Category: Fiber Sculpture

Acquisition News – Part I, US

We last reported on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in 2019. There has been continued interest in acquiring work by these artists in the two years since by museums and art programs in the US and abroad. browngrotta arts has placed several works and acquisitions have occurred through the efforts of other galleries, artists and donors. As a result, we have a long list of aquisitions to report. In this, Part I, acquisitions in the Untied States:

Polly Adams Sutton
Polly Adams Sutton, Facing the Unexpected, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

Polly Adams Sutton

Polly Adams Sutton’s work Facing the Unexpected has been acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Musuem. It’s going to be part of the Renwick’s 50th anniversary exhibition in 2022.

Norma Minkowitz
Norma Minkowitz’s, Goodbye My Friend, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz

Goodbye My Friend by Norma Minkowitz was gifted to the Renwick, Smithsonian American Art Museum, in memory of noted fiber art collector, Camille Cook.

Kiyomi Iwata
Kiyomi Iwata’s Red Aperture, 2009 and Fungus Three, 2018. Photos By Tom Grotta

Kiyomi Iwata 

Two works, Red Aperture and Fungus Three by Kiyomi Iwata were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two works by Iwata, Grey Orchid Fold V made in 1988, and Auric Grid Fold made in 1995 were donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Adela Akers
Adela Akers, Traced Memories, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Adela Akers

Adela Akers‘ work, Traced Memories from 2007 was acquired by the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, California in 2020.

Dawn MacNutt
Dawn MacNutt’s, Larger Than Life, 2021.

Dawn MacNutt  

Dawn MacNutt’s 9 foot-high willow sculpture, Larger Than Life, was acquired by Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York in 2021.

Naoko Serino
Naoko Serino’s Existing-2-D, 2017 and Generating Mutsuki, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Naoko Serino

Two works by Naoko SerinoGenerating Mutsuki and Existing 2-D, were acquired by The Warehouse, MKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ferne Jacobs

A work by Ferne JacobsSlipper, made in 1994, was donated to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Another, Centric Spaces, from 2000, was donated to Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook

Lia Cook

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) purchased Presence Absence Tunnel Four, 1990, by Lia Cook, in 2019.

Gyöngy Laky
Gyöngy Laky’s, Noise at Noon, 1996. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Gyöngy Laky   

The Oakland Museum of California in California acquired Noise at Noon by Gyöngy Laky this year. In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Historical Society, added That Word to its collection and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California, added Ex Claim!  The Art in Embassies program of the US Department of State, acquired Seek, for the US embassy in Pristina, Kosovo.

Congratulations to the artists and acquiring organizations!


An Artist Evolves: Lia Cook’s Five Bodies of Work

Lia Cook is a relentless innovator who has been involved in textile experimentation since her graduate and undergraduate work in Arts and Design at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s. 

While Cook has created varied bodies of work in her storied career, her explorations have a consistent theme. They all involve the experience of touch, the sensation of the body and the physicality of cloth. “Cook’s work defies the ‘ocular-centricity’ of Western art by overturning the hierarchy of the senses and repositioning the sense of touch in the foreground. While the work is never handled in the gallery or museum, the sense of touch is so fully activated that the experience of the work is startlingly touch-sensory,” writes Deborah Valoma, in Lia Cook: In the Folds — Works from 1973 – 1997

Space Dyed Weaving
48lc Space-Dyed Weaving II, Lia Cook, rayon, cotton; woven, 72″ x 33″, 1975

Cook’s early work aimed to envelop the viewer in monumental cloth. “The work was imposing, strident and typically employed magnified imagery of weave patterns as the subject,” writes Valoma, “depicting both in realization and representation the structural realities of weaving.” Space-Dyed Weaving-2, created in 1975, is an example of work from this period. So is Spatial Ikat III-2, the prize for the winner of our Art for a Cause 2021 sweepstakes with UncommonGood (uncommongood.io.), which continues through July 31st.

Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed
13lc Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, Lia Cook dyes on rayon; woven, 5’ x 18.5’, 1986

In the 1980s, cook turned her attention to textile structures — curtains, pockets and crazy quilts. Through the Curtain in 5 Scenes Transposed, which hints at curtains on a stage, is from this period. In the 1990s, Cook created works that took inspiration from images of fabric painted during the Renaissance, when images of drapery were an essential part of a painter’s training.  

Material Pleasures: Leonard I
8lc Material Pleasures: Leonard I, Lia Cook acrylic on linen, dyes on rayon; woven, 53” x 77”, 1993

As Valoma describes, in works like Material Pleasures, created in 1993, Cook painted the imagery of draped fabrics on linen or abaca with acrylics or oil paints. The canvases were finely stripped and inserted as weft into hand-painted warps and woven on a 32-harness loom, purposefully defying conventional definitions.

Big Susan
43lc Big Susan, Lia Cook, woven cotton, 168” x 48”, 2005

In the mid-90s, after two artists-in-residencies, one in Italy and one in Germany, Cook’s work took yet another turn — focusing on the Jacquard loom and incorporating photography, to create works that were narrative and personal. This body of works was featured in The Embedded Portrait, her solo exhibition at the University of Wyoming Art Gallery in 2009.

In 2010, Cook’s shifts again. As an artist-in-residence at the University’of Pittsburgh’s TREND program (Transdisciplinary Research in Emotion, Neuroscience and Development, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine), Cook was able to compare the emotional responses of viewers to actual photographs and to her weavings of photo images “I wanted to explore the nature of people’s emotional connection to woven faces,” she explains. “I thought that the material and structural aspects of the textile, the physical evidence of the hand and the memories associated with these tactile experiences might intensify the reactions. Something about the textile engenders embodied emotional response beyond that of the two–dimensional photo.”

Neural Networks
23lc Neural Networks, Lia Cook woven cotton and rayon, 83″ x 51″ x 1.5″, 2011

To test her hypothesis, Cook, in collaboration with scientists at TREND tried several approaches. Cook and the scientists could see noticeable differences in individual images from MRI data and in records of electrical brain activity from EEGs when volunteers compared flat and woven images. She underwent this MRI imaging on herself and then, using software from MGH/Harvard, Biomedical Imaging Lab, she manipulated the images for a series of weavings that combine faces and images of brain fibers, as you can see in Neural Networks, 2011.

Cook’s experiments in neuroaesthetics continue — and as always, she makes adjustments and changes her gaze to produce something new. Recently, she has merged three fibers into her imagery — neural fibers, plant fibers and the parallel lines that she used in the 1970s. “Art and science are more similar in their process than many people think,” says Cook. “Each requires starting with a question, being curious, discovering something new, being willing to take the answers or lack of answers — good or bad — and building on that for the future.” 

Keep watching, as this remarkable artist continues to experiment, innovate and create remarkable work.


Basket, Vessel, Object, Sculpture … the Challenge of Reinvention

Experimentation can fuel creativity and spark unexpected results. At browngrotta arts, we are continually impressed by our object-making artists’ ability — and willingness — to reinvent themselves rather than remain in a successful, but predictable, lane.

Ed Rossbachs
Ed Rossbach’s Open Structure, 1982 and Cedar: Export Bundle, 1993. Photos by Tom Grotta

Foremost among the experimenters was perhaps Ed Rossbach who tried unexpected materials and symbols in his baskets, vessels, and assemblages including plastic, cotton balls, cardboard and Mickey Mouse. When plaiting, weaving and lace-making had been thoroughly explored, he taught himself cedar basketmaking and turned to images of bison and Native Americans.

John McQueens
John McQueen’s Deer Head, 2010 and Untitled, 1983. Photos by Tom Grotta

John McQueen has also made deviations. Most of his sculptures are made of sticks and bark, but he sometimes veers from that path, incorporating cardboard, plastic and found objects.

Dorothy Gill Barnes
Dorothy Gill Barnes, Summer Pine, 1997, and Bark and Glass Triptych, 2010. Photos by Tom Grotta

The late Dorothy Gill Barnes was a weaver and manipulator of twigs and bark, as well, but later in her career, she changed her approach after collaborating with woodturners and glass makers. In Bark and Glass Triptych, for example, the rustic bark is still a primary component, but echoed by sleek glass interior.

