New Viewing Room: Art With an Edge – the case for frames

68-69bb Mini Basket Symphony in Black & White, Birgit Birkkjær ashes, glued, horsehair/cotton yarn, linen, paper yarn, polyamide, viscose, 19.25″ x 19.25″ x 2” each, 2019. Gessoed Poplar floater frames. Photo by Tom Grotta

Contemporary textile works are often installed effectively right on the wall. Dimensional textiles in particular rarely need an edge. Yet, there are some works that can manage the counterpoint of an artful frame. There are works given more emhasis by the addition of a shadow box or an edge. A frame can also protect a textile from touching and from dust and, with UV glass, even from sunlight to some degree. In our current Viewing Room, Art With an Edge: the case for framing, we are sharing a number of works that feature frames.

Mary Luke of browngrotta arts planning Maple for multiple frames

Many artists are content to let galleries or museums or collectors handle frames. Other artists are intentional about frames, often going so far as making frames themselves. Members of the Ashcan School (late 19th-early 20th century) wanted frames that reflected “the raw, unsentimental spirit of their work, not that of an Old-World cathedral,” notes Eleanor Cummins. (Is It Time to Recognize Frames as an Independent Art Form?, Smithsonian Magazine, June 29, 2020). Georgia O’Keeffe wanted viewers to consider the way the shapes, colors, line and composition worked, without distractions, explains Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. To ensure her vision was realized, O’Keeffe worked with Of, the New York City frame maker, to develop eight distinct frames that precisely suited her paintings. Scott Rothstein, whose works are available at browngrotta arts, says he thinks of the frame as a part of the work itself. “The black matte and the frame tightly control how the work is seen,” he says, “which is something I have done with intent. My work can’t be seen any other way.”

Scott Rothstein
25sr #47, Scott Rothstein, hand stiched silk thread on silk ground, in black wood frame with denglass, 13″ x 25″ , 1993. Photo by Tom Grotta

An unabashed fan of frames, Matthew Jones, managing director of the framers and conservationists firm, John Jones London argues that, it’s really about harmony. “A good frame can completely change a work. I very much want the outcome of the project to offer what I call ‘the three wows’. When you first see a work that’s been framed, you should be drawn immediately to the image itself. We then like the eye to cast out to the frame, and — finally — to make a connection with the object in its entirety. If you’ve got a slight imperfection on the frame, or a slight imbalance in colour, it’s going to distract you from your enjoyment of the image.” (“How to choose the right frame for your picture,” Christie’s online, https://www.christies.com/features/How-to-choose-the-right-frame-for-your-picture-10005-1.aspx).

Barnscape by Susie Gillespie, hand spun and machine-spun linen yarn, cotton, nettle, raffia, gesso, earth pigments, 27.5″ x 27.5″ x 1″, 2011. White-washed maple frame with museum glass. Photo by Tom Grotta

At browngrotta arts, we rely on the expertise of Mary Luke https://www.maryluke.com, our Gallery Associate. Luke is a painter, stylist and designer — but also an experienced framer. “Artwork that would otherwise be lost on a wall can be given a strong, powerful voice with a simple mat and frame.” Material and color offer options, Luke says. “Material and color can be used to contrast or blend with the artwork — either way, though, the artwork should always remain the focal point.”

More Framed work from the exhibition

Check out more of Mary Luke’s Framing Q&A in the Art With an Edge Viewing Room. You’ll find 50+ works of art with various frames — shadow boxes, natural edges, perspex, plexiboxes, frames with mats — illustrating their possibility and potential.

“Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.” G.K. Chesterton


Art Assembled: New This Week in February

February has been a busy month at browngrotta arts, as we move quickly into 2022, we have been hard at work planning our spring exhibition and introducing you all to the talented artists we have the opportunity to work with. Most recently, we’ve introduced our followers to works by: Jiro Yonezawa, Keiji Nio, Masako Yoshida, and Jo Barker. All uniquely different and exceptionally talented – it’s worth a recap to ensure you all see these impressive works.

This one of a kind piece, Red Fossil, comes from acclaimed Japanese artist, Jiro Yonezawa. Yonezawa’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally on a large scale, and he was also featured in our Japandi exhibition. Yonezawa is widely known for his mastery of bamboo basketry created from traditional techniques; with each artwork he creates, there is often a contrast of disciplined formality in technique and natural freedom in form. 

He has said 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.” 

