Tag: John McQueen

Discourse — the book, out now

Discourse: across generations catalog

Our 59th catalog, Discourse: art across generations and continents, is now available from the browngrotta.com website. As you may know, we produce our catalogs in house. If you’ve purchased a copy, you should have gotten a Handle With Care insert that reads: ”Each browngrotta arts catalog is individually printed and hand bound. Once you have a copy in hand, please treat it gently. If you crack the spine to see if the pages will flutter out, they just might. So, please don’t. Thanks.” Our catalogs “have never been anything but labors of love,” Glenn Adamson observed on the occasion of our 50th catalog, “quite literally products of a family concern, a cottage industry.” (“Beyond Measure,” Glenn Adamson, Volume 50: Chronicling FIber Art for Three Decadesbrowngrotta arts, Wilton, CT, 2020.)

New Press

This Spring we had a brief delay in producing while we acquired a new printing press — smaller, faster, and with more bells and whistles. Our previous press, which we bought second-hand, had given up the ghost in May. But it did not give up until browngrotta arts had published more than a million pages, mostly on fiber art and artists. Our new printer has expanded features: it can handle heavier and larger sheets and spot varnish.

Mika Watanabe spread
Mika Watanabe spread

In Discourse: art across generations and continents, you’ll find work by 61 artists from 20 countries. There are 176 pages and hundreds of color photographs, including details. There are also short compilations of collections, exhibitions, and awards for each artist included.

Federica Luzzi spread
Federica Luzzi spread

Also included in the Discourse catalog is an insightful essay by Erika Diamond, an artist and curator and the Associate Director of CVA Galleries at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. In “Consonance of Strings,” Diamond identifies several themes that influence the artists in Discourse. These include textiles like Federica Luzzi’s and Mika Watanabe’s that mirror the human body, works like Stéphanie Jacques’ exploration of the void, that express a yearning for connection, and those  finding order in chaos and harmony in disorder like the subversively “crushed” baskets by Polly Barton. Diamond makes broader observations about textiles’ ability to provide interconnections and common ground for viewers. She compares textiles to quantum physics’ theory of vibrating strings of energy making up the world. Textiles, she sees as “… lines in space — stitches, braids, weavings — moving and bending in search of unity and reconciliation between even the most vastly different materials and ideas.”

installation spread
installation spread: works by Adela Akers, Thomas Hucker, Norma Minkowitz, Neha Puri Dhir, John McQueen on the left and Lia Cook, Ed Rossbach , Sue Lawty on the right

Get your copy of the Discourse catalog from our website: https://store.browngrotta.com/c53-discourse-art-across-generations-and-continents/. It’s a good read!


More Pop-Ups Please!

Space 67 - bogarts Pop-Up installation
From left to right: Repos + Paix-side by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Embarrilado Azul by Carolina Yrarrázaval, Fire Fright and Range Fire by Lewis Knauss, CMA-CGM by Laura Foster Nicholson, Arm & Hammer by John McQueen and Peninsula by Mary Merkel-Hess. Photo by Tom Grotta

We had a chance to do an expanded Pop-Up at Space67 in Norwalk, CT last month. We were first asked to curate an exhibition that would be enjoyed by individuals who attended The Supper Club. Then, with the exhibition in place, we decided to create a public Pop Up for one day and invite our fans, people in Norwalk, and those just walking by. 

Haiti inspired Chicken Tender
Haiti-inspired, Braised chicken tender in creole sauce – yuka – plantain crisp – cilantro avocado salsa verde was one of extraordinary seven courses served at The Supper Club. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Supper Club dinner was a project of the Kitchen Incubator at the Village Community Foundation in Stamford, CT. The Incubator Program at The Village is a nonprofit program that supports local, diverse entrepreneurs and startups in the food and beverage industry. 

Supper Club Chefs
Chefs Xavier Santiago, Marta Garcia, and Ivan Romero, their crew, and Village Community Foundation President, Jon Winkel, addressing diners. Photo by Tom Grotta

The Supper Club at Space67 involved three exceptional chefs — Chef Xavier Santiago, Chef Marta Garcia, and Chef Ivan Romero — who, with a talented crew, prepared a 7-course meal with offerings from Colombia, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republican. 

Supper Club at Space 67
Between courses at Space 67. Photo by Tom Grotta

Sixty people were served, music was provided by The Briefly Educated & Friends and a great time was had by all!

browngrotta Pop-up Space 67 art exhibition
Falling Fruit by John McQueen, Cimbreante by Eduardo and María Eugenia Dávila Portillo and Pre-Columbian Meets Mid-Century Modern by James Bassler. Photo by Carter Grotta

In support of the South American food and drinks (Cuba Libre, Clarified Piña Colada, and Hibiscus Lemonade) that were served, we chose a Pan-American theme for the works we exhibited: Continental Divide: Fiber Art from North and South America included artists from Chile, Venezuela, Canada, and the US. Falling Fruit by John McQueen, Carolina Yrråzaval’s Embarrilado AzulCimbreante by Eduardo Portillo and María Davila and CMA-CGM by Laura Foster Nicholson were among the most-commented-upon works in the exhibition.

John McQueen and MAry Merkel-Hess
Arm & Hammer by John McQueen and Peninsula by Mary Merkel-Hess. Photo by Tom Grotta

For the public Pop-Up we added work by Mary Merkel-Hess and a large sculpture by John McQueen.