Mary Merkel-Hess
Mary Merkel-Hess’s Rose Tipped Basket. 1992; Green-Tipped Basket, 1992 and Umbel, 1996. Photos by Tom Grotta

One of our first exhibitions at browngrotta arts featured Mary Merkel-Hess‘ jewel-toned vessels of reed and paper in blues and reds and even purple. The works were very popular and we sold nearly every one. Two years later, we asked Merkel-Hess to create work for another two-person exhibition. Rather than recreate her first successful show, however, she sculpted works of no color — new shapes, made of translucent gampi paper. They were wildly different, but equally well-received, inspiring collectors to acquire multiple works by Merkel-Hess, accompanying her on her artistic journey. Since then she has continued to work in color — but in larger scale and different forms. She still makes room for the minimal, however, like Among the Trees, II, her 2020 wall work of gampi and pencil.

Nancy Moore Bess
Nancy Moore Bess’s From Biwa to Tahoe, 2001 and Shiro Katach i-White Form, 2008, Photos by Tom Grotta

A difficulty with her hands and the movement required to make her small, twined basket forms, led Nancy Moore Bess to invent a new process involving carved foam shapes. Still working with variations of twining and knots, the carved forms allow her to rest her hands as she worked. The result was a completely new body of work that built on previous efforts.

Stépahnie Jacques
Séphanie Jacques’s Paniers-liens II & III, 2011 and Wall / Mur, 2013. Photos by Tom Grotta

Stéphanie Jacques is another relentless reinventer. Her basket-like sculptures have incorporated yarn and woodworking and clay. She has added performance, video and still photography to the mix as well.

Kari Lønning’s Bridge to Blue, 1995 and With a Flash of Blue, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

Kari Lønning invented the double-walled basket of smooth, round rattan, then reinvented her baskets with fine and variegated akebia vines.

Other artists at browngrotta arts have also made changes in materials and approach. Contact us at art@browngrotta.com if you want to know more about the specific path for any artist whose work we represent. Their predisposition to change and exploration keeps viewers engaged.


Craft is Now an Art Market Force: Just 3 Weeks to Win a Lia Cook of Your Own

Lia Cook Spatial details
Details of Spatial Ikat III_1976; Spatial Ikat III-2, 1976; Space-Dyed-Weaving-2, 1975

Craft is now an “art market force,” according to the art platform Artsy, “How Craft Became an Art Market Force,” Benjamin Sutton, February 10, 2021. “The boundaries separating painting, ceramics, weaving, drawing, glassblowing, printmaking, and other processes and practices are now porous if not completely antiquated. This is plainly clear from visiting most major art museums where, increasingly, textiles share wall space with abstract paintings and glass, and clay sculptures sit on plinths alongside bronzes.”

The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art: Selections from the Linda Leonard Schlenger Collection at the Yale Art Gallery in 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuNAdtbxRPw) provided an early exhibition example of impactful intermixing of media. The exhibition featured over 80 objects from the Schlenger collection by leading 20th-century ceramicists—including Toshiko Takezu, Ruth Duckworth, Kenneth Price, Lucie Rie, and Peter Voulkos—alongside works in other media from the Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection by artists such as Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Isamu Noguchi, Mark Rothko, and Edward Ruscha. The Gallery recognized that, allthough critically lauded within the studio-craft movement, works by these ceramicists were only then coming to be recognized as integral to the wider field of contemporary art. This ecumenical approach is further illustrated in Making Knowing; Craft in Art 1950-2019  at the Whitney in New York (November 2019 until February of next year; https://whitney.org/exhibitions/making-knowing). The exhibition “foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. Some expand techniques with long histories, such as weaving, sewing, or pottery, while others experiment with textiles, thread, clay, beads, and glass, among other mediums.” It includes artists like Robert Raushenberg, Kiki Smith and Agnes Martin beside Robert Arneson, Sheila Hicks and Ron Nagle. Also exhibiting currently, Women in Abstraction, at the Pompidou Center through August 23rd (https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en/program/calendar/event/OmzSxFv) .Transcending the traditional reductionist hierarchies between high and low art, the exhibition presents a history that includes dance, the decorative arts, photography and cinema and artists that include Ruth Asawa, Barbara Hepworth and Lenore Tawney. 