Flowers is one of our favorite pieces from Keiji Nio. If you don’t know by now, Keiji Nio is a Japanese artist, who is commonly known for impeccable plaiting and textile works. Nio’s work is done through the traditional technique of Kumihimo, a Japanese form of braid-making.

In this particular piece, Nio said he drew inspiration from flowers he observed online amid the pandemic: “The picture of the flower used for this work was taken when I was looking for the flower that emphasized red, yellow and green in the botanical garden,” said Keiji Nio. “Now that I can’t go out freely, I made a work using these flowers as materials so that I can feel the vivid color and fragrance of these flowers which we’ll experience again in the world after COVID is cured.” 

Another gifted artist we highlighted throughout February was Masako Yoshida. Yoshida is a Japanese artist who has committed much of her career to also teaching her techniques, which have resulted in work being exhibited worldwide.

Often, the constructions Yoshida envisions are built by interlacing sheets of walnut bark with string made of nettle. She has said that her work often provides her a means of release, allowing the truth to emerge and open the mind.

Jo Barker is British textile artist who has been long known for her complex designs and woven tapestries that are based upon a long-term interest in color. This contemporary abstract tapestry, Cobalt Haze, is no exception.

When explaining her inspirations, Barker said: “My current work is a part of an ongoing series of tapestries exploring themes initially inspired by qualities and patterns of light: transient and ephemeral starting points translated slowly into woven form. I am interested in the contradiction of the contrast in materials between the flowing nature of ink and paint and the illusion of fluidity translated into soft, richly colored yarns.

We hope you all enjoyed this recap and opportunity to learn more about the artists we work with. Follow along throughout March to see more new artwork at browngrotta arts!


Artist Focus: Hideho Tanaka

Hideho Tanaka portrait
Hideho Tanaka at the opening of Fiber FuturesJapan’s Textile Pioneers in New York, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

Japanese artist Hideho Tanaka, now in his 80s, explores contradictory elements in his work, using time, which he sees as an agent of change, as one guide to his aesthetic choices.

Tanaka studied industrial art and design at the Musashino Art University, in Tokyo. Beginning in 1972, Tanaka taught art, while participating in solo and group exhibitions As a teacher, Tanaka explained, he worked to nurture younger generations, as artists, to think not only of soft cloth, but also less-used materials such as wood, paper pulp and stainless steel thread.

Vanishing and Emerging Rocks
22ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-A, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 11.5″ x 10″, 1995; 23ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-B, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 11″ x 11″, 1995; 25ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-D, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 8.5″ x 7.5″, 1995; 26ht Vanishing & Emerging P32-E, Hideho Tanaka, paper and burnt steel wire, 8″ x 8″ x 8.25″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

In the 1980s, Tanaka expanded the scale of his activities and began large-scale outdoor performances and installations in which he covered dunes with cloth which he burned. In subsequent years, under the theme of Vanishing & Emerging (disappearance and transformation), he continued these explorations — burning metal fibers and other aspects of his works. “He uses fire to suggest destructive force or benign transformation .… He often creates simple solids, opposing the specificity of the materials to the generality of the forms and burning holes in the cloth or singeing the edges of the solids to invade their geometric austerity.” Janet Koplos, Contemporary Japanese Sculpture (Abbeville Press, New York, NY, 1991).

Vanishing and Emerging Wall detail
16ht Vanishing and Emerging Wall, Hideho Tanaka, paper, 87” x 102” x 11”, 2009. Photo by Tom Grotta

Tanaka also expanded his art practice in the 80’s to include the creation of art textiles using paper — Tanaka also expanded his art practice in the 80’s to textiles using paper — creating dynamic works by virtue of the material used in the works and their sense of scale. The artist explained his interest in fiber in the catalog for Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers (Japan Society, New York, distributed Yale University Press 2011an exhibition that travelled internationally in Europe, the US and Europe. “Why did I start thinking about fiber art as a medium? It was partly because I was attracted to the idea of expressing myself in a subtle yet intractable material, but I was also intrigued by the challenge of turning something accidental into a deliberate work of art,” he said. “I’m acutely aware of accidents that actually help me achieve the expression I was striving for and other accidents that take my work in a completely different direction.”

