Category: Tapestry

Catalog Lookback: Chronicling the Canon

Samples of browngrotta catalogs
Sheila Hicks, Joined by seven artists from Japan (#13) and Lenore Tawney: celebrating five decades of work (#28) and Beyond Weaving: International Arttextiles (#33).Three of them were the subject of artist monographs — Lenore Tawney: Drawings in Air (#1M); Lia Cook: In the Fold, Works from 1973-1977 (#2M); Ethel Stein: Weaver (#3M) one of them an artist’s focus — Focus: Jin-Sook So (#1F)

Contemporary fiber art is a fairly new art genre, having begun in the 1950s with experiments in weaving abstraction in the US and Europe and achieving its first international acknowledgment in the 1960s (Lausanne Biennial, Switzerland, 1962 and Woven Forms, US 1963). browngrotta arts has been involved in promoting international art textiles and fiber sculpture for nearly half of that history. As such, we have been remarkably fortunate to work with, been guided by and document the work of, pathbreakers and innovators in the field, including Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Lia Cook, Jin-Sook So and Ethel Stein. Each of these artists have played a significant role in more than one of our 50 publications, including Sheila Hicks, Joined by seven artists from Japan (#13) and Lenore Tawney: celebrating five decades of work (#28) and Beyond Weaving: International Arttextiles (#33). Three of them were the subject of artist monographs — Lenore Tawney: Drawings in Air (#1M); Lia Cook: In the Fold, Works from 1973-1977 (#2M); Ethel Stein: Weaver (#3M) one of them an artist’s focus — Focus: Jin-Sook So (#1F).

Sheila Hicks on her Conneticut deck. An outtake  from our catalog #13 Sheila Hicks, Joined by seven artists from Japan. Her work Chaine et trame interchangeable ( Interchangeable Warp and Weft)  is now in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.  Photo By Tom Grotta
Sheila Hicks on her Conneticut deck. An outtake from our catalog #13 Sheila Hicks, Joined by seven artists from Japan. Her work Chaine et trame interchangeable (Interchangeable Warp and Weft) is now in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. Photo By Tom Grotta

In 1996, we worked with Sheila Hicks on an exhibition that included seven artists from Japan, Masakazu Kobayashi and Naomi Kobayashi, Chiaki Maki, Toshio SekijiHiroyuki ShindoChiyoko Tanaka and Jun Tomita“The choice to show these works together was personal, ”Hicks wrote in Sheila Hicks, Joined by seven artists from Japan (#13). She chose our space in Connecticut, intentionally, noting that the in the Connecticut landscape, “it would be easy to contemplate their inner messages or, at least, to discover their structural wizardry.” Hicks had shown these artists’ works to friends, and noted that, “[a] harmonious dialogue between their work and my own began to develop naturally.” We were assisted in installing the exhibition, which Hicks designed, by Cara McCarty, then at the St. Louis Art Museum and Mathilda McQuaid, then at MoMA, both now at the Cooper Hewitt. The exhibition was well received. It led to others in Paris and Jerusalem and a follow up in Wilton (Traditions Transformed (#22). Ultimately, Hicks and six of the artists appeared in the major MoMa survey: Surface and Structure: Contemporary Japanese Textiles (1998-99), curated by McQuaid and McCarty, which highlighted the revolution that had occurred in the creation of textiles during the 90s. Hicks has continued to receive international acclaim and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions — Israel Museum, Jerusalem;, Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney; Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach; Bard Graduate Center, New York, NY; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, Joslyn Art Museum Omaha, Nebraska;  Museo Amparo, Puebla, México; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France;  Municipal Cultural Center Gallery, Kiryu, Gunma, Japan; Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago, Chile and The Bass, Miami Beach, Florida.

Lenore Tawney at her retrospective exhibition: Lenore Tawney: celebrating five decades of work touring the opening with her best friend Toshiko Takeazu in 2000. Photo by Tom Grotta
Lenore Tawney at browngrotta arts’ retrospective exhibition in 2000, Lenore Tawney: celebrating five decades of work, viewing her work with dear friend Toshiko Takaezu. Photo by Tom Grotta

Our representation of Lenore Tawney was equally meaningful to us personally and influential to browngrotta arts’ evolution. When we decided to move our home and exhibition space, a major factor was finding a room with a ceiling high enough to exhibit a Tawney Cloud. In 2000, we were able to make that happen, when we celebrated five decades of Tawney’s work (#28).  The exhibition illuminated the breadth of Tawney’s vision — including woven forms, collage, assemblage and drawings. Many of the works — created in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s — had rarely been exhibited before. The catalog also included never-published excerpts from Tawney’s journals and an essay by Bauhaus scholar, Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, who authored Bauhaus Textiles: Women Artists and the Weaving Workshop (Thames & Hudson 1998). We followed it with a monograph (#1M) exploring Tawney’s Drawings in Air series — ruled drawings on graph paper that predated systemic drawings of Minimalists like Sol Lewitt, and served as the impetus for three-dimensional thread sculptures three decades later. “I did some of these drawings that look so much like threads that people think they are threads,” Tawney wrote, “but I didn’t do them with that in mind …. It’s like meditation — you have to be with the line all the time—you can’t be thinking of anything.”