Fiber art has played a major part in this surge of interest and now through July 31st, you can be a part of this emerging trend. Enter the UncommonGood sweepstakes for an important Lia Cook tapestry. You’ll promote her work, fiber arts and the Breast Cancer Alliance in the process, and just maybe, add a remarkable work to your your personal collection.

Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art
Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 22, 2019–January 2021). From left to right: Peter Voulkos, Red River, c. 1960; Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954; Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.270, Hanging Six-Lobed, Complex Interlocking Continuous Form within a Form with Two Interior Spheres), 1955, refabricated 1957-58. Photograph by Ron Amstutz.

Spatial Ikat III-2, woven by Lia Cook in 1976 during a formative period for fiber art, will be the prize in a sweepstakes organized by UncommonGood, along with a $7,500 prize, a Zoom call with the artist and a copy of the catalog: Lia Cook: In the Folds – Works from 1973 – 1997. The tapestry was donated by browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut, as the latest of its Art for a Cause projects. The proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to the Breast Council Alliance.

Lia Cook works in a variety of media combining weaving with painting, photography, video and digital technology. Her current practice explores the sensuality of the woven image and the emotional connections to memories of touch and cloth. Long recognized as an innovator, Cook’s work has been featured in dozens of group and solo exhibitions worldwide. Her work is found in dozens of museum collections, including that of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

In Spatial Ikat III-2 Cook aimed to envelop the viewer in a work that was imposing and strident. She perfected the technique used in this work over a period of years. Distorting a plain weave with strenuous physical intervention, the lines undulate and create a topographical terrain, creating the illusion of massive threads moving over and under one another.

Spatial Ikat III-2
Spatial Ikat III-2 by Lia Cook

Donating to win this important tapestry, aids the Breast Cancer Alliance. BCA funds innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education, dignified support and screening for the underserved. 

Enter the sweepstakes here: https://uncommongood.iohttps://uncommongood.io/sweepstakes/win-a-lia-cook-art-piece-valued-at-35000-and-7500-in-cash


Process Notes: On Making Variant by Gyöngy Laky – Material

Gyöngy Laky tells us more about the making of her recent work, Variant. Specifically she answers, Why golf tees?

Detail: Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Detail: Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red, 30” x 20” x 4” 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

“My current interest in use of golf tees in my sculptures arose during the Trump presidency.  He had criticized President Obama for spending time playing golf. Trump, however, spent much more time on the golf course than Obama had – another of Trump’s hypocrisies. Golf tees became emblematic representation of Trump for me, as were his ubiquitous red neckties.  I searched for red golf tees to suggest a connection to Trump in some of my artwork.  

Golf Tease by Gyöngy Laky
Golf Tease, wooden, red golf tees, 16” x 25” x 2” , 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

Having been glued to the news during all of 2020, by the beginning of 2021, I was convinced that the pandemic in the U.S. could have been far less damaging and deadly had Trump not dismantled the government’s infectious disease unit, undermined the CDC, pulled out of the WHO.  If early in 2020 Americans had been urged to wear masks numerous deaths and illnesses could have been avoided.  A number of experts believe that 80-85% mask wearing during the first few weeks/months of the appearance of the virus would have avoided the pandemic levels in the U.S. and saved many lives. The virus would not have had a field day to grow and spread in millions of noses.  I felt a strong urge to create an artwork that addressed the virus and its association with Trump’s trivializing of the danger of Covid-19.  

Fifth Avenue 1/23/16 by Gyöngy Laky
Fifth Avenue 1/23/16, AK-T Tequila MX bottle, golf tees, golf ball, 23″ x 9.5″ x 3.75”, 2019. Photo by Gyöngy Laky

The golf tees heads looked like the graphic representations of the virus in the daily news. I had used golf tees in my art work, but I had never used them as a structuring element.  As I handled the golf tees I realized that they were much like pins or nails or toothpicks (another small wooden wonder) or could even provide the kind of joining that the screws I use to structure sculptures did. The ones I found are 3 1/4″ HUGE Ripstixx Mustang Red extra long. 