The sculptural sense of Tanaka’s art is exciting — the works are light and yet have enormous presence. In his smaller objects, several layers of thin wire have been loosely bound, sometimes with piles of light-colored fibers, sometimes coated with paper pulp. He creates a contrast between the stiff wire and the short pieces of malleable fiber, the uniform wire and pulp in freeform. The large elliptical wall hanging, Vanishing and Emerging, wall (2009), takes a different approach. “Intricately crafted from ink-lined squares of paper, it is a kind of ode to the natural weight, thickness and movement of the cotton, flax and paper fibers from which the panels are made, emphasizing the material’s natural flow so that the piece seems to have a life of its own. The result is a subtle trick of the eye: The textile is at once rippled and featherlight yet geometrically robust with parallel and perpendicular lines that appear to be woven together like a dense and tidy network of veins in a leaf,” wrote Alexandra Zagalsky, “Hideho Tanaka Carefully Stitched Together Pieces to Make this Sculptural Textile,” Introspective Magazine, September 22, 2021.

Emerging Wall Collage
29, 31ht Emerging, Hideho Tanaka, japanese carbon ink drawing, inkjet print, collage (cotton cloth which put a Japanese tissue paper.), 14.5” x 18.25” x 1”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Tanaka’s work “deals with both philosophical and metaphysical ideas, and he often endeavors to connect the realm of the physical world with unseen spiritual planes. He attempts to bridge this gap through forms that suggest the frailty and transience of the human experience,” writes the Minneapolis of Art which has acquired his work. “The medium of fiber is versatile and allows Tanaka creative freedom.” His work seamlessly spans the categories of fiber art and sculpture. 


Cross-country Exhibition News: New Mexico, Minnesota, New York, Connecticut

Work by a number of artists who work with browngrotta arts is on display in museum exhibitions across the country. From West to East:

New Mexico

Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe
Albuquerque Museum
through April 24, 2022
abqmuseum@cabq.gov

James Bassler and Rowland Ricketts

We were delighted to loan several works to the Albuquerque Museum’s for Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe, an expansive survey of the origins and history, techniques and movement of indigo, tracing back more than 6,000 years across cultures in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. The exhibition includes clothing and works of art by Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Dávila (VE), Hiroyuki Shindo (JP), Chiyoko Tanaka (JP), James Bassler (US), Chang Yeonsoon (KR) and Rowland Ricketts.

Minnesota

Parallel Lines: New Textile Masterworks Inspired by Geometry
Minneapolis Museum of Art
Minneapolis, MN
through August 28, 2022
https://new.artsmia.org/exhibition/parallel-lines-new-textile-masterworks-inspired-by-geometry

Adela Akers Compostela
Adela Akers, Compostela, 1986, Photos by Adela Akers

Parallel Lines explores woven textiles, which are inherently geometric. Vertical warp and horizontal weft threads impose a gridded framework that is necessarily linear and two-dimensional. It guides but it also constrains. Presented here is a group of newly acquired textile works, all on view for the first time, which bear witness to artistic experiments in color and form that both celebrate and defy this intrinsic geometry. Included in this exhibition is Compostela, 1985, the Museum’s recent acquisition by Adela Akers. The work is geometrically intricate and also presents as two works, depending upon the side from which it is viewed. Helena Hernmarck’s work, Euclid’s Elements, 1995, also in the exhibition, expertly creates an optical illusion involving a ball, a pyramid and rainbow, rendering a “sculptural multimedia assemblage within a two-dimensional wool textile.”

New York

Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science
Tang Museum, Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY
through June 12, 2022
See More

Lia Cook Connectome
Connectome , Lia Cook, woven cotton and rayon , 72″ x 51”, 2013. Photo by Lia Cook

For centuries, fiber arts have influenced practical, theoretical, and pedagogical areas of the sciences as diverse as digital technology, mathematics, neuroscience, medicine, and more. Radical Fiber: Threads Connecting Art and Science explores this relationship through contemporary art and historical artifacts centered on four key themes: shape, body, brain and machine. A celebration of interdisciplinary creativity and collaborative learning, Radical Fiber foregrounds each work as at once fine art, process-driven craft, and scientific tool, complicating existing frameworks across fields. Can a crochet hook and yarn uniquely explain the complexities of non-Euclidean geometry? Why does the 1804 Jacquard loom relate to modern computing? How did the accidental discovery of synthetic mauveine dye in 1856 pave the way for modern pharmaceuticals yet also generate toxic environmental impact? Why do we respond differently to a woven photograph than a printed one? These and other questions will reframe the histories of fiber/science intersections and ask not only how artists continue to engage in scientific inquiry through fiber, but also importantly, how the medium can be used to improve our world for the future.