Claude Vermette by the vaults
Coq-de-Bruyere by Claude Vermette by the Vaults. Photo by Tom Grotta

Pop-Ups serve an important objective of ours at browngrotta arts — to bring fine fiber art to more and varied audiences. Watch for more!


Five Days Remain to See Discourse at browngrotta arts in Wilton, CT

from left to right: works by Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski, Aby Mackie, Tim Johnson, Jane Balsgaard, Gyöngy Laky, Gizella Warburton, Margareta Ahlstedt-Willandt photographed through a basket by John McQueen. Photo by Tom Grotta

Join us this week, through Sunday May 12, at 6 pm to see our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition, Discourse: art across generations and continents. Traffic has been steady, including a guided tour for 15 people on Tuesday, but we still have slots available for gallery appointments and drop ins.

Viewers will enjoy 150+ works by more than 60 artists from 20 countries. Many people take two trips through the space to ensure they have not missed anything.

While here they learn more about works in the show including Irina Kolesnikova’s Spectator, a filmstrip- like group of woven portraits of her alter ego. She places him in discomfiting situations.  “Sometimes the events happening around him are frightening,” Kolesnikova says, “he wants to go away, to run far away. But curiosity makes him come back again, secretly observing, trying to memorize all impressions.”

Irina Kolesnikova Spectator weaving
28ik Spectator, Irina Kolesnikova, handwoven flax, silk, wood, 58.5″ x 43.25″ x 1″, 2013. Photo by Tom Grotta

James Bassler’s This Old House, is another work that encourages viewers to take a closer work and consider its inspiration and origins. “Over a year ago, a friend gave me a book, Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson,” Bassler writes. “It  caused me to begin yet another weaving of a flag, which includes references to the textile traditions of Africa.  In my early days of learning how to weave, the late 60s and early 70s, I wove many samples, and after weaving, experimented with batik and dyeing.  After all these years, those woven samples — maybe eight or ten of them —  were sewn together to become the surface on which the flag would eventually, after about a year, emerge.”

James Bassler Flag weaving
20jbas This Old House, James Bassler, multiple cotton and silk warps, patched together, multiple sisal, silk, linen, agave, ramie wefts, synthetic and natural dyes. batik plain and wedge-weave construction
27” x 42”, 2024. Photo by Tom Grotta

Same Difference by John McQueen draws appreciative comments (“That’s clever!” “I get it.”) when people learn its backstory. It’s comprised of three items on pedestals made of sticks tied with waxed linen — a wooden sump pump, the skeleton of a bonsai tree, and a representation of the elephant god Ganesh made of tied twigs. The items seem to have been chosen randomly, but they are not. Each draws water from the ground and uses it to slake thirsty crops and people, trees and animals.

John McQueen Same Difference three willow sculptures
21jm Same Difference, John McQueen, wood, sticks, bonsai, 54” x 60” x 24”, 2013, photo by Tom Grotta

Wendy Wahl’s work in Discourse explores inversion  a reversal of position, order, form, or relationship — and requires people to take a closer look. Wahl writes that she reassembles encyclopedia pages because of their symbolism, conceptual reference, and unique paper quality.  “My interactions with these materials,” she writes, “are meditative. These pieces are created by deconstructing the books, rolling and pinching the individual parts, and, like a puzzle, fitting them to the panel. The interconnected spiral elements become the picture plane that explores dimension, direction, texture, color, and reflection.” 

44ww Inversion, 2023/24, Wendy Wahl, encyclopedia britannica pages, wood panel, 40″ x 30″, 2024. Photo by Tom Grotta

The evocative forms of Rachel Max’s work draw viewers in for inspection and introspection. Over the last few years, Max has been making forms that explore notions of infinity and time. The title for her piece in this exhibition, Caesura, came to her while she was making it. “I was thinking about the composition, working out where the weave should become less dense and where one section would end and another begin. I wanted to create a visual interruption, my equivalent to a break in music or a pause. In poetry, I discovered,  this is called Caesura.”

Sculptural blue basket form by Rachel Max
13rm Caesura, Rachel Max, woven cane sculpture, plaited and twined, dyed, 11” x 16.5” x 8”, 2023-24. Photo by Tom Grotta

There are dozens of works to discover at Discourse: art across generations and continents and five days remaining to join us. Hope we’ll see you!

Schedule a visit
Times to visit Discourse: art across generations and continents can be scheduled on POSH

Exhibition Details:
Discourse: art across generations and continents
Through May 12, 2024
browngrotta arts
276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897

Gallery Dates/Hours:
Wednesday May 8th through Saturday, May 11th: 10am to 5pm (40 visitors/ hour)
Sunday, May 12th: 11am to 6pm [Final Day] (40 visitors/ hour)
Schedule your visit at POSH.

Safety protocols: 
POSH reservations strongly encouraged • No narrow heels please 

Catalog:
A full-color catalog, browngrotta arts’ 59th, Discourse: art across generations and continents, with an essay by Erika Diamond, Artist | Curator | Associate Director of CVA Galleries | Chautauqua Institution, will be published by the browngrotta arts in May 2024 in conjunction with the exhibition.

Upcoming:
browngrotta arts will present a talkthrough of slides from Discourse on Zoom, Art on the Rocks: art art talkthrough with a twist, on Friday, June 11th at 7 pm EST.