15lc Presence/Absence: In the Folds, Lia Cook, cotton, rayon; woven, 192” x 41”, 1997. Tom Grotta
15lc Presence/Absence: In the Folds (self-portrait) Lia Cook, cotton, rayon; woven, 192” x 41”, 1997. Photo by Tom Grotta

Like Hicks and Tawney, Lia Cook was a participant in the Lausanne Biennial, first in 1973, just after she completed her Master’s degree at University of California, Berkeley in Art & Design. Since that time Cook has reinvented her art practice several times, first creating macroscopic imagery of woven structures, then exploring image of draped fabrics incorporating hand-painted rayon warp threads. In the 90s, she began weaving photographic compositions and then, in 2000s, she began taking measurements of brain waves as people looked at photos and then at woven images, integrating them into her work as well. “Cook’s work defies the ocular-centricity of Western art by overturning the hierarchy of the senses,” wrote Deborah Valoma in our monograph on Cook (#2), “and repositioning the sense of touch in the foreground …. Cook asks her viewers to ’see’ the experience of touch — to imagine the sensations of touch through the visual experience of seeing.” The uniquely tactile experience created by Cook’s work has been featured in dozens of exhibitions worldwide, many of them solo exhibitions. Her work is found in dozens of museum collections, including that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the De Young Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Su Series, Cook’s work that is featured in our Volume 50 exhibition in September, is composed of 32 woven identical images of her face as a child superimposed with empirical data from her neuroscience research, created on a Jacquard computerized handloom. Each individual image is translated and altered through different weaving structures, provoking from the viewer a subtle and sometimes dramatic variation in emotional reaction..

Jin-Sook So  in front of one of her Untitled Steel Mesh wall sculptures at SOFA NY 2011. Photo by Carter Grotta
Jin-Sook So in front of one of her Untitled Steel Mesh wall sculptures at SOFA NY 2011. Photo by Carter Grotta

Jin-Sook So is another innovator with an international presence who has moved from working with wool to working with organza, and for the last two decades, stainless steel and copper mesh. For the Lausanne Biennial in 1989, she worked directly with flat steel mesh, pleated manually and colored black and blue and brown with a blow torch. By the mid 90s, “her form language had become more distinct and more consistently constructivist,” Kerstin Wickman, Professor of History of Design and Craft at Konstfack, University College of Arts Crafts and Design in Stockholm wrote in Focus: Jin-Sook So (#1F). “In spite of their minimal and precise shapes, [her] boxes, as well as the folded constructions, impart a softness and a sensuality created by the illusionary ‘movements,’ the variations and the poetic surfaces.” Born in Korea, she studied in Japan and New York and lived nearly three decades in Sweden. So’s work is influenced by each of these experiences. The shimmering gold and blue and black of her constructed works reflect light in ways that recall urban landscapes in New York and Sweden’s remarkable, diffused light. More recent works, including the bowl shapes that will appear in Volume 50, link back to her childhood and tie more directly to the past, evoking a pool of memories, of stories told and feelings expressed. So’s work has been exhibited in Asia, Scandinavia, Japan and the US.

Ethel Stein preparing a warp for her 2008 browngrotta exhibition and Monograph “Ethel Stein: Weaver”. Photo by Tom Grotta
Ethel Stein preparing a warp for her 2008 browngrotta exhibition and Monograph Ethel Stein: Weaver. Photo by Tom Grotta

A contemporary and colleague of Tawney’s in New York and also invited to the Lausanne Biennale, when Ethel Stein began weaving in the 60s, she took a different tack than the textile artists creating large, dimensional and off-loom works. Instead, despite her background as a sculptor, she worked “counter trend” in Jack Lenor Larsen’s words, her weavings remaining small and flat. She immersed herself in difficult and exacting cloth traditions, using an ancient drawloom which was replaced 200 years ago by the Jacquard loom. Our monograph, Ethel Stein: Weaver (#3M), followed Stein through her early art instruction, work as a sculptor and creation of damasks, double weaves and feathery ikats. At 96, the fresh expressions that Stein created from her explorations into ancient techniques brought her well-deserved recognition in a one-person exhibition, Ethel Stein: Master Weaver, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014, which featured large photographic images and works from Focus. The delay, the Art Institute’s material surmised, was due, in part, to the fact that,“her weavings look deceptively simple, with the result that only those well versed in the craft she practices can truly appreciate the sophistication of Stein’s work and the magnitude of her accomplishment.”

Join us in September for Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber for Three Decades (Artists Opening: September 12, 2020) http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php.  More information to combine on how we will combine art viewing and safe practice.


Catalog Lookback: Fan Favorites, an online exhibition

Portraits of Hisako Sekijima, Gyöngy Laky, Mary Merkel-Hess and Kay Sekimachi
clockwise: Hisako Sekijima 1994 solo exhibition at browngrotta arts. Gyöngy Laky 1993 preparing on a piece for her two-person exhibition at browngrotta arts. Our first meeting with Mary Merkel-Hess 1990 at her exhibition at the NY Armory. Kay Sekimachi in her closet selecting works for her 1992 two-person exhibit with Bob Stocksdale at browngrotta arts. Photos by Tom Grotta

In our 50 catalogs, we have showcased the work of 172 different artists. Four of these artists, however — Mary Merkel-Hess, Kay Sekimachi, Hisako Sekijima and Gyöngy Laky —  we have repeatedly chosen as a focus. Each has been the subject of more than one catalog — solo or two-person or special grouping  — and each has been featured in several of our themed survey publications. These artists explore different materials or forms, creating objects and works for the wall.  That willingness to innovate and reinvent has made them continuously collectible for those who acquire works in breadth and for those who pursue the work of individual artists in depth as well.