During this exhibition a study will be conducted in the neuroscience lab using woven faces (by Lia Cook)

Connecticut

The Westport Idea
Museum of Contemporary Art
Westport, Connecticut
Through March 12, 2022
https://mocawestport.org/the-westport-idea/

Norma Minkowitz From Nothing to Nothing
Norma Minkowitz, From Nothing to Nothing, 4×12” 1986  cotton fiber, colored pencil, metal screen, shellac 1986; Paul Camacho, Portrait of a Girl with Striped Shirt 1966; Lisa Daugherty, Synagogue 67th Street, 1962 
Westport Public Art Collections, Photo by Jenna Bascom Photography

The Westport Idea features a diverse range of selections from Westport, Connecticut Public Art Collections (WestPAC) holdings of more than 2,000 artworks. Most of these works, by 50 different artists, have been housed in public schools and municipal buildings, not always accessible to the public. The collection includes works by Alex Katz, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Mitchell, Robert Indiana and Norma Minkowitz. Her 1986 work, From Nothing to Nothing, is made of cotton fiber, colored pencil, metal screen and shellac. The vessel is both knitted and crocheted, a departure for her at that time. The exterior is knitted, the ball is crocheted with metallic screen in the background. The work, says Minkowitz, is about perpetual isolation, loneliness and entrapment as were many of her vessels during this period.


Art Assembled: New This Week in January

We’ve been kicking off the year at browngrotta arts with some impressive art, and we’re excited to keep it coming for the rest of the year! In January, we introduced our followers to art from Eva Vargö, Ane Henriksen, Hisako Sekijima, Gjertrud Hals, Blair Tate and so many more talented artists. Just in case you missed it, we’re recapping it here so you can view all of their impressive works in one place.

This art, Japandí, was created by Swedish artist, Eva Vargö. When creating this piece, Vargö used Japanese and Korean book papers collected throughout her travels across East Asia. Vargö integrated these materials through a complex process where she fused paper and linen-thread materials into her weaving technique. When asked about why she creates, she has said she often weaves to deals with life’s fast pace.

“The working process is often repetitive and so it becomes meditative,” said Eva Vargö. “Mostly it gives me some peace of mind and my aim is to work at a slow pace. To be able to do one thing at a time without rush and to let go – to meet the unforeseen. I want to trust my intuition and my inner voice.”

This artwork, Reserve, was handwoven by Danish artist Ane Henriksen. This profound piece was created with the intention of highlighting some of the ecological peril that was see in our society today. When explaining this piece, Henriksen said:

“Nature is threatened,” said Ane 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 add 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 as we store exquisite objects from our past history in our museums.”

Suspended Decision was created by acclaimed Japanese artist Hisako Sekijima. In the art world, Sekijima has long been recognized as an artist whose innovation and artistry seem to know few bounds as her techniques and approaches extend well beyond traditional basketing making. 

“I call myself a basketmaker because I inform my work by thinking and processing the nature and history of basketry,” said Hisako Sekijima. “And also, because in order to realize the ideas, I choose to use materials and structural methods that have typically been used for basketmaking. It pleases me that my ideas and the final results of my work expand the boundary well beyond what I once thought of as the domain of basketry.”

Norwegian artist, Gjertrud Hals, consistently pushes the envelope and impresses with her creative knitted vessels. Hals was born and raised on the northwestern coast Norway and has spent much of her time traveling and learning about various cultures, and she has discussed how these experiences largely influence her work today. More specifically, Hals has discussed how India, Jordan, Norway and Japan have had a significant impact on her artwork.

“As a seasoned traveler I have observed many different cultures,” said Gjertrud Hals. “Much of my artistic work is an attempt at expressing the connection between the islands micro-history and the world’s macro-history.”

This piece comes from American artist, Blair Tate. Tate has been creating contemporary work since the 1970’s under the influence of the 60’s minimalism and modernist architecture and is known for exploring flat, woven grids in her work.

Pangaea was created last year amid the pandemic and was featured in our exhibition Adaptation: Artists Respond to Change. When creating this specific piece, Tate said she consciously wove to the very limits of her warp to minimize loom waste. Whereas in the past she said she may have incorporated interruptions in the strips while weaving, thereby wasting the unwoven warp; in Pangaea, the gaps emerge only in the rearranging.