Opening in One Month – Discourse Offers Myriad Views of Contemporary Fiber Art

Fiber is having a moment — exhibitions of art textiles and fiber art are installed all over the world.  Having promoted this medium for more than 30 years, browngrotta arts couldn’t be more pleased. We represent the work of an extraordinary group of artists — from fiber art’s origins in the 50s and 60s, to those whose careers started many years later. Our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition, Discourse: art across generations and continents, is designed to celebrate this multiplicity of makers and methods. Open at browngrotta arts in Wilton, Connecticut, from Saturday, May 4th through Sunday, May 12, 2024, Discourse will assemble a large and eclectic group of artworks that celebrate artists from different countries, who work with varied materials, and represent distinct artistic approaches. More than 50 artists from 18 countries will be featured. Included will be current works from 60 years ago, current mixed media works and sculpture, and pieces created in the decades between — enabling an intriguing look at intergenerational differences, material breakthroughs, and historical significance in fiber art.

The comparisons and contrasts on view in Discourse involve differing approaches to structure, materials, abstraction, messaging, techniques and more. Viewers are encouraged to develop and refine their own perspectives of contemporary fiber’s evolution and energy.

Exploring Bamboo

Exploring Bamboo, Baskets by Nancy Moore Bess, Hisako Sekimachi, Noriko Tanikawa. photos by Tom Grotta

The artists in Discourse each possess “material intelligence,” what author and curator Glenn Adamson describes as “a deep understanding of the material world around us, an ability to read that material environment, and the know-how required to give it new form.” They take a disparate approach to materials such as bamboo, rendered differently by Hisako Sekijima (JP), Nancy Moore Bess (US), and Noriko Tanikawa (JP)

Exploring Horsehair
Exploring horsehair details of works by Adela Akers, Marian Bijlenga, Marianne Kemp. photos by Tom Grotta

Three artists, Marianne Kemp (NL), Adela Akers (US) and Marian Bijlenga (NL) work with horsehair, each with differing results.

Paperworks six ways
Paperworks six ways: Shoko Fukuda, Wendy Wahl, Patricia Campbell, Jane Balsgaard, Neda Al-Hilali, Mary Merkel-Hess. photos by Tom Grotta

Paper is perhaps the most mutable material in the exhibition. Paper cord, book pages, and rice paper used by Shoko Fukuda (JP), Mary Merkel-Hess (US), Naomi Kobayashi (JP), Pat Campbell (US), Eva Vargö (SE), Neda Al-Hilali (US), Jane Balsgaard (DE), and Wendy Wahl (US) are among the material variations found in Discourse.

Exploring Sculpture
Exploring structure, details of works by Norma Minkowitz, John McQueen, Norie Hatekayama. photos by Tom Grotta

Engaging structures are also featured in Discourse. Intricate sculptures of willow twigs by John McQueen, ethereal objects of jute by Naoko Serino, sinuous crocheted works by Norma Minkowitz (US), and Norie Hatekayama’s inexplicable forms of plaited paper tape illustrate the multiple ways in which artists continue to innovate in this medium.

Abstract tapestries
Abstraction, tapestries by Blair Tate, Gudrun Pagter, Warren Seelig. photos by Tom Grotta

Much has been made this year about the contributions of weaving and related techniques to abstraction, modernism’s preeminent art form. Witness Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and  Weaving Abstraction in Ancient and Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, which aims to offer new insights into the emergence of abstract imagery. Specifically, the Met’s exhibition sets out to illustrate how the constructive nature of weavings, arising from the grid formed by the vertical and horizontal elements of the loom, prompted the formal investigation of geometric designs. There are several examples in Discourse, works by Warren Seelig from the 70s and 80s, and works from Blair Tate (US) and Gudrun Pagter (DK) created 50 years later.

Differing Sensibilities
Differing Sensibilities, tapestries by Zofia Butrymowicz, Michael Radyk, Lia Cook. photos by Tom Grotta

The evolution of contemporary fiber art can be seen in works from Eastern Europe and those from Western Europe and the US. One of the oldest works in the exhibition is a heavily textured wool-and-linen weaving, Słońce Szafirowe, (Sapphire Sun), by Polish weaver Zofia Butrymowicz from 1968 which was featured in Beyond Weaving: the art fabric, by Jack Lenor Larsen and Mildred Constantine which provides an interesting contrast to Jacquard tapestries of wool and cotton by Americans Lia Cook and Michael Radyk.

Messenging Four ways
Messenging Four ways, details of works by Irina Kolesnikova, Laura Foster Nicholson, Gyöngy Laky, James Bassler. photos by Tom Grotta

Some of the artists in Discourse, including Laura Foster Nicholson (US) Gyöngy Laky (US), James Bassler (US), and Irina Kolesnikova (RU/DE), use the medium of fiber art to make explicit statements about the modern world — about personal anxieties, human interaction and our impact on the environment. Gyöngy Laky’s (US) work, Anticipation, which spells out the word “Who?“ in applewood branches, presents a question. “Given the challenges, concerns, conflicts and other dangers we face today,” Laky says, “this question, underlies the search for a way forward to a better day.”  Laura Foster Nicholson’s (US) woven landscapes, idyllic at first glance reveal a concern with the natural world. “In recent years,” the artist says, “my work has moved toward recording the various ways humankind has interfered in the environment. Through Spectator, Irina Kolesnikova (RU/DE) shares the anxiety of daily life. She presents a man, her alter ego, in a variety of discomfiting scenarios. In This Old House, Jim Bassler references the book Caste, which describes America as an old house, with the caste system wrought by slavery as central to its operation as are studs and joints. Bassler’s flag is patterned with wax resist and a multitude of woven elements “that could represent the textile talents of the Africans who arrived in Virginia in 1619 and who were forced into slavery thus giving up their identity and culture.”