Details of works by Mary Merkel-Hess
Details of Mary Merkel-Hess’ paper sculptures on and off the wall. Photos by Tom Grotta

Mary Merkel-Hess’s work was the subject of one of our first catalogs in 1992 (#2) Mary Merkel-Hess. The work in our first solo exhibition of her work was brilliantly colored — vessels of green, indigo, cornflower, red and bronze — but our catalog technology was strictly black and white. Despite the noncolor depiction in the small catalog, the lyrical works of papercord and reed were popular and sold out. Her work was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art that year — one of the first contemporary baskets to enter the Museum’s collection. The success of that exhibition spurred us to host a second show, work by Merkel-Hess and Leon Niehues, in 1996 (#15). Merkel-Hess threw us a curve, though, by skipping the color that we considered her hallmark and producing, instead, a show of work made of translucent white papers — gampi, kobo, abaca, flax — some of it tinged with gold.  These works turned out to be as popular as those in color. Since then, her works have become larger and more sculptural and her recognition has grown while her popularity with collectors has remained a constant.  Her work will be part of Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50), in September of this year. 

Details of works by Kay Sekimachi
Details of baskets and sculptural weavings by Kay Sekimachi. Photos by Tom Grotta

In catalog (#3) Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi, also 1992 and still black and white, Kay Sekimachi’s work made its first appearance, coupled with wood bowls turned by her husband, Bob Stocksdale. Sekimachi has reinvented her practice several times in her lengthy career. She studied weaving with Trude Guermonprez in San Francisco and Jack Lenor Larsen at Haystack in Maine in the 50s. By the 60s she was working with complicated 12-harness looms to create ethereal hanging sculptures of monofilament, then a new material. They were featured in MoMA’s Wall Hangings exhibition in 1963, Deliberate Entanglements at UCLA in 1971 and the Lausanne Biennial in 1975 and 1983. Sekimachi was also part of the contemporary, nonfunctional basket movement with other California artists in the 1960s and 1970s.  This body of work included small woven baskets and woven paperfold-like boxes made of antique Japanese papers. For our exhibition in 1992, she created gossamer flax bowls and patched pots of linen warp ends and rice paper. For our our 1999 exhibition, (#24) Bob Stocksdale Kay Sekimachi: books, boxes and bowls, she created woven boxes and books, and bowls in typical Japanese ceramic shapes that she formed using Stocksdale’s turned bowls as molds. Still the subject of museum recognition and collector acclaim, Sekimachi continues to work at 94, weaving intimate, abstract weavings reminiscent of drawings in pen and ink. 

Details of works by Gyöngy Laky
Details of of sculptures on and off the wall by Gyöngy Laky. Photos by Tom Grotta

In 1993 we produced our first catalog featuring Gyöngy Laky’s work (#5) Leon Niehues and Gyöngy Laky. The exhibition included 13 vessel shapes and one wall work. In 1996, we visited Laky’s complex construction again (#16) Gyöngy Laky and Rebecca Medel. “I think of myself as a builder of sketches in three dimensions,” she said of her textile architecture. The 1996-1997 exhibition featured Laky’s three-dimensional words, an important aspect of her oeuvre. The two versions of the word “No” or “On” illustrated the myriad ways in which such themes are deftly articulated by Laky. Affirmative No. 1 was made of brightly colored, coated telephone wire, piled and sewn. Affirmative No. 2  was much larger — the “O” made of branches still covered with bark, the “N” made of pieces of stripped, unfinished wood. The catalog also contained an image of That Word.  Now in the collection of the federal court in San Francisco, it spells out “ART” in larger-than-life, 3-d letters made of orchard prunings that are seven feet tall. Laky has continued creating word sculptures that combine natural and manmade materials, as disparate as bleached cottonwood branches, plastic army men and construction bullets of metal. In 2008, The New York Times Magazine commissioned her to create titles for its environmental survey, “The Green Issue.” The works that resulted were awarded a Type Directors Club Award. Laky will have two works in Volume 50: a large vessel-shaped sculpture and a type-related, free-standing arrow.

Details of works by Hisako Sekijima
Details of Bark basket sculptures in varying materials by Hisako Sekijima. Photos by Tom Grotta

Last, but certainly not least is Hisako Sekijima, whose innovation and artistry seem to know few bounds. We have focused on her work in three catalogs — (#8) Hisako Sekijima/1994; (#19) Glen Kaufman and Hisako Sekijima/1998; (#30) Japan Under The Influence: Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition/2001. Bark and vine become fabric and thread, framing and nails as Sekijima conducts her experiments in volume and void. The first catalog of Sekijima’s work (#8) included works in wide variety of materials — cherry bark, kudzu vine, cedar, willow, hackberry, bamboo. We were particularly pleased when The New York Times made the 1994 exhibition and the variety of work included the subject of a full-page article in its Connecticut section. They turned to her work again in The New York Times Magazine, including a work of kudzu vine in an article on the uses of the invasive species. We visited Sekijima’s work again in 1998, pairing her pieces, this time of zelikova, apricot, hinoki, walnut and palm hemp bark, with jacquard weavings by Glen Kaufman featuring photographic images of Kyoto. In 2001, we combined works by seven basket artists in Japan: Under the Influence, Innovative basketmakers deconstruct Japanese tradition #30). Sekijima was included, as were four of her students from Japan — Norie Hatekeyama, Kazue Honma, Noriko Takamiya and Tsuroko Tanikawa— each of whom had, like their teacher, had mastered Japanese basketmaking tradition, only to give it a twist. Sekijima wrote in Japan Under the Influence, that Kay Sekimachi (also featured in the catalog) was one of the American artists whose “new notions of basketmaking” and “new forms” had a decisive impact on her as she studied basketmaking in the late 70s. “Since then,” she wrote, “Sekimachi has always been one of my teachers at a distance. Her work has always reminded me of a Japanese respectful expression orime tadashii, which literally means, ‘one’s kimono preserves neat lines of folding which connotes integrity of behavior.’” Sekijima’s work, A Line Willow IV is part of our September exhibition. Like the works these artists have produced over nearly three decades, A Line Willow IV,  represents a line innovative art making that is knotless, homogeneous and flexible. 