Like what you see? We introduce new art every Monday! Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with our latest works.


Trends Observed, Part 2

As we wrote earlier this month, in December 2021, we were asked to talk to a group of fiber artists about trends we had observed in browngrotta arts’ 30+ years in the art textiles field. Here is second of two arttextstyle posts on the insights we shared with that group. In the last post (January 12, 2022) we spoke about fiber art’s resurgence from 2004 on, after a few decades of the medium’s being on the art world’s out list.  In this post, we’ll discuss two art trends that we have seen propel fiber art’s growing popularity.

Democratization 

The most important of these trends is the democratization of the art experience which the internet, among other cultural changes, has wrought. Art lovers now find work by scrolling the internet from the Google home page to museums’ digitized collections. Pinterest users compile images of artwork they find everywhere. Art lovers do not approach art chronologically as museums required or by movement or medium or by fine art versus decorative art. Galleries and museums are no longer the gatekeepers. Current art viewers have no patience for exclusionary labels – they are content to just like what they like. In a corresponding change, online sales have quadrupled in the last several years, doubling between 2019 to 2020 alone.

online art

Galleries and Museums Take Note

The move toward a more inclusive approach to art and artists is evident in what galleries exhibit. It wasn’t that many years ago that an art fair we attended posted large signs dividing Fine Art from the section that housed glass, ceramics and other mediums, Our booth was near the signs and we saw people abruptly turn heel, rather than look at artwork labeled other than “fine art.” Quite a contrast to today’s Art Basel booths, where a mix of media – often including fiber art – is the norm. 

Yale University show ceramics
Ceramic Presence in Modern Art at the Yale Art Gallery in 2015

Museums have been forced to respond to democratization, too. Fiber art is not the only medium that has benefited from this trend – all craft media have. The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art at the Yale Art Gallery in 2015, masterfully combined 80 ceramics with paintings from their permanent collection by artists such as de Kooning, Noguchi and Mark Rothko. The curators cited a dissolution of boundaries and hierarchies, where artists bear less allegiance to any particular historical medium or tradition, opting instead to use “whatever materials best suit their ideas at a given moment.” 

Meernalini Mukherjee at MoMa
Meernalini Mukherjee at MoMa

The trend toward democratization means a pointed inclusion of women artists and artists from underrepresented groups. Traditionally excluded by curators and critics, institutions have committed to changing the racial and gender composition of their collections. The reopening of MoMA in 2019, announced, with great fanfare, “a reimagined approach to its presentation of modern and contemporary art.” A work by newly appreciated Indian fiber artist Meernalini Mukherjee held center court. CBS News reported that MoMA planned to add five times as many women artists as before to its collection. And Director Glenn Lowry described the elimination of departments and the creation of displays that would mix paintings, sculpture, photography, architecture, design and new media in a way that feels much more “whole and real.”

Mariyo Yagi sculpture
Mariyo Yagi 300-pound sculpture. Photo by Tom Grotta

Appreciating Art Without Labels 

We’ve seen this new openness to art – without labels — in our business, too. Fewer people compare work we show to other art forms – no longer needing to place it in a context that’s familiar. We’ve sold important work through online platforms to clients that we have next-to-no contact with, including a large tapestry to an executive in Peru and the 300-pound sculpture pictured in this post to a large company in Indonesia. And museums are willing to look at art that’s by artists other than the stalwarts of the field. We’ve placed work by Eduardo Portillo and Mariá Dávila, Venezuela, Aleksandra Stoyanov of Israel and Chang Yeonsoon of Korea in museum collections.  As Forbes Magazine notes: “The expectation that craft techniques will be seen in an art museum … allows the techniques to flourish, to facilitate new artistic expression, and to make new meaning.”

Democratization (and the pandemic) has meant that people are more willing to find art in unexpected places – including a renovated barn in Wilton, Connecticut. We’ve had busloads of students from Canada, textile fans from Chile, collectors from California, and curators from Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri. More people now travel to us from New York and fewer people balk at buying art from Connecticut and not New York.

Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party

Illustrating concerns about political issues and the environment

A second trend we’ve observed in the last decade is a more explicit presentation of concerns about political issues and the environment. The re-examination of the origins of fiber in the last few years brought attention to the important role that feminism had played, particularly in the 70s – as artists used fiber art to take a provocative stance against the male domination of “pure” art forms such as Minimalism. Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is probably the best-known feminist work from this period; it was the subject of a retrospective at the de Young Museum in San Francisco last December. Chicago and other artists of the period like Miriam Shapiro and Faith Ringgold consciously sought to reclaim those mediums, traditionally considered “craft,” as fine art mediums, equivalent to painting and sculpture.