In sum, Discourse offers no end of ideas and innovations. We invite you to draw comparisons and gain new perspectives of your own. See you in May!

Exhibition Details:
Discourse: art across generations and continents
May 4 – May 12, 2024
browngrotta arts
276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897

Gallery Dates/Hours:
Saturday, May 4th: 11am to 6pm [Opening & Artist Reception]
Sunday, May 5th: 11am to 6pm (40 visitors/ hour)
Monday, May 6th through Saturday, May 11th: 10am to 5pm (40 visitors/ hour)
Sunday, May 12th: 11am to 6pm [Final Day] (40 visitors/ hour)
Schedule your visit at POSH.

Safety protocols: 
POSH reservations strongly encouraged • No narrow heels please 

Catalog:
A full-color catalog, browngrotta arts’ 59th, Discourse: art across generations and continents, with an essay by Erika Diamond, Artist | Curator | Associate Director of CVA Galleries | Chautauqua Institution, will be published by the browngrotta arts in May 2024 in conjunction with the exhibition.


A Pop-Up is a Good Op

Two Vermettes, Two offices
Claude Vermette’s water color Maligne Lake, 1979 and Mariette Rousseau-Vermette’s tapestry Electricity/Energy, 1994. Photo by Tom Grotta

If Wikipedia is to be believed, Pop-Up art exhibitions began in 2007 in New York City. They now occur all over they world. Pop-ups are generally temporary events, less formal than a gallery or a museum, often using unusual spaces. Their popularity has boomed since the oughts, including Banksy’s Dismaland which collected work by 58 artists in a rundown seaside town in the UK in 2015, Yasoi Kusama’s room that exploded with flowers in Melbourne, Australia in 2018, the Museum of Ice Cream (not technically a museum) currently in several locations including Miami, Boston and Singapore, and The Color Factory in New York City, Houston, and Chicago. Pop-Ups are often immersive, interactive, and collaborative like Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, which began in 2008 as a small collective of artists sharing an interest in publicly displaying their works and developing their skills. Meow Wolf now aims to “redefine the paradigm of art and storytelling to make a positive difference in the world.”

Out of Focus Series by Grethe Sørensen
White Shell Tongue I & II, 2006 prints by Federica Luzzi and Out of Focus tapestries by Grethe Sørensen, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta

Fast forward to 2024: browngrotta arts has its own Pop-Up of sorts at JUICE Creative Group in Norwalk, CT. JUICE handles our social media, website development, event planning and other miscellany. It has loads of clients coming into its business and rental studio space each week. Now, select Juice visitors are able to view (and acquire) JUICE Art, a specially assembled group of works from artists who work with browngrotta arts.

Warren Seelig installation
Warren Seelig’s White Wheel, 1996 and Small Double Ended, 1996. Photo by Tom Grotta

In curating the collection, we were mindful of the JUICE ethos. It’s a brand and digital agency based in the US, with team members all over the world. JUICE takes pride in the team of brand experts, designers, marketers and tech geeks it’s built, and the vibrant creative culture it has fostered. To reflect that creativity and energy, we suggested works like Grethe Sorensen’s Out of Focus that references pixels from printing, Warren Seelig’s mechanical sculptures, Small Double-Ended and White Wheel, Gyöngy Laky’s playful Beach Sketchmade of electrical tape wrapped branches and Electricity/Energy by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, a tapestry that incorporates wire.

Sekiji, Laky and Seelig in the corner office
From left to right works by Toshio Sekiji, NYT Collage, 1997, Gyöngy Laky, Beach Sketch, 1987, Warren Seelig, Shadowfield/ Colored Light Single, 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Printed pages are another theme; the agency produces a lot of textual content. There are collages made of books and newspapers by Toshio Sekiji; works by Wendy Wahl of encyclopedia pages, and an interesting work by Mercedes Vicente that mixes string and spiral notebook pages and “hints” at writing. Photography, too, was a theme. In a room clients use, we placed a textile triptych made of photo images of Japanese tile roofs that are fragmented, silk screened, and metal-leafed made by Glen Kaufman along with works of paper by Gizella Warburton. On a floor of offices, there are photographs of fiber sculptures by Federica Luzzi, White Shell Tongue 1 and 2 beside a graphic tapestry by Gudrun Pagter.

John McQueen in the conference room
In the conference room, Intimate Domain, 2019 by John McQueen

In deciding what to display, we also collaborated with the JUICE team, including some works by artists they chose. John McQueen is a favorite of several team members. We included Intimate Domain, which includes a tree made of repurposed plastic surrounded by a frame made of small branches and cable ties and also Treed, a depiction of a tree where the drawing creeps off the page an onto the frame. Another popular artist was Canadian painter and ceramist Claude Vermette. There are two of his large canvases, one triptych and one small water color hung throughout the space. Also on the team’s list, works by Keiji Nio, Jo Barker, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Jiro Yonezawa, Chiyoko Tanaka and Jennifer Falck Linssen.

Claude Vermette and Gudren Pageter
Claude Vermette. Clairière, 1992 painting, Gudren Pagter, Thin Green Line , 2017 tapestry, Toshio Sekiji, Black Collage, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

For us, a Pop-Up is a Good Op. The JUICE space looks better, clients and staff appreciate the work, and we get more eyeballs for some great works of art!