Variant by Gyöngy Laky
Variant, ash, huge ripstixx Mustang Red 30” x 20” x 4”, 2021, Photo by Tom Grotta

Had it not been for the virus I would not have discovered how effective and beautiful golf tee connectors could be.  Not only do the tees hint to Trump, using twigs connects to nature and the climate crisis’s role in the pandemic as well.  Painting the branches white suggests bones – a nod to the avoidable deaths of so many.”


Adaptation Opens Saturday at browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT

from left to right works by Paul Furneaux and Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila. Photo by Tom Grotta

This Saturday at 11 am, our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition: Adaption: Artists Respond to Change opens to the public. We can’t describe it better than ArteMorbida: the Textile Arts Magazine did. “This project is born from the reflection on how the world of art and its protagonists, the artists, had to rethink and redesign their action, when the pandemic, significantly affecting the global lifestyle, compelled everyone to a forced and repeated isolation,” the magazine wrote. “But the need to adapt their responses to change, generated by the complicated health situation, was only the beginning of a broader reflection that led the two curators [Rhonda Brown and Tom Grotta] to note that change itself is actually an evolutionary process immanent in human history, generative, full of opportunities and unexpected turns.”

Tapestries by Carolina Yrarrázaval. Photo by Tom Grotta

The 48 artists in Adaptation pose, and in some cases answer, a series of interesting questions about art. Does it offer solutions for dealing with daily stress? For facing larger social and global issues? How do artists use art to respond to unanticipated circumstances in their own lives. The work in the exhibition offers a wide variety of responses to these questions.

Several of artists wrote eloquently for the Adaptation catalog about how art has helped them manage the stress and upheaval of the past year. Ideally, for those who attend Adaptation: Artist’s Respond to Change that calming effect will be evident and even shared. 

pictured: works by Lawrence LaBianca, Włodzimierz Cygan, Chiyoko Tanaka, Gizella Warburton, Norma Minkowitz, Polly Adams Sutton

Wlodzimierz Cygan of Poland says the time of the pandemic allowed him to draw his attention to a “slightly different face of Everyday, the less grey one.”  He found that, “slowing down the pace of life, sometimes even eliminating some routine activities, helps one to taste each day separately and in the context of other days. Time seems to pass slower, I can stay focused longer.” Life has changed in Germany, Irina Kolesnikova told us. Before the pandemic, “we would travel a lot, often for a short time, a few days or a weekend. We got used to seeing the variety in the world, to visit different cities, to go to museums, to get acquainted with contemporary art. Suddenly, that life was put on pause, our social circle reduced to the size of our immediate environment.” Kolesnikova felt a need to dive deeper into herself and create a new series of small works, Letters from Quarantine, “to just work and enjoy the craft.”

clockwise: Adela Akers, Irina Kolesnikova, Ane Henriksen, Nancy Koenigsberg, Laura Foster Nicholson, Lawrence LaBianca, Gizella Warburton. Photo by Tom Grotta

Other artists were moved to create art that concerned larger social issues. Karyl Sisson’s Fractured III, makes use of vintage paper drinking straws to graphically represent in red and white the discontents seen and felt in America as the country grappled with police violence against Black Americans, polarized election politics and larger issues like climate change and the environment.  Climate change and the danger of floods and fire were reflected in the work of the several artists in Adaptation. New Yorker Nancy Koenigsberg created Approaching Storm, adding an even greater density of the grey, coated-copper wire that she generally works with to build a darkened image that serves as a warning for the gravity of current events.