See more at our September exhibition, Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades (#50).


Catalog Lookback: California Dreamin’ – An Online Exhibition on Artsy

Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Adela Akers, Syvia Seventy, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma Catalogs

Ed Rossbach | Katherine Westphal | Marion Hildebrandt | Judy Mulford | Deborah Valoma | Adela Akers | Sylvia Seventy

California has played a seminal role in both the history of the Contemporary Fiber Arts Movement and artists from California have played an equally significant role in browngrotta arts’ exhibition archive.  You’ll find California artists represented in nearly all our group catalogs: Lawrence LaBianca in Stimulus: Art and its Inception (vol. 36); Carol Shaw-Sutton in 25 for the 25th (vol. 25); Nancy Moore Bess in 10th Wave I (vol. 17) and 10th Wave II (vol. 18); Karyl Sisson in Karyl Sisson and Jane Sauer (vol. 12) and Ferne Jacobs in Blue/Green: color/code/context (vol. 44). 

California Dreamin’, an online exhibition on Artsy from May 11 to June 5th, features seven artists: Ed Rossbach, Katherine Westphal, Marion Hildebrandt, Judy Mulford, Deborah Valoma, Adela Akers and Sylvia Seventy.  The exhibition borrows from three browngrotta catalogs (vols. 6, 20, 26) and highlights decades worth of art.

Ed Rossbach Basket
Green with Four Ears by Ed Rossbach, 1984. Photo by Tom Grotta

Best-known of the group, Ed Rossbach, completed his graduate studies at Cranbrook in 1946. He, along with Marianne Strengell worked within the narrow parameters of Euro-Bauhaus-Scandinavian weaving traditions for industry.  “In reaction to this tight definition of textiles,” Jo Ann C. Stabb wrote in Retro/Prospective: 25+ Years of Art Textiles and Sculpture (vol. 37), “Rossbach became fascinated by indigenous textile processes and the use of found materials as he studied artifacts in the anthropology collection at University of California, Berkeley, as a faculty member from 1950 to 1979. Noted for creating three-dimensional, structural forms from unexpected, humble materials including plastic, reeds, newspaper, stapled cardboard, twigs,  Rossbach inspired a renaissance in basketry and vessel forms and influenced other artists, including his students Gyöngy Laky and Lia Cook.”

Katherine Westphal Komono
Chuto-Haupa by Katherine Westphal, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

Katherine Westphal, who was married to Rossbach, generated experiments of her own.  In the late 60s she was among the first artists to use photocopy machines to make images for art. In the 1970s, in addition to drawings to baskets, she began creating wearable art, which, according to Glenn Adamson, former director of the Museum of Arts and Design. was a genre she essentially invented. She wanted it said of the graments she created:  “there wasn’t another one like it in the world, and most people probably wouldn’t be caught dead in it.”  Few were worn, most were hung on the wall like paintings.  Her work displayed wide-ranging, autobiographical themes, arising from her travels: Native American art from trips through the Southwest, cracked Greek pots viewed on a trip to the Met, portraits of geishas after visiting Japan. “I want to become a link in that long chain of human activity, the patterning on any surface available,” she said. 

Large Sylvia Seventy Paper Basket
Bound Vessel IX by Sylvia Seventy, 1983. Photo by Tom Grotta

Also in the 70s, Sylvia Seventy, inspired in part by her studies of the art of the Pomo Indians, was exploring her own innovative techniques in paper making.  In 1982, The New York Times said of her works, “The vessel forms of Sylvia Seventy, all produced over molds, are rich, earthy bowl shapes, with embedded bamboo, cotton cord and sisal.  From a distance they appear to be hard, perhaps stoneware; on closer inspection, they are fragile works.”  Her vessels feature an accretion of items: compositions of beads, feathers, fishhooks, googly eyes, hand prints, and buttons, creating what Charles Tally called “emotionally poignant landscapes within the interior of the vessel[s].” (Artweek, November 29, 1990). 

Deborah Valoma, author, art historian and creator of both textile and sculpture, heads the Textiles Program at the California College of Arts and Crafts (Oakland).  Valoma credits numerous influencers for her work: “I first learned to knit in Jerusalem from a Polish refugee of the Holocaust.  I learned to stitch lace from my grandmother, descendant of Armenian survivors of the Turkish massacres.  I learned to twine basketry from one of the few living masters of Native American basketweaving in California. These dedicated women tenaciously pass the threads of survival forward.  When their memory fails, my hands remember.  My hands trace the breathless pause when I teeter on the sharp edge of sorrow and beauty.”  Using hand-construction techniques and cutting-edge digital weaving technology, her work hugs the edges of traditional practice.  She upholds traditional customs and at the same time, unravels long-held stereotypes.  Valoma believes that students must locate themselves within historical lineages in order to understand the historical terrain they walk — and sometimes trip — through daily. 