Art Assembled – New This Week in February

Spring is right around the corner, and things are heating up over here at browngrotta arts. We’ve been hard at work preparing to get our upcoming exhibition, Discourse: art across generations and continents (May 4 – 12, 2024), in full swing! But, that’s just the beginning of the excitement. Throughout the month, we’ve also featured an array of talented artists on our ‘New This Week’ series. Now, we’re recapping everything we covered so you don’t miss a thing.

Read on for the full scoop!

Hideho Tanaka
Featured: 14ht Vanishing and Emerging, Hideho Tanaka, paper, 12.25” x 12.25”x 1”, 2009. Photos by Tom Grotta.

We started off the month of February by highlighted renowned Japanese artist Hideho Tanaka. Tanaka, now in his 80s, continues to explore contradictory elements in his work, using time, which he sees as an agent of change, as one guide to his aesthetic choices.

In the 70s, Tanaka taught art, while participating in solo and group exhibitions as a teacher. When asked about this experience, Tanaka explained that 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.

Following this important work, Tanaka also expanded his art practice in the 80s to include the creation of art textiles using paper — creating dynamic works by virtue of the material used in the works and their sense of scale.

Tanaka’s work has been exhibited extensively internationally, and he has been widely recognized for his textile work. We are honored to have been able to share pieces of his work with you all!

 John McQueen
21jm Same Difference -Elephant John McQueen, wood, sticks 54” x 26” x 18”, 2013

Up next in the month, we highlighted the iconic work of artist John McQueen. McQueen is recognized for his unique artwork pieces where he arranges natural materials to make vessels, sculptural figures, representational images, and text.

More specifically, he is known for his bark-covered sculptures and drawings made of sticks, much like Same Difference – Elephant the piece we highlighted this month! These sculptures and drawings lead viewers to question their relationship to the world and their view of the natural order of things.

It is no wonder why he comes so accredited for his work! We sure can’t seem to get enough of it ourselves.

 Sylvia Seventy
17ss Thrums, Sylvia Seventy, molded recycled paper, wax, foil, wire, beads, plastic tubing, stickers and threads, 2.5″ x 8″ x 9.75″, 2007. Photos by Tom Grotta.

Things really started to heat up this month when we featured the colorful, creative work of artist Sylvia Seventy. Inspired in part by her studies of the art of the Pomo Indians, this California-based artist has been exploring innovative techniques in papermaking since the 70s.

Her vessels are created over molds, earthy bowl shapes, with embedded bamboo, cotton cord and sisal. From a distance, they look like ceramic or stoneware. On closer inspection, their fragility is evident. 

Often, her vessels feature an accretion of items: compositions of beads, feathers, fishhooks, googly eyes, hand prints, and buttons. The walls of Seventy’s vessels contain a record number of processes, that not only mark change, but trace time. All things that we think stand as a testament to her excellence in the art world!

Masako Yoshida
12my Kuu series Cubic Jack O’Lantern, Masako Yoshida, walnut and nettle, 9.75″ x 9.5″ x 9.25″, 2011. Photos by Tom Grotta

We concluded this series on a high note this month by featuring art from Masako Yoshida. It is no secret to us why her has garnered national acclaim and has been exhibited so extensively. When creating, Yoshida has made a point to work with natural mediums.

Throughout her career, Yoshida has also studied under renowned basketmaker Hisako Sekijima and has been part of a group exhibiting with Sekijima in Japan annually for 30 years.

We are continuously impressed by the work Yoshida creates, and we are proud to have the opportunity to exhibit her work at bga!


We hope you enjoyed our February ‘New This Week’ series! Stay tuned for some exciting months ahead with our upcoming exhibition. For more information or to register for the event now click here.


Save the Date: browngrotta arts Spring Art in the Barn

We’ve spent the first weeks of 2024 summing up 2023 and looking at this year’s trends in art and design. Now we’ve got a more concrete prediction — our Spring Art in the Barn exhibition will run from Saturday, May 4 through Sunday, May 12, 2024. Discourse: art across generations and continents will explore the diversity in art textiles and fiber sculpture.

Blair Tate, Warren Seelig header
Details of tapestries by Blair Tate made in 2022 and Warren Seelig made more than 40 years earlier in 1976. Photo by Tom Grotta.

In Discourse, browngrotta arts will assemble a large and eclectic group of artworks that celebrate artists from different countries, who work with varied materials, and represent distinct artistic approaches. More than 50 artists from 20 countries will be featured.Included will be works from the art form’s origins 60 years ago, current mixed media works and sculpture, and pieces created in the decades between — enabling an intriguing look at intergenerational differences, material breakthroughs, and historical significance in fiber art.

Details: John McQueen, Norma Minkowitz, Norie Hatekayama
Details: John McQueen, Norma Minkowitz, Norie Hatekayama. Photo by Tom Grotta.

structural explorations
Despite their distinctiveness, the artists in Discourse share a common trait. Each possesses “material intelligence,” what author Glenn Adamson describes as “a deep understanding of the material world around us, an ability to read that material environment, and the know-how required to give it new form.” The works in Discourse reflect this mastery. Artists like John McQueen and Norma Minkowitz of the US and Norie Hatekayama and Naoko Serino of Japan engineer imaginative structures of unexpected materials — plaited paper tape, molded jute, crocheted linen, and pieced twigs and branches. 