High water appears in Laura Foster Nicholson’s view of Le Procuratie, which envisions a flooded Venice, metallic threads illustrating the rising waters. Works by Adela Akers and Neha Puri Dhir were influenced by wildfires in California and India, respectively.

left to right: Karyl Sisson, Jennifer Falck Linssen, Sue Lawty, Jin -Sook So

Still other artists found way to use their art as a meditative practice in order to face their sense of personal and public dislocation. For Jennifer Falck Linssen, the solution was to turn off all media, go outside and find inspiration in morning and evening light. For Paul Furneaux, initially cut off from his studio, the garden became an obsession as he undertook an extensive renovation.  Returning to art making, the spring colors, greens and yellows he had seen while gardening, created a new palette for his work.  Feeling the need for complete change, Hisako Sekijima turned away from basket finishing. Instead, immersing herself in the underlying processes of plaiting. Her explorations became both meditative and a process that led to new shapes. 

Experience these artists’ reflections on change in person. Schedule your appointment for Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/adaptation-artists-respond-to-change-tickets-148974728423

The full-color catalog(our 51st) for Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change is available Friday May 7th:

http://store.browngrotta.com/adaption-artist-respond-to-change/


Art Out and About: Exhibitions Around the US

Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change

Happily, vaccines are on the rise and art openings are, too.

We are excited about our own opening, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change, May 8 – 16. You can join us by making an appointment through Eventbrite:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/adaptation-artists-respond-to-change-tickets-148974728423  Elsewhere, exhibitions are ongoing live coast to coast this Spring. Check some or all of these events in person, or online. Art makes a comeback!

Uncommon Threads: The Works of Ruth E. Carter
New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! (NBAM)
Massachusetts

May 1 – November 14, 2021

Uncommon Threads NBAM

A solo exhibition celebrating Massachusetts-born Ruth E. Carter’s 30-year career as an Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2018) costume designer rn Ruth E. Carter’s 30-year career as an Academy Award-winning (Black Panther, 2018) costume designer. 

For more info: https://newbedfordart.org/ruth/

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, DC 
Through June 27, 2021

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle and Mend

This first survey of Clark’s 25-year career includes 100 sculptures made from black pocket combs, human hair and thread as well as works created from flags, currency, beads, cotton plants, pencils, books, a typewriter and a hair salon chair. The artist transmutes each of these everyday objects through her application of a vast range of fiber-art techniques: Clark weaves, stitches, folds, braids, dyes, pulls, twists, presses, snips or ties within each object. 

View in-person or online https://nmwa.org/exhibitions/sonya-clark-tatter-bristle-and-mend/

Craft Front and Center
The Museum of Arts and Design 
New York, NY

May 22, 2021–Feb 13, 2022

Craft Front and Center
Photo courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design

MAD’s collection comprises over 3,000 artworks in clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood, dating from the post-war studio craft movement through to contemporary art and design. Craft Front & Center is organized into eight themes exploring craft’s impact. Each section is punctuated with pivotal and rarely seen works from iconic makers, such as Betty Woodman, Marvin Lipofsky, Lia Cook and Magdalena Abakanowicz. The exhibition also casts a fresh eye on craft’s pioneers; celebrating Olga de Amaral, Charles Loloma, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Katherine Westphal and others who pushed the boundaries of materials and sought more inclusive sources of inspiration. The exhibition affirms craft as one of the most exciting spaces for experimentation and wonder in art today.

Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers

Ruth’s Table
San Francisco, CA
Virtual Exhibition through May 13, 2021

Artist Talk April 15 at 4:30 pm (PST)

Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers

See the Exhibit 

RSVP for the Artist Talk on April 15th

If you are not near an exhibition with in-person viewing, you can visit this two-part exhibition series online. Building Bridges: Breaking Barriers aims to help break barriers in perception by recognizing the unique agility and skill possessed by professional older artists at the pinnacle of their careers, their continued value and contribution to the arts and society, leading us to building bridges of an intergenerational nature. The exhibition, which includes work by Lia Cook, highlights artists who are particularly notable for their ability to transform their oeuvre in the thick of their careers. Each artist displays a selection of works that represent evolution and, sometimes, rupture from earlier works, demonstrating a compelling ability to take risks, break new ground and shape attitudes through their artistic practice.