Detail of Sigmund Freud Quote woven by Deborah Valoma
Detail of Femininity by Deborah Valoma, 2008
Grouping Marion Hildebrandt baskets
Baskets by Marion Hildebrandt, 2002-2003. Photo by Tom Grotta

Marion Hildebrandt lived and worked in Napa Valley, gathering most of the plant material used in her baskets from the region until her death in 2011.  “My works are a coming together of my life experiences,” Hildebrandt said.  “My basketmaking reflects a longtime interest and study of native California flora and fauna.”  Hildebrandt employed the same materials that Native Americans used when they inhabited the area.  “It is still possible to find plants here that were used by basketmakers 4000 years ago,” she noted. Although she never attempted to replicate their baskets, she shared a similar appreciation for the natural materials that surrounded her.  “Ever so subtly, plants cycle from winter to summer,” she observed. “Each day, week, month brings changes that effect the materials that I collect and use for my baskets.”

Detail of Judy Mulford Sculpture
Detail of Plan Your Parenthood-Population by Judy Mulford, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Further down the California coast, Judy Mulford continues to create her narrative sculptures and baskets of gourds.  Mulford studied Micronesian fiber arts and in the 70s was one of a group of women who worked on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.  She says each piece she creates “becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, surprise or a giggle.  And always, a feeling of being in touch with my female ancestral beginnings.”  Her sculptures integrate photo images, drawings, script, buttons and small figures.  Mulford explains: “The gourds are surrounded by knotless netting – an ancient looping technique – symbolic because it is also a buttonhole stitch historically rooted in the home.”

Angled Blue, 1989 and Markings and Blues, 2018 by Adela Akers. Photo by Tom Grotta

In the 1970s, Adela Akers on the East Coast teaching at Temple University, but she has been creating art as a resident of Califonia for the last 25 years. Drawing inspiration from African and South American textiles, Akers creates woven compositions of simple geometric shapes, bands, zigzags and checks.  Many of her works incorporate metal strips —  meticulously measured and cut from recycled California wine bottle caps.  Her techniques and materials produce images that change under different lighting conditions.  Akers also frequently incorporates horsehair into her weavings, adding texture and dimensionality.  Over time, Akers’ work has evolved in scale, material and construction. Yet, several themes reoccur, notably the use of line which, in conjunction with light, brings forth the transformative quality that uniquely characterizes her work.

From May 11th to June 7th, view an assortment of works by these artists at California Dreamin’ on Artsy



Our Spring Exhibition at browngrotta arts moves to September

New Date: September 12 to 20, 2020: Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber for Three Decades

Catalog cover for upcoming catalog: Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber for Three Decades
Catalog cover for upcoming catalog: Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber for Three Decades

Optimistic as we are about June — when we’d tentatively rescheduled our Spring exhibition — as being the time when we’ll have passed the illness apex and be able to go out and about once more, we’ve decided a new date in September makes more sense. We’re afraid that masks and gloves and disinfectant will still be de rigeur in June and they will impact viewers experience of the art. Air travel restrictions may still be be in place, which means fewer artists in attendance and and fewer out-of-town visitors.

Lija Rage, Dail Behennah, Gyöngy Laky, Blair Tate, Annette Bellamy
Lija Rage, Dail Behennah, Gyöngy Laky, Blair Tate, Annette Bellamy

An exciting exhibition: Both impacts would be unfair as Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber for Three Decades has shaped up to be an exciting show. It features significant works by Lia Cook, Gyöngy Laky, Aleksandra Stoyanov and Grethe Sørenson. Works by well-known but new-to-the-gallery artist, James Bassler, are included in addition to striking installations by Annette Bellamy and Agneta Hobin and new approaches by Tim Johnson, Kari Lønning, Carolina Yrarrazával and Dail Behennah. Strong works by Chiyoko Tanaka, Neha Puri Dhir and Adela Akers are among other offerings from the more than 60 artists participating.

Fiber Optic installation by Włodzimierz Cygan, Traps,  2019
Fiber Optic installation by Włodzimierz Cygan, Traps, 2019

So, in 2020, our Spring show will become a Fall show. The Artist Reception and Opening will be onSaturday, September 12th. We’ll welcome you all then with whatever precautions are appropriate.