Details: Gudrun Pagter, Warren Seelig, Blair Tate
Details: Gudrun Pagter, Warren Seelig, Blair Tate. Photos by Tom Grotta

fiber art … an evolution
Discourse also offers viewers a chance to make intergenerational and cross-continental comparisons. Included will be starkly graphic weavings by Warren Seelig (US) made in the 70s and 80s, and ones by Gudrun Pagter (DK), and Blair Tate (US) made 40+ years later. We have often observed a different sensibility among artists from Eastern Europe and those in Western Europe, Asia, and the US. Artists in Eastern Europe have a history, which began after World War II, of using items at hand to create works – sisal, rope, hemp, goat hair. A fierce energy is seen in these works; they are rugged and raw. By contrast, for artists who worked elsewhere in more traditional tapestry materials like wool, silk, linen – quietly refined works were often the result. Discourse will spotlight such regional contrasts. 

Details: Marian Bijlenga, Shoko Fukuda, Marianne Kemp
Details: Marian Bijlenga, Shoko Fukuda, Marianne Kemp. Photo by Tom Grotta.

material matters
Viewers to Discourse will also see a wide range of to material and technique approaches. Several artists make vastly different uses of paper — scrolling of encyclopedia pages by Wendy Wahl (US), knotted paper objects by Shoko Fukuda (JP), and sculptural works of rice paper by Pat Campbell (US). Three other artists, Adela Akers (US), Marianne Kemp (NL), and Marian Bijlenga (NL), use horsehair in vastly different ways. 

Details: Laura Foster Nicholson, Irina Kolesnikova, Anneke Klein
Details: Laura Foster Nicholson, Irina Kolesnikova, Anneke Klein. Photos by Tom Grotta.

the medium is the message
Some of the artists in Discourse, including Laura Foster Nicholson (US) Gyöngy Laky (US), and Irina Kolesnikova (RU/DE), use the medium of fiber art to make explicit statements about the modern world — about personal anxiety, communication, and humans’ impact on the environment. “I like to tease the brain – to promote or even provoke or cajole, a visual dialogue with the viewer,” says Gyöngy Laky (US). Her work, Anticipation, which spells out the word “Who?“ in applewood branches, presents a question. “Given the challenges, concerns, conflicts and other dangers we face today,” Laky says, “this question, underlies the search for a way forward to a better day.” Anneke Klein (NL) is interested in communication: In Dialogue — Her work is made up of two layers that hang, one in front of the other. When you change your position in front of Dialogue, the interaction between the two layers changes, as it does between two speakers.

Detail: Lia Cook
Detail: Lia Cook. Photo by Tom Grotta.

experiments in technique
Contemporary fiber art is by definition experimental. It arose when a group of artists used tapestry techniques to create abstract sculptures that hung off the wall. A work of parallel optical lines from studies Lia Cook (US) did for her master’s thesis in the 1970s will be included along with works reflecting Neha Puri Dhir’s (IN) currrent experiments dying silk and baskets by Esmé Hofman (NL) of black willow and elm that also incorporate color.

Detail: Aby Mackie
Detail: Aby Mackie. Photo by Tom Grotta.

fiber art has emotional appeal
Fiber art — art textiles, tapestries, and three-dimensional sculpture — engages us on a deeply personal level. Our first memories are of cloth, fuzzy blankets, soft towels and they remain strong ones. Scientists have shown that different parts of the brain light up when we look at a woven image and a photographic image of the same item. Aby Mackie (SP) sources and recycles used fabrics from flea markets, fabrics laden with memory. She is captivated by these silent witnesses to a life lived; a worn bed sheet, a stained tablecloth, a moth-eaten gown. Such artifacts bear the marks and physicality of human nature, possessing a poetic power. She gilds this repurposed material in works like We Can All Be Saved, leaving viewers to consider what creates value.

We invite you to draw comparisons and gain new perspectives of your own. See you in May!

Exhibition Details:
Discourse: art across generations and continents
May 4 – May 12, 2024
browngrotta arts
276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT 06897

Gallery Dates/Hours:
Saturday, May 4th: 11am to 6pm [Opening & Artist Reception]
Sunday, May 5th: 11am to 6pm (40 visitors/ hour)
Monday, May 6th through Saturday, May 11th: 10am to 5pm (40 visitors/ hour)
Sunday, May 12th: 11am to 6pm [Final Day] (40 visitors/ hour)
Schedule your visit at POSH

Safety protocols: 
POSH reservations strongly encouraged • No narrow heels please 

Catalog:
A full-color catalog, browngrotta arts’ 59th, Discourse: art across generations and continents, will be published by the gallery in conjunction with the exhibition.


Art and Design Trends: 2024

Still firmly in the start of the year, New Year’s resolutions not abandoned yet, it’s an ideal time to explore the design trends that will define the aesthetic landscape of 2024. From color palettes to furniture styles, this year’s design pundits predict an array of options for transforming your living spaces into stylish and on-trend havens. Art can be an essential part of that transformation. Here are some of the 2024 insights we’ve compiled:

