU9 7DS UK
T +44 (0) 1252 891450
https://www.csc.uca.ac.uk

Caroline Bartlett’s practice is driven by questions – for example around the tensions between personal recollection and the public ways of remembrance and the potential of materials and objects to trigger recollection and association. In this exhibition, curated by Professor Lesley Millar, Director of the International Textile Research Centre, Bartlett will be showing new work exploring ideas around continuity and change as a concept. While her response to the collection of the Crafts Study Centre started with the notion of investigating the work of Lucie Rie, this process was disrupted by the onset of the Covid Pandemic, leading her to reflect on the “ecology” of practice as it shifts between continuity and change, deliberate or otherwise and the indeterminates that destabilize the context of production. Included in the exhibition is Stilled which she made as a site-sensitive response to the Spinning Room at Salts Mill for the exhibition Cloth and Memory.

Fragment by Caren Garfen
Fragment by Caren Garfen in the Connected Cloth exhibition.

Connected Cloth: exploring the global nature of textiles
Through November 28, 2021
The Whitaker
Haslingden Road
Lancashire BB4 6RE UK
Tel: 01706260785 
Email: info@thewhitaker.org 

The theme of this year’s event by the, 62 Group of Textile Artists 

(http://www.62group.org.uk) focuses on the global context of textiles, textile production and the relationships textiles create both historically and now. The 62 Group is a highly regarded artists exhibiting group that aims to challenge the boundaries of textile practice through an ambitious and innovative annual program of exhibitions. Membership of the group is nternational and currently includes artists from Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, South Africa and USA. In Connected Cloth, members of the 62 Group have created new artworks that investigate this theme from a wide range of viewpoints and in divergent textile media, challenging viewers to consider the role that textile plays in all our lives and the many unexpected ways we find connection through cloth.

Sharon Brown Stitched Stories
Detail of work by Sharon Brown, from Sharon Brown: Stitched Stories.

Sharon Brown: Stitched Stories
Through October 2021
Queen Street Mill Textile Museum
Queen Street 
Burnley, BB10 2HX UK
https://events.lancashire.gov.uk/search/event_details.asp?eventid=10060&q=btb&area=allVenue&venue=Queen+St+Mill+Textile+Museum&daterange=

Sharon Brown presents new work at Queen Street Mill which reimagines found letters and documents connected to the history and workers of Lancashire cotton mills. Using freehand machine embroidery, Sharon celebrates and preserves fragments of the skills, structures and rhythms of generations of often forgotten lives spent working in the textile industry. Drawing with the sewing machine, creating layers of stitch that capture layers of history, these handwritten fragile papers reveal not only personal histories but also glimpses of global events and the social and cultural context in which they were written. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday of BTB21 Sharon will be on-site at Queen Street Mill working with her sewing machine to create a growing display of new textile work.


Japandí: Shared Sensibilities, Side by Side

In curating and installing our current exhibition, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences we paired works in which we saw similarities and parallels. Here are some examples of affinities we saw. Join us at Japandí through October 3rd and find your own.

Jiro Yonezawa, Ecdysis, bamboo, urushi lacquer, 27” x 8” x 5.75”, 2019; Mia Olsson, Together, relief, sisal fibers, acrylic, 17.75” x 15” x 3”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Minimalism is an aesthetic element appreciated by artists in Japan and the Nordic countries and listed as part of Japandi. Here, a minimalist work, Together, by Mia Olsson of Sweden sits aside an abstract bamboo sculpture, Ecdysis, 2019, by Jiro Yonezawa. Yonezawa uses bamboo strips to create a multitude of simple, nontraditional forms.  

Agneta Hobin Mica
Detail: Agneta Hobin, Claire De Lune II, Untitled, mica, steel, 18” x 27” x 2.5”, 2001-2

Meticulous craftsmanship is another Japandi element. Stainless steel fibers are masterfully incorporated into the work of three of the artists in this exhibition. Agneta Hobin of Finland weaves the fine threads into mesh, incorporating mica and folding the material into shapes — fans, strips and bridges. Jin-Sook So’s work is informed by time spent in Korea, Sweden and Japan. She uses transparent stainless steel mesh cloth, folded, stitched, painted and electroplated to create shimmering objects for the wall or tabletop. The past and present are referenced in So’s work in ways that are strikingly modern and original.  She has used steel mesh to create contemporary Korean pojagi and to re-envision common objects — chairs, boxes and bowls. Kyoko Kumai of Japan spins the fibers into ethereal, silver landscapes.