Artist Focus: Blair Tate

Balir Tate Self portrait
Blair Tate self portrait, 2021

Blair Tate has explored flat woven grids in her work since the 70s. Her work evidences an “austere elegance,” Jack Lenor Larsen and Mildred Constantine observed in the seminal The Art Fabric: Mainstream in 1985. “I began weaving in the early 70s, under the influence of 60s Minimalism and modernist architecture,” she wrote in 1986. “I believed that form should follow function and accordingly I sought an objective basis for my work. In this, I was reacting against the majority of the weavnig I saw at the time: weaving that seemed either unfocused and overwhelmed by an eruption of materials, or myopically and exclusively concerned with complex technique …. I determined that my work in fiber should come from fiber and celebrate the medium.” 

Rift, 1991 by Blair Tate
Rift, Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 96″ x 65″, 1991. Photo by Tom Grotta

To compose her works, Tate creates modular units of woven linen strips tied together with cotton cords. The knots that result create an additional pattern — what Tate considers a scaffold for the tapestry, producing a second complicating scrim. She sees an analogy between textile and text. The strips are like sentences that can be edited,  “rearranged to re-contextualize, to forge relationships, to develop meaning.” Her influences are diverse, African kente cloths “for their beauty and directness,” Baroque architecture, Berber carpets, Italo Calvino’s, If on a Winter’s Night a Travelerand an appreciation for Japanese order and symmetry, broken by natural variations. In addition to her weavings, she has worked as a commercial textile designer, authored The Warp: A Weaving Resource (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984) which analyzes the elements of weaving, and in the past year, she has made masks for neighbors, friends and a local care center.

Pangaea, 2021 and Small Gemelli, 1977 by Blair Tate
Pangaea, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 46″ x 29″ x 1.5″, 2021 2021
Small Gemelli, woven linen, spago (hemp). loosely constructed plaid. It exposes and clarifies each element of weaving – counted wefts follow a small doubling sequence within parallel warps which leave all weft ends exposed, 24.75” x 18.75” x 3.25”, 1977

In Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change this spring at browngrotta arts (May 8 -16), Tate will exhibit two works that explore her ideas about the warp. Small Gemelli (1977) was one of her earliest pieces to focus on the elements of weaving. It is a simple plaid – one of the most fundamental woven configurations – but opened to keep both warp and weft distinct.  In Panagea, created this year, Tate consciously wove to the very limits of her warp to minimize loom waste.  In the past, she says,  “I might have incorporated interruptions in the strips while weaving, thereby wasting the unwoven warp; in Pangaea, the gaps emerge only in the rearranging.” 

Jaiselmer by Blair Tate
Detail of Jaiselmer by Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 73″ x 39″, 1999. Photo by Tom Grotta

Artist Focus: Naoko Serino

Naoko Serino portrait
Naoko Serino, 2021

Japanese artist, Naoko Serino, our focus this week, works in jute, a remarkably adaptable material that provokes references to other biological structures. Jute’s golden sheen and sinuous strands “yield a most spectacular softness and luminosity,” notes author Moon Lee (http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/naoko-serino-spins-vegetable-fiber-into-golden-sculptures). In Serino’s work, “the natural fibers are spun densely or pulled thin, making for infinite gradations of densities. Irregular shapes in varying degrees of transparency provoke an effect that is strongly biological. Spheres, tubes, tubes contained within spheres, spheres contained within cubes, and rows of coiled strands evoke thoughts of phospholipid bilayers of cell membranes, veins, sea sponges, and so forth.” 

Existing -2-D
13ns Existing -2-D, Naoko Serino, jute, 56″ x 56″ x 11″, 2006

Serino creates her sculptures by first covering molds with jute fibers, which she removes when they have dried, creating a final work combining individual fiber elements. Some of the works that Serino creates are small individual pieces, while others are installations that are large enough to fill an entire room. Despite the fragile appearance of the jute fibers, the works have an imposing presence. 

Existing II
12ns Existing II, Naoko Serino, jute 7.375” x 8.5” x 8.5”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

“I moved to a seaside town 30 years ago. I felt the light and wind there and my feelings were stirred by my proximity to Nature,” Serino says. “I began to see with new eyes and I discovered a material, jute. I think the discovery was inevitable. In and through my hands, a dignified hemp produces a shape that contains both light and air. I am grateful that I came across this material. It is a joy for me to express things with jute that stir deep emotions in me. I see myself continuing to express my feelings in this form.”