In the meantime, online: As a run up to September, we’ll be presenting a series of online exhibitions on Artsy highlighting artists and catalogs from our archives:

May 11th: Catalog Look back: California Dreaming Vols. 26, 20, 6 and more

June 8th: Catalog Look back: Cross Currents – Arts Influenced by Rivers and the Sea Vols. 38, 35 and more

July 13th: Catalog Look back: Fan Favorites — Sekimachi, Sekijima, Laky and Merkel-Hess,Vols. 24, 19, 2, 3, 8, 5, 15, 16, 19 and more

August 10th: Catalog Look back: Cataloging the Canon – Tawney, Stein, Cook, Hicks and So Monographs: 1-3; Focus: 1, Vols. 13, 28

Until then, we’ll keep posting content on arttextstyle and our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Stay safe and well! We’ll see you in in person in September and online between now and then.


browngrotta arts Joins 1st Dibs

browngrotta arts installation
Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, Ed Rossbach, Naoko Serino, Michael Radyk, Luba Krejci, Adela Akers. Photo by Tom Grotta

We are excited to be joining the group of exclusive dealers and galleries on the online marketplace 1st Dibs this month. In 2001, 1st Dibs was founded by Michael Bruno after a visit to Paris’s legendary antiques market, Marché Aux Puces. From its origins with a few hand-selected dealers, 1st Dibs has become a global destination for those who must have ‘first dibs’ on treasures — from around the world — that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Jolanta Owidska tapestry
4jo Jolanta Owidska, MARGARET VIII, flax, sisal and wool, 57″ x 39″, 1977. Photo by Tom Grotta


“Most people want authenticity in their lives, and most especially in their homes,” says CEO, David Rosenblatt. “Home is the expression of one’s personality and interests. The objects in our marketplace are different than what everyone else has. Our customers don’t want their homes to look like a page out of a catalog or be the same furnishings you can buy in a furniture store.”

Micheline Beauchemin small gold textile
5mb Gold Laugh, Micheline Beauchemin, metallic and acrylic thread, cotton, 25.25” x 21.25” x 2.25”, 1980-85. Photo by Tom Grotta


Accordingly, browngrotta arts’ presence on 1st Dibs will begin with a few dozen carefully curated works by respected artists from the US, Europe and Asia, including Adela Akers, Jolanta Owidzka, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette and Ethel Stein. A number of these works share a mid-century sensibility. All reflect the clean and contemporary aesthetic for which browngrotta is known.

Blair Tate Tapestry
2bt Jaiselmer, Blair Tate, linen, cotton rope and aluminum, 73″ x 39″, 1999


As we have discovered at browngrotta arts, the audience for art is global and they want to explore — and purchase– art on their own time. “It’s the way people want to buy.” Rosenblatt says. “It works across all time zones and allows us to create lots of advantages for our buyers and sellers that don’t exist in an advertising model.”


All 5 million of 1st Dibs’ customers can find something truly unique and different on the site — art or one-of-a-kind objects and design — and now, they’ll fine unique works from browngrotta, as well. Find us there at https://www.1stdibs.com/dealers/browngrotta-arts/?search=browngrotta%20arts and in 1st Dibs’ weekly online magazine, Introspective: https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/richard-meier-grotta-house/.


Asia Art Week – Transforming Tradition: Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft Part I

In honor of of Asia Art Week 2020 this March, browngrotta arts has collated contemporary works by 12 artists born in Japan and Korea for an online exhibition, Transforming Tradition: Japanese and Korean Contemporary Craft. The works include ceramics, weavings, baskets and sculptures made of paper and silk.

Kayoryi thread and paper towers by Naomi Kobayashi
55nk Untitled, Naomi Kobayashi, , Naomi Kobayashi, kayori thread, paper, 99″ x 54″ x 5″ (x2), 2006
Masakazu Kobayashi Sound Collage N99
22mk Sound Collage N99, Masakazu Kobayashi, silk, rayon, and aluminum, 55” x 115” x 5”, 1999


Notable in the exhibition are paper sculptures by Naomi Kobayashi and an elegant silk thread assemblage by her late husband, Masakazu Kobayashi. The couple often collaborated, working on installations that combined elements created by each of them. “These works express a shared vision and such common themes as the tranquility of nature, the infinity of the universe and the Japanese spirit,” Masakuzu once explained. “Naomi and I work in fiber because natural materials have integrity, are gentle and flexible. In my own work, I search for an equilibrium between my capacity as a creator and the energy of the world around me.”

The Seashore by Keiji Nio
25kn The Seashore, Keiji Nio, polyester, aramid fiber 48” x 48,” 2019

Keiji Nio’s interlaced wall work is inspired by a haiku, Rough Sea of Sado, from Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho’s haiku series. In it, Basho describes the deep blue waves of the Sea of Japan as they are reflected in the night sky and the light blue waves hitting the beach. The work incorporates ribbons on which Nio has screened images from the sea and tiny pebbles from the shore. Nio is a faculty member at the Kyoto University of Art & Design, who combines industrial and natural materials in his works to make statements about nature and man’s relationship to the world.

You can view Transforming Tradition: Japanaese and Korean Contemporary Contemporary Craft Online by visiting browngrotta arts’ You Tube channel at: https://youtu.be/uPzR-5EXyGI . You can see each individual work in the exhibition on Artsy: https://www.artsy.net/show/browngrotta-arts-transforming-tradition-japanese-and-korean-contemporary-craft and learn more about the artists included by visiting arttextstyle http://arttextstyle.com and browngrotta arts’ website: http://www.browngrotta.com

Artists included:
Chiyoko Tanaka (Japan)
Jiro Yonezawa (Japan)
Masakazu Kobayshi (Japan)
Naomi Kobayashi (Japan)
Kyoko Kumai (Japan)
Kiyomi Iwata (Japan/US)
Yasuhisa Kohyama (Japan)
Keiji Nio (Japan)
Hisako Sekijima (Japan)
Toshio Sekiji (Japan)
Jin-Sook So (Korea)
Chang Yeonsoon (Korea)

about browngrotta arts
browngrotta arts represents the work of more than 100 international contemporary textile and fiber artists. The firm has published 49 art catalogs and placed art work in dozens of private and corporate collections in the US and abroad, as well as in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Arts and Design, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum. browngrotta arts’ website, http://www.browngrotta.com, and its blog, http://arttextstyle.com, are destination sites for art consultants, interior designers, collectors and practitioners.