Kyoko Kumai Steel detail
32kk Memory, Kyoko Kumai, stainless steel filaments, 41” x 19” x 19”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta
Jin-Sook So steel mesh construction detail
Detail: Konstruktion B, Jin-Sook So, steel mesh, electroplated, silver, gold, paint and steel thread, 18.75″ x 19.75″ x 2.55″, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Another aspect of the Japandi approach is an appreciation of natural and sustainable materials. Both Norwegian-American Kari Lønning and Japanese artists Kazue Honma work in akebia— a vine, harvested thousands of miles apart. Here are details of Lønning’s multicolored rendering of akebia and a plaited work of mulberry from Kazue Honma. Both artists highlight the wide variation of colors found in the material with which they work.

Detail: Kari Lønning, 74kl Akebia Tower, akebia, 10.5” x 4” x 4.5”, 2021
Kazue Honma Plaited basket
Detail: Kazue Honma, Capricious Plaiting, plaited paper, mulberry bark, 10.5″ x 18″ x 12.5″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Join us at our Fall Art in the Barn exhibition, Japandí: shared aesthetics and influences through October 3rd, see our parallel pairings and envision some of your own. 39 artists present more than 150 works. browngrotta arts, 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897. 

We’ve expanded our hours during the week.

Wednesday, September 29th through Saturday, October 2nd: 10 to 6

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory • Masks required • Covid protocols • No high heels please (barn floors). http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/japandi.php

A full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, is available for order at: https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


We’ve been hard at work — come see the results. Japandí opens this week!

Our Japandí exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden and over 150 individual works. Here are details about just a few of the artworks that the exhibition includes.

Ane Henrsen portrait
Ane Henriksen preparing the material for Reserve. Photo by Ole Gravesen

A striking wall work, Reserve, by Ane Henriksen of Denmark is featured in Japandí. Henriksen originally found the material covered with oil spots, washed up along the sea by the west coast of Denmark – fishermen use it, on the table in the galley, so the plates don’t slide of when they are on the high seas. The piece also incorporates webbed, rubber matting, colored with acrylic paint. The warp is silk glued together with viscose (from Japan). “Nature is threatened,” says Henriksen. “I hope this is expressed in my image, which at first glance can be seen as a peaceful, recognizable view of nature, but when you move closer and see the material, it might make you uneasy, and and spur thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature. By framing the nature motif museum-like in a solid oak frame, I try to make you aware how we store small natural remains in reserves – in the same way we store exquisite objects from our past history in our museums.”

Birgit Birkkjaer portrait
Birgit Birkkjaer at work. Photo by Kræn Ole Birkkjær

Also included in the exhibition are baskets by Danish artist Birgit Birkkjaer. They are made of black linen and Japanese tatami paper yarn (black and hand dyed with rust). “The technique I used for the structure is rya,” she reports, “which was known in Scandinavia already in the Viking Age — and from the 1950s until the 1970s as a trend started by Danish/Finnish artist collectives. So, the baskets have roots in both Japan and Scandinavia.”

Norie Hatakeyama portrait
Norie Hatakeyama creating paper-plaited work. Photo by Ray Tanaka

Among the works on display from Japan are intricately plaited objects created by Norie Hatakeyama. The artist works with factory-made paper-packing tape to realize her geometric concerns. It is an experimental material that enables her to break free from traditional limitations.

“My work stems from an impulse to redefine both material and method,” says Hatakeyama. Her intricately plaited, three-dimensional works possess the energy of growing organisms. “The works ‘defy the viewer to imagine how they were accomplished,’”art critic and author Janet Koplos has observed.