Color: the eternal appeal of blue
“One trend in particular is emerging as clear as the sky is blue,” says The Spruce, an interior design blog(“The 2024 Colors of the Year Point to One Trend You Need to Know,” Megan McCarty, November 7, 2023). Each fall, paint brands unveil their colors of the year, and for 2024, many of them declared shades of blue as the color to consider, including Skipping Stones by Dunn-Edwards, Blue Nova 825 by Benjamin Moore, Renew Blue by Valspar, Thermal by C@ Paints, Bay Blue by Minwax, and Bluebird by Krylon. Blue, as any of you who followed our 2018 exhibition Blue/Green: color, code, context know is elemental…sky and sea, infinite in hue, tone, intensity and variation…indigo, azure, sapphire, ultramarine. As metaphor, it connotes integrity, tranquilty.  It’s no wonder that it never really falls out of favor. The designers interviewed by The Spruce gave a number of reasons for including the color in one’s space. It’s calming and relaxing, subtle and subdued, and has a connection to nature. The Spruce quotes Chelse Thowe, the lead designer of Forge & Bow, sees a common thread in the paint brands’ colors of the year:  each is reminiscent of clear skies and calm waters. “Blue is trending because it connects us with nature and feels rejuvenating,” Thowe says. “It brings a sense of stillness and creates a sanctuary from our busy lives.” 

Micheline Beauchemin tapestry
1mb Totem aux Millefleurs Bleues, Micheline Beauchemin, wool, 84″ x 42″, 1980

Many artists who work with browngrotta arts use indigo and other shades of blue to evince natural themes.  In Totem aux Millefleurs BleuesMicheline Beauchemin chose blue, turquoise and green to create a calm atmosphere of forest and leaves. “…[T]he color, though dark,” she said, “will be brilliant and beautiful.” Still others, choose it for its metaphorical power.

Rachel Max basket
8rm Continuum, Rachel Max, dyed cane, plaited and twined, 15.5″x 17″ x 17″, 2018

Rachel Max’s work, Continuum, explores the artist’s ambivalence about blue. “It is cold yet often warm and comforting. It is a color of depth and distance, of darkness and light and dawn and dusk.” Blue is linked closely to the sea and sky, and Max says, like our lives, she says, they seem infinite yet each has a beginning and an end. Continuum is like a Mobius strip, illustrating the contrasts and opposites, the finite and infinite.

Biophilic Design/Return to Nature
Interior designers predict that homeowners will seek to create calming and harmonious environments in the coming year. Biophilic design, with its emphasis on incorporating natural elements into interiors, will continue to flourish, bringing the outdoors inside through the use of plants, natural materials, and organic textures, says ZDS, (“Exploring the biggest interior design trends 2024“). This trend is one also predicted to have a parallel in the art world. Artsy interviewed 15 curators on defining art themes for 2024 (“15 Leading Curators Predict the Defining Art Trends of 2024,” Artsy, Maxwell Rabb, January 12, 2024), including Amy Smith-Stewart, Chief Curator, at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut. Materials and methods carry meaning, Smith-Stewart told Artsy, “I predict we will see more artists incorporating organic materials or materials collected, grown, and harvested from the natural world into their work,” she said. Artists will seek to comment and address legacies of colonization, she predicts, as well as on issues of environmental justice and land use.

James Bassler weaving
16jb Things Past, James Bassler, single ply agave, 38.5” x 38.5” x 3.5”, 2021

At browngrotta, James Bassler’s use of agave in Things Past is part of a project to use the plant waste created by the making of tequila. Bassler’s friend, the artist Trine Ellitsgaard, organized an exhibition of works made from agave. She has worked with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico to create fibers and spun thread from agave waste to spin into rugs and bags and art. 

Ane Henriksen tapestry
30ah Reserve, Ane Henriksen, linen, silk, acrylic painted rubber matting, oak frame, 93.75” x 127.625” x 2.5”, 201

In Reserve, Ane Henriksen used material covered with oil spots, found washed up on the west coast of Denmark. Fishermen use the material on the tables in the galley, so the plates don’t slide off when on the high seas. The work highlights ecological peril. “Nature is threatened,” Henriksen says. “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 stir thoughts of how human activity is a threat against nature.” John McQueen has created provocative sculptures from twigs, branches and bark for many years. More recently, he has begun to add recycled plastics to highlight humans’ tenuous connection to nature. He illustrates this conflicted relationship in Arm & Hammer with a man stepping precariously on a snake made from recycled plastic bottles of detergent.

John McQueen sculpture
79jm Arm & Hammer, John McQueen, twigs, twine, plastic from, Arm & Hammer detergient bottles, 56” x 31” x 30”, 2006

Celebrating the 70s and Icons
Each year, 1stDibs, the e-commerce interior design and fine art marketplace, aims to quantify subtle shifts in designers’ taste with its Designer Survey (“The 1stDibs Guide to 2024 Interior Design Trends,” Introspective, Cara Greenberg, December 19, 2023). This year’s survey drew responses from more than 600 industry professionals. The results report what excites designers at this point in time, “what they’ve had quite enough of and what they anticipate sourcing to conjure sublime living spaces in the months to come.” 1st Dibs reports a fresh enthusiasm for the 1970s, which 27 percent of designers in the US and 29 percent in the UK cited as the era they’ll draw upon for inspiration in 2024. “[E]expect to see an updated version of 1970: “a curated, earth-toned Laurel Canyon look, if you will — organic, relaxed, and comforting.” The survey also found that iconic design has lasting power. “Iconic designs are revered for a reason. Their forms are so pure, their function so unimpeachable that their lasting popularity should come as no surprise.”

Glen Kaufman tapestry
188gk Abbot’s Mantle, Glen Kaufman, wool, 74″ x 36″ x 1.5″, 1971

We find the same purity in works from the 1970s by the icons of art textiles. Abbot’s Mantle made in 1971 by Glen Kaufman, reflects the experience in rug making and design that he gained at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, during a Fulbright in Scandinavia, and while working at Dorothy Liebes’ New York Design Studio. 