In the last decade, craft techniques, those identified as women’s work in particular, have again been reappropriated by emerging artists as ways to address feminist and other current issues. The NYT realized in 2018 that “Some of the Most Provocative Political Art is Made With Fibers,” observing that  “… a generation later, fiber art looks fresh again.” With threads and hair, fabric and flags, Sonya Clark examines the African experience and the harmful legacy of the Confederacy. Artists Sophie Narrett and Orly Cogan use embroidery to highlight what Narrett calls “the freedoms and restraints of femininity.” Bisa Butler has reinvented quilting – a traditionally marginalized medium—to explore the historical marginalization of her subjects.

Gyöngy Lakás Slowly and Variant
Gyöngy Laky Slowly, 2002 and Variant, 2021. Photos by Tom Grotta

At browngrotta arts, one of the artists we represent, Gyöngy Laky, who studied fiber at Berkeley in the 70s, has always reflected her activism In her work. Slowly (2002) can spell “LAG” or “GAL.” It makes a statement on the lack of female faculty in the University of California system. On the right is Variant, a newer work, made of painted branches and red golf tees, that makes a statement about the coronavirus and Trump’s inattention. 

James Bassler Flag
James Bassler, They’re Ready For Their Seat at the Table, 2021. Photo by Tom Grotta

James Bassler has spent a lifetime investigating Peruvian and cube weaving and other techniques and materials like nettle and cochuyi. In some of his works, though, the political takes center stage. An earlier flag was meant to be hung upside down as a statement on current events. A flag he made last year is entitled They’re Ready for Their Seat at the Table. “The recent street action of all these young people has really inspired me,” he wrote us. “For years I’ve held on to some wonderful handspun cotton from Guatemala, dark, dark brown and some lighter natural brown hand spun from Oaxaca.  Well the dark brown has become the warp to replace the red and the brown cotton replaces the white. There will be a trace of red amongst the dark brown, I don’t want to completely wipe out the Puritans,” he says. ”I just want room for everyone to sit at the table.” 

Neha Puri Dhir Forest Fire
Neha Puri Dhir, Forest Fire, stitch-resist dyeing on handwoven silk, 2017. Photos by Tom Grotta

Neha Puri Dhir from India says she is generally inclined to look inwards for inspiration which brings a sense of peace and empathy to her work. “But gradually, the growing disquiet around me became impossible to ignore,” she says describing has work Forest Fire. “Polluted water table, climate change, extinction of species, and forest fires – made me anxious. The complexity of these layered thoughts, could no longer be expressed in closed geometric shapes. Art adapted itself to the chaos within…,” she says.

As we concluded in Trends Observed, Part 1, it’s an exciting time to work with fiber artist and to promote art textiles and fiber sculpture. Thanks for joining browngrotta on this journey.


Artist Focus: Marianne Kemp

Marianne Kemp weaving
Marianne Kemp weaving her Vibrant Conversation tapestry, horsehair, cotton, linen in 2018. photo by Tom Grotta

Textile artist Marianne Kemp is a specialist in weaving with horsehair. She is passionate about exploring unconventional weaving techniques in her art. That passion, combined with her craftsmanship, is clearly visible in the work she creates. “I’m fascinated by the movement of the weavings, how the horsehair manifests in the net of the weaving technique,” she says. 

Tube Waves
Detail of Tube Waves, Marianne Kemp, horsehair and cotton warp, 78” x 63”, 2015, Photo by Tom Grotta

Some creations, almost-mathematically precise, challenge viewers to become introverted and still. Other work is more extroverted and playful, displaying an exuberant cheerfulness. In either case, her work attracts the eye and stimulates an urge to touch For Tube Waves, for example, Kemp found her inspiration  in the rhythm of the waves. “The flowing colors, going from light silver to aqua, dark purple/blue to deep green, are rendered in the three-dimensional weaving technique I’ve created,” she explains. The ‘tubes’ flow in and over each other, which makes them appear to dance off the surface, depending on your position. From a distance, it’s a dynamic piece; upon closer inspection, there are many different details to discover.”