Jiro Yonezawa at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine. Photo by Tom Grotta

Jiro Yonezawa is also represented in Japandí with several works. Yonezawa is known for innovative bamboo basketry based on traditional techniques. He says that his recent baskets “represent a search for the beauty and precision in nature and a way to balance the chaos evident in these times.” The search for balance and harmony is one of the elements attributed to Japandi style.

Please join us!

The hours of the exhibtion are: 

Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6

Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. Masks will be required. There is a full-color catalog, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences, prepared for the exhibition available at for pre-order at:  https://store.browngrotta.com/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences/


Elements of Japandi: Hygge Meets Wabi Sabi

browngrotta arts’ Fall “Art in the Barn” exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences opens on Saturday, September 25th at 11 a.m. and runs through October 3rd. The exhibition features 39 artists from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Japan and explores artistic affinities among artists from Scandinavia and Japan. Artwork and design from these areas often incorporate several elements — natural materials and sustainability, minimalism and exquisite craftsmanship. In addition, some observers see similarities between the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi and the Scandinavian concept of hygge as making up a fourth aesthetic element that the regions share.

Writer Lucie Ayres notes that, “[i]n traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete (rough and organic textures. worn and weathered objects, colors that mimic nature) …. Hygge is a [related] Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment (soft textures, sentimental items, comfortable environs).”  (“A Knowledge Post: The Difference Between Wabi-Sabi, Hygge and Feng Shui,” Lucie Ayres, 22 Interiors, March 26, 2020).

Subcontinet by Toshio Sekiji
Toshio Sekiji, 28ts Subcontinent, red, green, black, natural lacquer, Hindi (Delhi), Malayalam (Kerala State) newspapers, 77.25” x 73.25” x 2.625”, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

Several artists in the Japandi exhibition evidence an appreciation for repurposing and appreciating materials as wabi-sabi envisions. Toshio Sekiji’s works are made of newspapers from Japan and India; one of Kazue Honma’s works is of Japanese telephone book pages. Paper is a material that creates an atmosphere as well as art. Eva Vargö, a Swedish artist who has spent many years in Japan, describes how Washington paper, when produced in the traditional way, has a special quality — light filters through paper from lamps and shoji screen doors creates a warm and special feeling, in keeping with the sense encompassed in wabi-sabi and hygge.

Japan by Eva Vargo
Eva Vargö, 7ev Japandí, Japanese and Korean book papers, 23.5” x 22.375” x 2.5”, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Vargö admires the way the Japanese recreate worn textiles into new garments in boro and recreate cracked ceramics with lacquer through kintsugi. That’s the reason she reuses old Japanese and Korean book papers and lets them “find ways into my weavings.” By giving them a second life she honors those who have planted the trees, produced the paper, made the books, filled them with words and also their readers.

Reserve by Ane Henriksen
Ane Henriksen, 30ah Reserve , linen, silk, acrylic painted rubber matting, oak frame, 93.75” x 127.625” x 2.5”, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

“Anything made by real craftsmanship – objects created out of wood, ceramics, wool, leather and so on – is hyggeligt …. ‘The rustic, organic surface of something imperfect, and something that has been or will be affected by age appeals to the touch of hygge,” writes Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living (The Happiness Institute Series) William Morrow, 2017). Danish artist Åne Henriksen’s work uses the non-skid material from the backside of carpets and series of knots to create contemplative images that are engaging from a distance, and rough and textured up close. Jane Balsgaard, also from Denmark, uses wood and paper to create objects that reference boats and sails and wings, referencing the old as well as the organic by sometimes incorporating artifacts in her works.

Polynesian Boat by Jane Balsgaard
Janes Balsgaard, piece of Polynesian boat creates an artifact. Photo by Nils Holm, From Înfluences from Japan in Danish Art and Design, 1870 – 2010, Mirjam Gelfer-Jorgensen.

“I’ve never been to Scandinavia,” says Keiji Nio, “but I admire the Scandinavian lifestyle. The interior of my living room, furniture and textiles have been used for more than 25 years, but I still feel the simple and natural life that does not feel old.” Nio finds that artists from Japan and Scandinavia each have an affinity for calming colors. “When I saw the production process of the students from Finland at the university where I work, I was convinced that they had a similar shy character and simple color scheme similar to the Japanese.”

