Category: Sculpture

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: 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.


Acquisition News – Part II, Abroad

More on museum acquisitions of works by artists from browngrotta arts in the last two years. We have 18 works to report on that have been acquired by institutions outside the US — from Norway to Lithuania to Italy to Japan and places in between.

Heidrun Schimmel
One of two works that comprise Hanging by a thread IV, handstitched by Heidrun Schimmel, 1986-1987, acquired in 2021 by the Diocesan Museum in Bamberg, Germany. Photo by: Monika Meinhart.

Heidrun Schimmel

Seven works by Heidrun Schimmel have been acquired since 2020. Two by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, two by Museum of Applied Art, Frankfurt and three by the Diocesan Musuem in Bamberg.

Kyoko Kumai
Furious Anger by Kyoko Kumai acquired by the Janina Monkute-Marks Art Museum in Kedainai, Lithuania. Photo by Takashi Hatakeyama

Kyoko Kumai

One work by Kyoko Kumai was acquired by the Angers Museums in Angers, France (Jean-Lurçat and the Museum of Contemporary Tapestry) and another by the Janina Monkute-Marks Art Museum in Kedainai, Lithuania.

Carolina Yrarrázaval
Medioevo, jute and linen, Carolina Yrarrázaval. One of two tapestries acquired by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto. Photo by Patricia Novoa.

Carolina Yrarrázaval

Two tapestries were selected on May of this year at Yrarrázaval’s exhibition in Kyoto by the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto.

Åse Ljones

Åse Ljones

Åse Ljones‘ work, Atterskin, was purchased by Nordenfjeldske Art and Craft Museum in Trondheim , Norway in 2020 and Mylder was purchased The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, March 2021. 

Federica Luzzi
Federica Luzzi’s work acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Salerno, Italy. Photo by Federica Luzzi.

Federica Luzzi

An encased textile, Shell-Omaggio a Costanino Dardi, by Federica Luzzi was acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Salerno, Italy for a collection curated by Fondazione Filiberto e Bianca Menna – Centro Studi D’Arte Contemporanea.

The textile object is suspended and anchored with nylon thread in a plexiglass box. Like a seed, with an aerodynamic shape that is structured for long movements and transport, it is closed in a box that prevents its natural and complete movement, it is trapped in it. “This work was done just before the outbreak of the pandemic,” Luzzi says. “So without knowing what would happen, but continuing my research on envelopes, I visualized even better the containment condition of a body.”

Simone Pheulpin
Eclosion Epingles by Simone Pheulpin, photo courtesy of Galerie Maison Parisienne.

Simone Pheulpin

Two artworks by Simone Pheulpin have been acquired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs i(MAD) inn Paris in December 2019: Jéromine, Série Eclipse (2019); Eclosion Epingles (2019). Another, Détail VII (2021), will be acquired by the same museum in 2021. The acquisitions were organized by the Galerie Maison Parisienne in Paris.

Wlodzimierz Cygan
Organic by Wlodzimierz Cygan, acquired by TAMAT in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by This Way Design.

Wlodzimierz Cygan

In 2021, Organic (2018) by Wlodzimierz Cygan was acquired by the Musée de la Tapisserie et des Arts Textiles de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (TAMAT) in Tournai, Belgium.


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!


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.


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.”


Artist Focus: Włodzimierz Cygan

Detail: Cycle Tapping: May, Włodzimierz Cygan, viscose, linen and fiber optic, 117” x 34”, 2014

In a recent catalog of Włodzimierz Cygan’s work, Dariusz Lesnikowski, writes that commenting on Cygan’s work is both easy and hard. “Easy because his works fascinate, stimulate imagination, and trigger a variety of associations and inspirations.” Difficult because his work has been analyzed often and “[h]e is one of those artists who have significantly reshape the art of weaving, daring to overcome the traditionally guaranteed limitations of his field of art.” According to Lesnikowski, fibers in Cygan’s work are constantly used in new ways, meeting the warp in successive places for interlacing and each time providing unpredictable surprises. (“Woven on the bright side of imagination,” Dariusz Lesnikowski, Włodzimierz Cygan: Unique Fiber, Gallery Amcor, Lodz, Poland, 2020).

Traps, wool, viscose, linen, sisal, fiber optic installation 92” x 106”, 2019

Cygan’s work has been exhibited in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including the Jean Lurcat Museum in France, the Kyoto Art Center in Japan and the National Gallery in San Jose, Costa Rica. He was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 6th International Fiber Art BiennialFrom Lausanne to Beijingand the Grand Prix, 12th International Triennial of Tapestry. Cygan is reknown for his textile innovations. “When trying to determine why the means of artistic expression in tapestry was becoming archaic,” he has written, “I realized that one of the reasons might have to do with the custom of treating the threads of the weft as the chief medium of the visual message. . . . These observations led me to wonder how the artistic language of textiles might benefit from a warp whose strands would not be parallel and flat but convergent, curved or three dimensional … .” As a result of these explorations, in some of Cygan’s works, the warp changes direction, enabling the weaving of circles or arcs. 

Detail of Miracle, Włodzimierz Cygan linen, wool and sisal, 56.5” x 47” x 6.5” 2006

For more than 10 years, Cygan has been teaching at Gdańsk Academy and Architecture of Textiles’ Institute at Łódź Technical University. Miracle, which won the Bronze medal at the 6th From Lausanne to Beijing, features a hypnotic curve, that draws the viewer into the heart of the work. “The artist shapes the rhythm of the composition, consciously interfering with the structure of the fabric. Like a calligrapher, he builds the form by weaving the thread of the weft through the framework of the warp,” writes Lesnikowski. “Regularity (the general rule) confronts irregularity (modifications) of the warp.”

Blue/Green Weaving, Włodzimierz Cygan, polyester, linen, sisal, fiber optic, 41” x 41” x 15”, 2018

In 2004, during the 11th Lodz Triennial, Cygan met Danish artist Astrid Krogh

who worked with optical fibers. She gave a lecture for Cygan’s students and provided him the optical material that was not available in

Poland at the time and gave him another opportunity to experiment. He created a work entitled, Dear Astrid as a thank you. He has created several works since using optical fibers, including Blue/Green Weaving in 2018 and Traps in 2019. You can see more examples of Cygan’s work on our website: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/cygan.php.


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/