Vibrant Conversation
Vibrant Conversation, Marianne Kemp, horsehair, cotton, linen, 49” x 70” x 6 “, 2018, Photo by Tom Grotta

Kemp has combined an interest in an architectural weaving process with an appreciation for organic material, creating objects with elements that change space but are experienced as one. In Vibrant Conversation, the top and the bottom layer are embraced in a knot, showing an array of different perceptions in cultural traditions. The work endeavors to tie different generations together via storytelling, confronting collective knowledge with new experiences, prompting new insights.

Orchid
Orchid, horsehair, gold lures thread, wooden frame, 2018, Photo by Tom Grotta

In the stitched and woven Orchid, dyed red horsehair woven in between a delicate herringbone background highlights Kemp’s supreme eye for detail. For Kemp weaving is a form of meditation. “It is the only time of day that I do one thing at the time and think (solely) about one thing,” Kemp says. Weaving allows Kemp to give her brain a rest and explore her creative intuition — a good outcome for us. 

Detail Red Body
Red Fody, Marianne Kemp, cotton, horsehair, acrylic, 56” x 19” x 8”, 2013, Photo by Tom Grotta

Kemp’s work will be included in browngrotta arts’ 2022 Art in the Barn exhibition, May 7 – May 15, 2022.


Contemporary Fiber Art – Trends Observed, Part I

In December of 2021 of last year, we were asked to talk to a group of fiber artists about trends we had observed in the art textiles field. In two arttextstyle posts we’ll summarize the insights we shared with the group. First, we described a bit about browngrotta arts’ creative journey and fiber arts’ place in the art world in the years we’ve been the medium’s champion.

2004 Art Palm Beach. Works by Masakazu Kobayashi, Mary Merkel-Hess, Deborah Valoma, Jo Barker and Sheila Hicks, among others. Photo by Tom Grotta.

browngrotta arts began quite informally in 1987, showing artwork in our Connecticut home at parties or by appointment – a concept we called “art in use.” We quickly discovered two things – First, people weren’t terribly willing to buy paintings from a suburban home, with New York galleries nearby. Second, fiber work was not well represented on the East Coast. The fiber art we showed, however – baskets by Mary Merkel-Hess and Markku Kosonen, and tapestries by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette – was new and interesting to clients and us.  We decided to focus on that.

1987 Contemporary art-in-use
browngrotta arts 1987 exhibition. Contemporary art-in-use

Fiber art on the outs

That said, 90s and early 2000s were not great for fiber art. The slick and shiny were popular in furnishings and design. Some of the public fiber commissions from the 70s had begun to show their age and give fiber a bad name. The craft/art divide was harsh and dark – and women’s work, like weaving, knitting and crochet – was at the bottom of that chasm.  The period saw fiber friendly galleries like Sybaris in Detroit, Louise Allrich in Califoria, and Bobby Okun in Santa Fe all close their doors. But we hung in there, with our unusual business model – presenting fiber artists from Japan, Scandinavia, the UK and pioneering and emerging artists from the US, attending art fairs, partnering with art centers and documenting the work in catalogs and on our website.

Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles
browngrott arts exhibition Beyond Weaving: Internatioanl ArtTextiles at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut

In 2006, we curated Beyond Weaving: International Art Textiles at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which included work by Sheila Hicks, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Lenore Tawney. Mildred Constantine, the former textile curator at MoMA, told us it was the “best fiber exhibition in 15 years,” which tells you a lot about how the medium had been sidelined in that period.

Gradual reemergence

But slowly, in that time period, fiber’s profile began to improve. Appreciation for natural materials increased as did appreciation for the hand made. Sheila Hicks had an exhibition of miniatures at Bard in 2006; Ruth Asawa a retrospective at the de Young 2007; 50 years of Sheila Hicks opened at the Addison, then the Mint and ICA in Boston in 2010 and so did Contemporary Fiber Art: a selection from the Permanent Collection at the Art Institute in Chicago.

ICA Boston 2014
ICA Boston, 2014 Fiber Sculpture – 1960 to the present. Photo by Tom Grotta

The watershed for fiber art’s resurgence was just four years away. In 2014, Janelle Porter, who had worked on 50 Years of Sheila Hicks, organized the expansive ICA show, Fiber Sculpture – 1960 to the present. The exhibition travelled to Columbus, OH, Produced a detailed book and Porter was awarded a best museum exhibition award. 