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to experience accents of wabi-sabi and hygge in person. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of exhibition are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th, 11 to 6

Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6

Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5

Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6 

20 people/hour; Advance reservations are mandatory; Covid protocols will be followed. 

There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Make a Day of It – Other Venues to Visit on Your Way to Japandi at browngrotta arts

Coming to Wilton, CT to see browngrotta arts’ next exhibtion, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences (September 25 – October 2)? We have four nearby exhibitions to recommend if you want to make a day of it.

Tim Prentice
Tim Prentice: After the Mobile (installation view), The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, March 29, 2021 to October 4, 2021, Courtesy of Prentice Colbert, Photo: Jason Mandella

1)Tim Prentice: After the Mobile
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Tel 203.438.4519
6.2 Miles

https://thealdrich.org/exhibitions/tim

After the Mobile is a two-part solo exhibition by artist Tim Prentice (b. 1930), known for his innovative work in the field of motion in sculpture. Prentice has been a resident of Connecticut since 1975, and After the Mobile marks his first solo museum exhibition since 1999. The exhibition will feature 20 indoor works, five outdoor works, and a video portrait of the artist. The indoor exhibition is on view through October 4, 2021; the outdoor installation on view from September 19, 2021 to April 24, 2022. Interesting note: The title of the exhibition refers to Alexander Calder, a former Connecticut resident who in the 1930s adopted the term mobile at the urging of Marcel Duchamp to describe his balanced, moving wind-driven constructions. 

Carrie Mae Weems
Carrie Mae Weems, All the Boys (Profile 2), 2016, archival pigment on gesso board. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery

2) Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects
Fairfield University Art Museum
Walsh Gallery
September 18 – December 18, 2021
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
203.254.4046
15.2 miles

https://www.fairfield.edu/museum/exhibitions/current-exhbitions/index.html

In Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects, Weems focuses on the humanity denied in recent killings of black men, women, and children by police. She directs our attention to the constructed nature of racial identity—specifically, representations that associate black bodies with criminality. Our imaginings have real—often deadly—outcomes. Blocks of color obscure faces just as our assumptions around race obscure individual humanity. Through a formal language of blurred images, color blocks, stated facts, and meditative narration, Weems directs our attention toward the repeated pattern of judicial inaction—the repeated denials and the repeated lack of acknowledgement.

3) Between the Ground and the Sky

Ashley Skatoff: Lost Ruby Farm, Norfolk, CT
Ashley Skatoff: Lost Ruby Farm, Norfolk, CT

Westport MoCA
Through October 17, 2021
19 Newtown Turnpike
Westport, CT 06880
Monday & Tuesday | Gallery Closed
Wednesday-Sunday | 12PM-4PM
Ph: 203.222.7070
(6.6 miles)

Between the Ground and the Sky through October 17, 2021 features photography from the Who Grows Your Food initiative, an intimate photographic journey celebrating the beloved farms and farmers associated with the Westport Farmers’ Market. The centerpiece of the exhibition is more than 50 large-scale photographs, both color and black and white, of local farms by Anne Burmeister and Ashley Skatoff, two local accomplished photographers. The photographs tell a compelling and visually arresting story of the importance of local farms and farmers.

On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale catalog

4) On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale
Yale University Art Gallery
September 10, 2021–January 9, 2022
1111 Chapel Street (at York Street) 
New Haven, Connecticut
203.432.0601
(35.2 miles)

https://artgallery.yale.edu/exhibitions/exhibition/basis-art-150-years-women-yale

On the Basis of Art: 150 Years of Women at Yale showcases and celebrates the remarkable achievements of an impressive roster of women artists who have graduated from Yale University. Presented on the occasion of two major milestones—the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale College and the 150th anniversary of the first women students at the University, who came to study at the Yale School of the Fine Arts when it opened in 1869—the exhibition features works drawn entirely from the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery that span a variety of media, such as paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photography, and video. 

Enjoy your trip ! We look forward to seeing you at Japandi.