Art Assembled: New This Week February

The month of February was a busy, but delightful month for us! We’ve been hard at work preparing for Asia Art Week and managing our exhibitions. Although it’s been busy, it’s never too busy to highlight our spectacular artists. Here’s some of the new artwork that we brought into the fold last month:

Toshio Sekiji
33ts Asian Fugue, Toshio Sekiji, Chineses, Japanese and Korean newspapers, lacquered, 14’ x 3’ unframed, 1999.

Japanese artist Toshio Sekiji intertwines strips of paper from various cultures, rewriting messages and imaging a harmonius confluence of disparate cultures, languages and nationalities – different than the facts on the ground. 

John McQueen
John McQueen, 30jm In Praise of Empty, sticks and waxed string, 27” x 31.75” x 31.25”, 2019.

John McQueen meticulously creates pieces that concentrate on form and texture that invoke word and world associations. Some of these are made by the viewer, others are there in the artist’s intent. One is initially awed by the form — the words of twigs and waxed linen that edge the vessel — then challenged to decipher the words: What’s Behind and Before You.

5gp Framed, Gudrun Pagter, linen, sisal and flax, 65” x 60”, 2018.

“I am engaged in a constant process of exploring the picture plane through a highly disciplined structuring of geometrical form elements and lines and through a restricted color spectrum,” explains Gudrun Pagter. “With few lines or a single line, it is possible to transform a two-dimensional plane into a three- dimensional space,” Pagter notes. “Through the years my compositions have become simpler and simpler. Do not look for a specific pictorial motif,” she tells viewers. “My composition’s “image” is abstract not specific, an image of concrete art. The image is what you see and experience.”


Art & Identity: A Sense of Place

In our 2019 Art in the Barn exhibition, we asked artists to address the theme of identity. In doing so, several of the participants in Art + Identity: an international view, wrote eloquently about places that have informed their work. For Mary Merkel-Hess, that place is the plains of Iowa, which viewers can feel when viewing her windblown, bladed shapes. A recent work made a vivid red orange was an homage to noted author, Willa Cather’s plains’ description, “the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed,” a view that Merkel-Hess says she has seen.

Micheline Beauchemin Golden Garden detail
Micheline Beauchemin 3mb Golden Garden nylon cord, metalic thread, sisal and plexiglass 42” x 10.5”, circa 1966-68

The late Micheline Beauchemin traveled extensively from her native Montreal. Europe, Asia, the Middle East, all influenced her work but depictions of the St. Lawrence River were a constant thread throughout her career. The river, “has always fascinated me,” she admitted, calling it, “a source of constant wonder” (Micheline Beauchemin, les éditions de passage, 2009). “Under a lemon yellow sky, this river, leaded at certain times, is inhabited in winter, with ice wings without shadows, fragile and stubborn, on which a thousand glittering lights change their colors in an apparent immobility.” To replicate these effects, she incorporated unexpected materials like glass, aluminum and acrylic blocks that glitter and reflect light and metallic threads to translate light of frost and ice.

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila Triple Weave
Triple weave Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila silk, alpaca, moriche, metalliic yarns, copper, natural dyes, 71” x 48.25”, 2016


Mérida, Venezuela, the place they live, and can always come back to, has been a primary influence on Eduardo Portillo’s and Maria Davila’s way of thinking, life and work. Its geography and people have given them a strong sense of place. Mérida is deep in the Andes Mountains, and the artists have been exploring this countryside for years. Centuries-old switchback trails or “chains” that historically helped to divide farms and provide a mountain path for farm animals have recently provided inspiration and the theme for a body of work, entitled Within the MountainsNebula, the first work from this group of textiles, is owned by the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

Birgit Birkkjærs  Ode for the Ocean
Birgit Birkkjær, 65bb Ode for the Ocean, linen and stones, shells, fossils, etc. from the sea 30” x 30” x 4,” 2019

Birgit Birkkjaer’s Ode for the Ocean is composed of many small woven boxes with items from the sea — stones, shells, fossils and so on — on their lids. ” It started as a diary-project when we moved to the sea some years ago,” she explains. “We moved from an area with woods, and as I have always used materials from the place where I live and where I travel, it was obvious I needed now to draw sea-related elements into my art work.”

Polly Bartons Continuum I, II, III detail
4pb Continuum I, II, III, Polly Barton, silk, double ikat, 19” x 52” x 1.75,” 2018

“I am born and raised in the Northeast,” says Polly Barton, “trained to weave in Japan, and have lived most of my life in the American Southwest. These disparate places find connection in the woven fabric that is my art, the internal reflections of landscape.” In works like Continuum i, ii, iii, Barton uses woven ikat as her “paintbrush,” to study native Southwestern sandstone. Nature’s shifting elements etched into the stone’s layered fascia reveal the bands of time. “Likewise, in threads dyed and woven, my essence is set in stone.”