It was as if a dam had broken – 50 Fiber artists toured the US in Innovators and Legends in 2013, initiated at the Muskegon Museum of Art, a retrospective of François Grossen’s work opened at Blum and Poe and one of Ethel Stein’s work opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. Anne Wilson, Louise Bourgeois, Lenore Tawney were also featured in Thread Lines at the Drawing Center 2014. Richard Tuttle unveiled a vast installation of weavings in Tate Modern (followed by an exhibition of Textiles by Sonya DeLauney in 2015). The Art Newspaper declared: “Soft Fabrics Have Solid Appeal;” the Wall Street Journal called Fiber “The Art World’s New Material Obsession.” 

Taking a thread for a walk-MoMA
Aurélia-Munñoz-Åguila-Beige-(Brown-Eagle) at Taking a thread for a walk-MoMA. photo by Denis-Doorly

Fiber Art’s Continued Recognition and Appreciation

The trend has continued since – Anni Albers at the Tate in 2018; Women Take the Floor in Boston; Off the Wall: American Art to Wear in Philadelphia and Taking Thread for Walk at MoMA, all in 2019,Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus in Chicago in 2020 and Olga d’Amaral’s Weaving a Rock in Houston in 2021 and at Cranbrook in 2022. Sheila Hicks, Off the Grid, at The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire, UK, Faith Ringgold, American People at the New Musuem in New York City open this year as do 34 fiber artists, including Lia Cook, in Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women at the Smithsonian in November. 

It’s an exciting time to promote art textiles and fiber sculpture as browngrotta arts has done for three decades. In Contemporary Fiber Art — Trends Observed, Part 2, we’ll examine some of the changes we’ve seen in the field and in the approach of the artists who work with us.


Year in Review  — 2021 by the Numbers

We had a busy year in 2021. Here are some of the details, quantified.

Catalog Pages
Adaptation: artists respond to change and Japandi: shared aesthetics and influences catalogs
gallery visitors
Exhibition visitors
online platforms

online platforms

social media
social media
blogs
arttextstyle blog
Museum Acquisitions
The The Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Minneapolis Museum of Art; The Warehouse Museum
corporate acquisitions
Neha Puri Dhir, Unseen, 2016
Art-in-Embassies
3 large Mary Merkel-Hess Baskets
bag videos
Juried Exhibitions
International Fiber Arts X – Surface Design Association

Next year is shaping up to be just as busy. We are scheduling two in-person exhibitions and accompanying catalogs, videos and online walkthroughs. And this year, we are adding a book, scheduled for Spring publication. Also, coming soon on browngrotta arts’ website: Viewing Rooms. More news to come. Watch this space in 2022!


Art Assembled: New This Week in December

As this year comes to a close, we’re finishing our New This Week series with some of our favorite artists! Throughout the month of December we’ve highlighted art from notable artists like: Norie Hatakeyama, Mia Olsson, Grethe Sørensen, and Åse Ljones. Here’s a recap of all the art we’re closing out 2021 with.

This piece comes from Japanese artist, Norie Hatakeyama. Hatakeyama is predominantly known for her contemporary and complex plaited works of paper tape. The works resemble living organisms — and, on close inspection, have no apparent starting or endpoints.

This piece comes from Swedish artist, Mia Olsson. Together is made of sisal fibers, dyed and formed in a technique unique to Olsson. The sisal fibers used are shiny and reflect the light, even more when formed in relief. The colors are richly saturated — engaging the viewer on each viewing.

This piece comes from internationally acclaimed artist, Grethe Sørensen. Since 2004, she has been working exclusively with digital thread control/digital jacquard weaving. She is credited with revolutionizing the art of tapestry through her method of converting photographic pixels into threads. The technique allows her to create complex motifs; the city, urban landscapes, light and optical patterns are frequent inspirations for her.

This artwork was created by talented Norwegian artist, Åse Ljones. Ljones uses a blizzard of stitches to create her works. Ljones told TextileArtist.org in an interview that, “To embroider by hand takes time. It is a slow process that gives room for silence. I seek silence. In silence, I retrieve memories and find new paths forward. In all my work as an artist I have eliminated the extraneous. I’ve cultivated simplicity to approach the core of myself, in myself, with fewer measures.” For Ljones, “the sewing needle is like the pencil is to the author,” with it, she can create pictures and tell stories.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this past year at browngrotta arts. We’re going into 2022 excited for another year of art-filled fun!