Elements of Japandi: Minimalism and Simplicity

The term Japandi combines Japan and Scandinavia to reference aesthetic approaches shared by artisans in the two areas. browngrotta arts will be explore these affinities in our upcoming exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences (September 25 – October 3, 2021)Among the approaches that these cultures share is an appreciation for minimalism and simplicity. “Minimalist and mid-century designers have always been inspired by the design culture of Japan, so the cross between Scandinavian and Japanese design is rooted in a storied tradition. Today, in the Japandi style, we see more of a fusion of these two aesthetics, which makes them feel like equal partners in the space,” observes Alessandra Wood, Vice President of Style, Modsy (Jessica Bennett, “Japandi Style Is the Laidback Home Trend We’ve Been Waiting For,” Better Homes and Gardens, January 05, 2021).

Grethe Wittrock Detail
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock (Denmark) white paperyarn knotted on steelplate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta

Danish artist Grethe Wittrock’s work includes expanses of twisted paper strands in single colors — minimal and simple yet powerful expressions of what Finnish Designer Alvar Aalto called “the language of materials.” Wittrock observed the similar appreciation for minimalism firsthand when she traveled to Japan and studied with Japanese paper makers and renowned indigo dyer, Shihoko Fukomoto. “I started to uncover what Nordic sensibilities are by living abroad,” Wittrock says. “I lived in Kyoto, and saw an aesthetic in Japanese design similar to the Nordic tradition. You could say that there is an agreement that less is more. As they say in the Nordic countries ‘even less is even more.’”

Tamika Kawata
Tamika Kawata, Permutation 7, Japanese safety pins, canvas on a wood board, 32” x 29.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Japanese artists have made similar observations. Tamiko Kawata, born in Japan, but living in New York for many years, reports working as an artist/designer position with a prominent glass company in Tokyo after four years of sculpture composition, architectural drawing and photography courses at University. “In those years, I often discussed the affinities of Scandinavian craft works with my colleagues. ‘Why do we appreciate skilful craft works? How can we produce them with a similar approach to understanding the skills in handicrafts and understanding the natural materials and the appreciation for simplicity that we share ?’” Kawata’s very first design, a set of crystal glass bowls, were exhibited with Scandinavian works in the SEIBU department store in Tokyo in 1959. They were purchased by Swedish artist/designer Stig Lindbergh who pronounced them the “most original glass designs in Japan.” It was so thrilling to me,” she says. “I was just 23 years old.” 

Gudrun Pagter detail
Detail of Gudrun Pagter’s http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/pagter.php Thin Green Horizon, sisal, linen and flax, 45.5” x 55.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Gudrun Pagter is another Danish artist whose abstract works in primary colors reflect the modernism for which Scandinavia is known. “From the exotic and foreign land we find an aesthetically common understanding of a minimalist idiom,” Pagter says, “an understanding of the core of a composition — that is, cutting off everything ‘unnecessary.'” Pagter expresses this minimalist idiom in her work. In Thin, Green Horizon, her composition expresses a form of landscape. It might be the horizon between heaven and sea, or between heaven and earth, she says. In any case, the framed field shifts the horizontal line. There is a shade of difference between the two blue colors, the blue is slightly lighter in the framed field. The thin, horizontal line is made with many shades of blue and green thin linen. The main color is blue, but the thin, green horizon is essential to the whole picture. Pagter notes, “My old weaving teacher at the School of Design, said 40 years ago, ‘you have to be brave to express oneself simply, as a minimalist’ … I’m brave enough now, maybe!!”  

Kay Sekimachi weavings
Lines 2017, 10 Lines, 11 Lines, 17 Lines, 25 Squares, Kay Sekimachi linen, polyester warp, permanent marker, 13.5” x 13.5”, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

A series of simple weavings by Kay Sekimachi, a Japanese-American artist who lives in California, is a testament to restraint. Her spare markings on handwoven fabrics reference the paintings of Paul Klee and Agnes Martin .”Order is fundamental,” to the Japanese approach, observes Hema Interiors in its style blog, “but it’s an order based on balance, fleeing from symmetry and overly controlled spaces. The decorative elements are important to give personal brushstrokes to the spaces, always resorting to simple and organic elements”  (“Wabi Sabi Interiors,” Comparar Estilios de Decoración, Hema Interiors).