Generating outside
Generating Outside, Naoko Serino, jute, 39.5″ x 24″ x 4″, 2020. Photo by Naoko Serino

Serino’s work was included in the Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers exhibition which traveled from Japan to New York, Milan, Copenhagen and other venues. She was awarded the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020. She was a awarded the first prize in the Collection Arte & Arte alla Torre delle Arti di Bellagio, Como, Italy in 2014, the Silver Prize in the 10th Kajima Sculpture Competition and the Encouragement Award in the 16th Kajima Sculpture Award in 2020.

Generating Mutsuki
17ns Generating Mutsuki, Naoko Serino, jute, 9.5″ x 8″ 8″, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

Serino is one of the artists whose work is included in browngrotta arts’ next Art in the Barn exhibition, Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change (May 8th – May 16th) http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php. Her work for the exhibition, Generating-Mutsuki, came out of her desire to create a work along the lines of the large-scale sculpture she created for Kajima Sculpture competition in a smaller size.


A Whiter Shade of Pale

Bow-W-98.2, Masakazu Kobayashi; Petites-ailes-de-glacé-blanc, Micheline Beauchemin
Bow-W-98.2, Masakazu Kobayashi, rayon, aluminum, 30″ x 33″ x 3.75″, 1998; Petites-ailes-de-glacé-blanc, Micheline Beauchemin, nylon, silk and silver aluminum wire, lead wire, 30″ x 32.25″ x 7″, 1980’s. Beauchemin used white to evoke the icy rivers of Quebec. Photo by Tom Grotta

As American Songwriter opined, “who could have possibly predicted the success of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which went to #1 in the UK in 1967, #5 in the US, and has outlasted so many other flower-power and psychedelic-flavored tracks from that era to be one of the most enduring songs of the 60’s?” 

Traverser, Gyöngy Laky
Traverser, Gyöngy Laky, ash, paint, “bullet for buildings” (trim screws), 22” x 22” x 22”, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta
paper sculpture, Naomi Kobayashi
Untitled, Naomi Kobayashi, , Naomi Kobayashi, kayori thread, paper, 99″ x 54″ x 5″ (x2), 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta
Ondes, Simone Pheulpin
Ondes, Simone Pheulpin, cotton, 26” x 49.5”, 2016, Photo by Tom Grotta. Pheulpin creates her wall- and free-standing sculptures exclusively of white cotton tape.

It’s an unforgettable lyric that often comes to mind when we view works by artists who work with browngrotta arts. Many of of them work in white, to evoke clouds or an icy river or purity or to explore the absence of color or a dichotomy with black. 

Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock
The Second Cousin, Grethe Wittrock, white paper yarn knotted on steel plate, 67” x 78.75”, 2006. Photo by Tom Grotta
Sara Brennan tapestry
Detail of Sara Brennan tapestry, wools, linens and silk. Brennan incorporates dozens of shades of white in her tapestries. Photo by Tom Grotta
White Paper Shell, Federica Luzzi
White Paper Shell, Federica Luzzi, paper cord, 12.875″ x 12.875″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta
Plan Your Parenthood-Population, Judy Mulford
waxed linen, polyform, antique mother of pearl buttons, beads, pins, gesso, knitting needle, gourds, rock, wooden doll chairs, 22″ x 7.5″ x 8″, 2009 . Photo by Tom Grotta
Blanc de Blanc, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette
Blanc de Blanc, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, wool, 4’6″ x 10′, 1980. Photo by Tom Grotta

“In many cultures, white is seen as the color of innocence and virginity, purity, loyalty and peace,” noted the Textile Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands in its materials for its 2019 exhibition, Black & White | Symbolic Meaning in Art & Design. In the West, white clothing and decoration are symbolic of the joy around births, baptisms and weddings, the Museum notes, while in many African and Asian cultures, as well as in medieval Europe, white is the traditional color of death and mourning.