Paul Furneauxs City Trees II and City Lights II detail
1 & 2pf City Trees II and City Lights II, Paul Furneaux, Detail

For Paul Furneaux, geographic influences are varied, including time spent in Mexico, at Norwegian fjords and then, Japan, where he studied Japanese woodblock, Mokuhanga “After a workshop in Tokyo,” he writes, “I found myself in a beautful hidden-away park that I had found when I first studied there, soft cherry blossom interspersed with brutal modern architecture. When I returned to Scotland, I had forms made for me in tulip wood that I sealed and painted white. I spaced them on the wall, trying to recapture the moment. The forms say something about the architecture of those buildings but also imbue the soft sensual beauty of the trees, the park, the blossom, the soft evening light touching the sides of the harsh glass and concrete blocks.” 


Exhibition News: Three Days to See Carolina Yrarrázaval’s Solo Exhibition in Chile

Carolina Yrarrázaval's solo exhibition in Chile photo by Patricia Novoa Cortez

Carolina Yrarrázaval’s solo exhibition, Capas de Recuerdos, at the Centro Cultural Las Condes, closes on December 1st. Yrarrázaval has a number of new works in the exhibition, which you can glimpse here.

The title translates as “Layer of Memories” which reflects the layers of the weave, the years of research work, the volumes of textures that feature in Carolina Yrarrázaval’s work. Yrarrázaval draws on different manifestations and cultures, from pre-Hispanic geometry to the subtlety and mystery of Japanese textiles. Her work features a formal and chromatic purity, achieved through the use of colors achieved through a personal dyeing process.

Carolina Yrarrázaval's Tapestries  photo by Patricia Novoa Cortez


The exhibition include 20 tapestries woven in vertical loom, featuring folds, saddlebags and overlapping fabrics. The materials she uses are vegetable fibers – jute, hemp, linen, silk. The colors are deep and saturated, created through her personal dyeing process.

Carolina Yrarrázaval's Tapestry  photo by Patricia Novoa Cortez


The Center is at Apoquindo 6570, Las Condes. For more information, visit: https://www.estoy.cl/teatro/capas-de-recuerdos/


Art Assembled — New this Week from October

As we kick off Novembers with our release of the Grotta Collection exhibition and book launch, which runs from November 3rd to November 10th, https://www.artsy.net/show/browngrotta-arts-artists-from-the-grotta-collection-exhibition-and-book-launch, we’d like to take a look back on which artist made October so special for us. 

Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila triple weave mosaic tapestry
Triple weave, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, silk, alpaca, moriche, metalliic yarns, copper, natural dyes, 71” x 48.25”, 2016

October starts the final quarter of the year, and it also brings in much excitement as the new year is nearing. With new beginnings, we began our New This Week feature in October with works from Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila. Their work is driven by their relationship with their surroundings and how their artwork can be communicated within a contemporary textile language. “ We have always been passionate about knowledge, experimentation and especially its reinterpretation within our own place and culture, in Mérida, in the Venezuelan Andes, we also work with local materials, such as cotton and alpaca from Peru and Bolivia, fiber from the moriche and chiqui-chique palm trees of the Orinoco River Delta and Amazon region, as well as dyes from the indigo plant. For us, color is crucial. Our interest in color starts at its very foundations: how it is obtained, where it is found in nature, in objects, in people. Through color, we discover the way to follow each project.” – Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Eugenia Dávila
For more on Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila visit Artist Link: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/portillo.php

Mary Giles figurative wall dolls
Mary Giles, 11mg Annointed Rank, waxed linen, wire, bone, paint, gesso, 10”(h) x 31”, 1997

We are always intrigued by the wide variety of artwork that we have the pleasure of showcasing here at browngrotta arts. We strive not only to share the final products but also behind the scenes of the processes that go into creating the work on that ends up on our gallery walls. Our next October New This Week artist was Mary Giles, a St. Croix, Minnesota based fiber artist, and sculptor.

Over the past four decades, Giles helped move the boundaries of basket weaving and earned international recognition for her art, which is characterized by coiled waxed-linen bases adorned with hammered metal or fine wire that brings to mind tree bark, fish scales, feathers or fur.
“My baskets express both action and reaction to what I have loved in the past and what I am discovering today.” Mary Giles
For more on Mary Giles visit Artist Link: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/giles.php

Willow boat basket sculpture
44cj Boat Becoming River, Christine Joy, willow 14” x 31” x 10”, 2018

Did you know that Weeping willow trees, which are native to northern China, are beautiful and fascinating trees whose lush, curved form is instantly recognizable? Did you also know that in addition to her basketmaking addiction, Christine Joy is also addicted to the smell of willow branches. In her studio, you will find willow branches that are piled high, and even when she doesn’t have time to make something, she takes a little visit into her very own willow heaven as much as she can. “Because it takes so long for one work of art, it has really become my own art therapy, which is ironic because that is what I got my degree in, to help others through art,” Joy said. “But now making these expressions is my. Willow is my life.” 
For more on Christine Joy visit Artist Link: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/joy.php

Stéphanie Jacques installation
10sj Retournement en cours I, Stephanie Jacques, 36″ x 77″ x 14″, 2014-2016

One of the great joys we have is having the opportunity to share such fantastic work with incredible artists from all over the world. It is a pleasure sharing works from Stéphanie Jacques from Belgium in our new book The Grotta Home by Richard Meier: A Marriage of Architecture and Craft. Stéphanie Jacques once said, “Connecting things is the foundation of my work: hard and soft, old and new, valuable and trivial, conscious and unconscious, human and plant.”
For more on Stéphanie Jacques visit: http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/jacques.php