Join us at Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences to see more examples of ways these elements are exchanged and expressed. The exhibition features 39 artists from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hours of exhibtion are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6; Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6; Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5; Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6; Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.


Lives well lived: Sandra Grotta

Sandra Grotta at her 80th birthday party. Jewelry by David Watkins, Gerd Rothmann and Eva Eisler. Photo by Tom Grotta

browngrotta arts is devasted by the loss of Sandra Grotta, our extraordinary collector and patron and mother and grandmother. Sandy and her husband Lou have been pivotal in the growth of browngrotta arts through their advice and unerring support. Sandy graduated from the University of Michigan and the New York School of Interior Design. For four decades, she provided interior design assistance to dozens of clients — many through more than one home and office. She encouraged them to live with craft art, as she and Lou had done, placing works by Toshiko Takezu, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Helena Hernmarck, Gyöngy Laky, Markku Kosonen, Mary Merkel-Hess and many other artists in her clients’ homes. Among her greatest design talents was persuading people to de-accession pieces they had inherited, but never loved, to make way for art and furnishings that provided them joy. Sandy was a uniquely confident collector and she shared that conviction with her clients.  

Her own collecting journey began in the late 1950s, when she and Lou first stepped into the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. “The Museum’s exhibitions, many of whose objects were for sale in its store, caused a case of love at first sight. It quickly became a founding source of many craft purchases to follow,” Sandy told Patricia Malarcher in 1982 (“Crafts,” The New York Times, Patricia Malarcher, October 24, 1982). It was a walnut table ”with heart” on view at MoCC that would irrevocably alter the collectors’ approach. The table was by Joyce and Edgar Anderson, also from New Jersey. The Grottas sought the artists out and commissioned the first of many works commissioned and acquired throughout the artists’ lifetimes, including a roll-top desk, maple server and a sofa-and-table unit that now live in browngrotta arts’ gallery space. She followed the advice she would give to others:  “When we saw the Andersons’ woodwork,” Sandy remembered, “we knew everything else had to go,” Sandy told Glenn Adamson. From the success of that first commission, the Grottas’ art exploration path was set. The Andersons introduced the Grottas to their friends, ceramists Toshiko Takaezu and William Wyman. “The Andersons were our bridge to other major makers in what we believe to have been the golden age of contemporary craft,” Sandy said, “and the impetus to my becoming our decorator.”  

Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room
Sandra Grotta in her Maplewood, NJ living room surrounded by works by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Peter Vouklos, William Wyman, Toshiko Takaezu, Rudy Autio, Joyce and Edgar Anderson and Charle Loloma. Photo by Tom Grotta

When Objects USA: the Johnson Wax Collection, opened in New York in 1972 at MoCC, by then renamed the American Craft Museum, the Grottas began discovering work further afield. ”Objects USA was my Bible,” Sandy told Malarcher describing how she would search out artists, ceramists, woodworkers and jewelers. A trip to Ariel, Washington, led the Grottas to commission an eight-foot-tall Kwakiutl totem pole for the front hall by Chief Don Lelooska. Sandy ordered a bracelet by Charles Loloma from a picture in a magazine. ”I always got a little nervous when the packages came, but I’ve never been disappointed,” Sandy told Malarcher. ”Craftsmen are a special breed.” Toshiko Takaezu, as an example, would require interested collectors like the Grottas to come by her studio in Princeton, NJ, a few times first to “interview” before she’d permit them to acquire special works. It took 15 years and several studio visits each year for the Grottas to convince the artist to part with the “moon pot” that anchors their formidable Takaezu collection. Jewelers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins in the UK also became dear friends as Sandy developed a world-class jewelry collection. At one point, in a relationship that included weekly transatlantic calls, Sandy told Wendy she needed “everyday earrings.” Wendy responded with earrings for every day – seven pairs in fact. “For me, the surprise was that they found me,” says John McQueen. “I lived in Western New York state far from the hubbub of the art world.” McQueen says that he discovered they the Grotta’s were completely open to any new aesthetic experience. “from that moment, we established a strong connection, that has led to a rapport that has continued through the years – a close personal and professional relationship.”

Sandy Grotta's bust by Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s portrait of Sandy Grotta sourounded by artwork’s by Alexander Lichtveld, Bodil Manz, Lenore Tawney, Ann Hollandale, Kay Sekimachi, Ed Rossbach, Toshiko Takaezu, Laurie Hall. Photo by Tom Grotta

Their accumulation of objects has grown to include more that 300 works of art and pieces of jewelry by dozens of artists, and with their Richard Meier home, has been the subject of two books. The most recent, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft, was photographed and designed by Tom Grotta of bga. They don’t consider themselves collectors in the traditional sense, content to exhibit art on just walls and surfaces. Sandy and Lou’s efforts were aimed at creating a home. They filled every aspect of their lives with handcrafted objects from silver- and tableware to teapots to clothing to studio jewelry and commissioned pillows, throws and canes, a direction she also recommended for her interior design clients. The result, writes Glenn Adamson in The Grotta Home,”is a home that is at once totally livable and deeply aesthetic.” Among the additional artists whose work the Grottas acquired for their home were wood worker Thomas Hucker, textile and fiber artists Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Norma Minkowitz, ceramists Peter Voulkos, Ken Ferguson and William Wyman and jewelers Gijs Bakker, Giampaolo Babetto, Axel Russmeyer and Eva Eisler. They have traveled to Japan, the UK, Czechoslovakia, Germany and across the US to view art and architecture and meet with artists.

Perhaps their most ambitious commission was the Grotta House, by Richard Meier. Designed to house and highlight craft and completed in 1989, it is a source of constant delight for the couple, with its shifting light, showcased views of woodlands and wildlife and engaging spaces for object installation. The Grottas were far more collaborative clients than is typical for Meier. “From our very first discussions,” Meier has written,”it was clear that their vast collection of craft objects and Sandy’s extensive experience as an interior designer would be an important in the design of the house.“ The sensitivity with which the collection was integrated into Meier’s design produced “an enduring harmony between an ever-changing set of objects and they space they occupy.” The unique synergy between objects and architecture is evident decades later, even as the collection has evolved.  Despite his “distinct — and ornament-free — visual language, Meier created a building that lets decorative objects take a leading role on the architectural stage,” notes Osman Can Yerebakan in Introspective magazine (“Tour a Richard Meier–Designed House That Celebrates American Craft,” Osman Can Yerebakan, Introspective, February 23, 2020). The house project had an unexpected benefit — a professional partnership between Sandy and Grotta House project manager, David Ling, that would result in memorable art exhibition and living spaces designed for the homes and offices of many of Sandy’s design clients.

Sandy and Lou became patrons of the American Craft Museum in 1970s. As a member of the Associates committee she organized several annual fundraisers for the Museum, including Art for the Table, E.A.T. at McDonald’s and Art to Wear, sometimes with her close friend, Jack Lenor Larsen, another assured acquirer, as co-chair. At the openings, she would sport an artist-made piece of jewelry or clothing, sometimes both, and often it was an item that arrived or was finished literally hours before the event. “I wear all my jewelry,” she told Metalsmith Magazine in 1991 (Donald Freundlich and Judith Miller, “The State of Metalsmithing and Jewelry,” Metalsmith Magazine, Fall 1991) “I love to go to a party where everyone is wearing pearls and show up in a wild necklace …. I have a house brooch by Künzli – a big red house that you wear on your shoulder. I can go to a party in a wild paper necklace and feel as good about it as someone else does in diamonds.” Sandy served on the Board of the by-then-renamed Museum of Arts and Design, stepping down in 2019. 

Portrait of Sandy Grotta
Sandra Grotta Portrait in Florida Apartment in front of sculptures by Dawn MacNutt and a tapestry by Jun Tomita

From its inception, Sandy served as a trusted advisor, cheerleader and cherished client to browngrotta arts. She introduced us to artists, to her design clients and Museum colleagues. Questions of aesthetic judgment — are there too many works in this display? too much color? does this work feel unfinished? imitative? decorative? — were presented to her for review. (She was unerring on etiquette disputes, too.) The debt we owe her is enormous; the void she leaves is large indeed. We can only say thank you, we love you and your gifts will live on.

You can learn more about Sandy’s life and legacy on The Grotta House website: https://grottahouse.com and in the book, The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft available from browngrotta at: https://store.browngrotta.com/the-grotta-home-by-richard-meier-a-marriage-of-architecture-and-craft/.

The family appreciates memorial contributions to the Sandra and Louis Grotta Foundation, Inc., online at https://joingenerous.com/louis-and-sandra-grotta-foundation-inc-r5yelcd or by mail to The Louis and Sandra Grotta Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 766, New Vernon, NJ 07976-0000.


New for Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences – Meet Gjertrud Hals

Portrait of Gjertrud Halls
Artist portrait by Omar Sejnæs

The Fall 2021 exhibition, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences at browngrotta arts begins on September 25th and runs through October 3rd. It will explore common aesthetic approaches between artists in Scandinavian and Japan. It features 39 artists from Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. One of those artists is Gjertrud Hals of Norway whose work will be shown at browngrotta arts for the first time.

Educated as a tapestry weaver, Hals soon began experimenting with other techniques. The manner in which fiber innovators Sheila Hicks, Claire Zeisler and Magdalena Abakanowicz explored the sculpture possibilities of the medium interested and informed her work. She has worked with fishing nets, cotton and linen threads, paper pulp, metals, crochet and lacework. Her breakthrough came in the late 1980s with Lava, an innovative series of urns made of cotton and flax pulp that were 3-feet high. These vessels marked her transition from textile to fiber art.

Terra 2021-2
2gh Terra 2021-2, Gjertrud Halls, linen thread, resin, 16.5″ x 10″ x 10″, 2021

Hals has spent time in many countries, including India, Jordan, Norway and Japan. Her experiences there influence her work, in the ways the Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences exhibition seeks to highlight. “I was born and raised on a small island on the northwestern coast of Norway,” she writes, “and this has to a large extent influenced my artwork. As a seasoned traveler I have observed many different cultures. Much of my artistic work is an attempt at expressing the connection between the islands micro-history and the world’s macro-history.”

Japan was one of the areas that has had a significant impact on Hals. “In my community, many men, and a few women, were working on ships sailing to America and the Far East. They were bringing home items from an exotic world; my uncle gave us a lamp of translucent shells that I never could get enough of! Since the few rare and exotic things we had in our modest post-war homes often were bought in places like Yokohama and Kobe, Japan early became the far away country I was dreaming of.” 

Terra 2021 details
Terra, 2021 series detail. Photo by Tom Grotta

Hals became interested in Zen Buddhism as a young artist in the 70s. Simplicity, meditation and paradox were aspects of Zen aesthetics that appealed to me.  So, when I eventually came to Japan, in 1989, I thought I was well informed.” However, she was not prepared for Shintoism, she writes, Japan’s ancient, nature-worshipping religion. which had a major impact on her. “Coming home, I felt a strong urge to find something in my own culture that could make sense of this experience. It led me to Voluspå; the Song of the Sybil, one of the most important epic poems in Norse mythology. Since then, I have returned to these sources again and again.”

Arte Morbida writes that Hals’ knitted vessels “show the close relationship between the three emotional components of our aesthetic perception: light, a living and impalpable material that conveys emotions and moods, shadow, that transforms and hides, and form, which gives body and substance to the idea.” 

Terra 2021-7-8
8gh Terra 2021-8, Gjertrud Halls, copper and iron wire, 8.25″ x 8.25″ x 8.25″, 2021; 7gh Terra 2021-7, Gjertrud Halls, twigs thread, paper pulp, 8″ x 9″ x 9″, 2021

We are delighted to present eight of Hals’ works at our upcoming exhibtion, Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences. The hours of exhibition are: Opening and Artist Reception: Saturday, September 25th: 11 to 6; Sunday, September 26th: 11 to 6; Monday, September 27th through Saturday October 2nd: 10 to 5; Sunday, October 3rd: 11 to 6; Advanced time reservations are mandatory; Appropriate Covid protocols will be followed. There will be a full-color catalog prepared for the exhibition available at browngrotta.com on September 24th.

Make an appointment through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/japandi-shared-aesthetics-and-influences-tickets-165829802403.