Katherine Westphal quilt
47w The puzzle of Floating World #2, Katherine Westphal, transfer print and quilting on cotton, 85″ x 68″, 1976

Puzzle of the Floating World (1976)by Katherine Westphal, who authored The Surface Designer’s Art: Contemporary, Fabric, Printers, Painters and Dyers (Lark Books,1993, Asheville, NC) contemporizes quilting. 

Sherri Smith weaving
1ss/r Linde Star, Sherri Smith, plaiting, discharge; cotton webbing, 36″ x 33.75″, 1976

Sherri Smith’s Linde Star is an imaginative stitched-and-plaited work, that was included in the seminal 1970s book, Beyond Weaving: the art fabric. Ritzi Jacobi, who was also featured in Beyond Weaving, 

Ritzi and Peter Jacobi goat hair tapestry
10rj Exotica Series, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, cotton, goat hair and sisal, 114″ x 60″ x 6″, 1975

was known her heavily textured works, like Exotica Series  made with Peter Jacobi in 1975, in which the couple used unusual materials such as sisal, coconut fibers, and goat hair. 

Ed Rossbach Peruvian tapestry
78r Peruvian Tapestry, Ed Rossbach, printed weft, 20″ x 21″, 1972

 In Peruvian Tapestry (1972)Ed Rossbach, an influential artist, author, and teacher, continued his experiments re-envisioning traditional techniques. Peter Collingwood, knighted by the Queen of England, developed a practice that he called shaft switching to create complex and elegant works.

Peter Collingwood textile
5pco Microgauze 84, Peter Collingwood, warp: Black and natural linen; Weft: natural linen, 72″ x 8.375″ x .125″, 1970

Conclusion:
The design and art trends of 2024 suggest ways to create spaces that are not only visually appealing but also deeply reflective of your personality and lifestyle. We are happy to help you source works from browngrotta arts to enable that process.


In ConText: the Printed Page as Inspiration, Material, and More

John McQueen Willow book
16jm Bird Brain, John McQueen, woven willow twigs, waxed string, 26” x 23.5”, 2002. Photo by Tom Grotta.

“With all sorts of ideas behind them, artists continue to challenge the idea, content, and structure of the traditional book,” observed Anne Evenhaugen, in Unbound, the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, online newsletter in 2012 (https://blog.library.si.edu/blog/2012/06/01/what-is-an-artists-book/). Several artists who work with browngrotta arts do all that to books and more. Below are some examples of how the printed page forms or features in their work.

Caroline Bartlett Books
3cb Overwritings VI, Caroline Bartlett, canvas, silk, plastered fabric, cotton thread and pins, 13.25″ x 18.625″, 3.5″, 1998 4 & 5cb Overwritings VIII & 1, Caroline Bartlett, canvas, silk, matchsticks, paper, waxed resisted silk fragments, cotton thread and pins, 9.375″ x 18.625″ x 2.75″, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta.
Lewis Knauss Books
1ln Fog Book I, Lewis Knauss, linen, hemp, handmade Japanese-style paper and shellac, 12″ x 18″ x 8″, 1999; 2ln Cliff Strata II, Lewis Knauss, linen, hemp, handmade Japanese-style paper and shellac, 9.5″ x9.5″ x 3″, 1999; 3ln Fog Book II, Lewis Knauss, linen, hemp, handmade Japanese-style paper and shellac, 12″ x 16″ x 7″, 1999; 2ln Cliff Strata I, Lewis Knauss, linen, hemp, handmade Japanese-style paper and shellac, 8.5″ x 10″ x 3″, 1999. Photo by Tom Grotta.

For some it’s a literal homage. John McQueen makes actual books of twigs and waxed linen. Their pages turn and the words on the pages can be read. Caroline Bartlett’s version is more of an idea, a memory, than an actual book. In  her Overwritings series, cotton thread, plastered fabric, matchsticks, and waxed resisted silk fragments create marks that reference text that viewers are left to decode. The volumes in Lewis Knauss Book series also read as books, but are even more abstract. Knauss uses linen, hemp, Japanese paper, and shellac to create ruffled pages without text. Mercedes Vicente uses notebook paper to create a book and a thin black cord to “write” on the pages.

Mercedes Vicente thread and paper book
Detail: 5mv Sin Pauta, Mercedes Vicente, notebook, cord, 37” x 14” x 9”, 2014. Photo by Tom Grotta.
Toshio Sekiji woven newspapers
Detail: 23ts Overture, Toshio Skekiji, old Japanese newspapers, 70.25” x 56.25” maple frame, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Other artists use the printed page as material. For Toshio Sekiji, it’s newspapers, book jackets, and maps that make up his collage/weavings. He explores the merge of cultures in his works. New stories are created atop the old he says, by reading the strips of paper he chooses and the areas he enhances with lacquer. Encyclopedia pages are used as Wendy Wahl‘s as material. “… [t]he leaves may be stacked into forms that suggest an alternative forest of knowledge or tightly scrolled and packed within a frame, making for a composition that suggests a cabinet of hidden knowledge, those archives of information that are at once visible and concealed, at hand and remote.” Akiko Busch, wrote in our catalog, 10th Wave III.  Naomi Kobayashi creates her own text, then incorporates it into delicate weavings. In a true “art imitates life imitates art” moment, a collector of her work who is a writer asked a technical question. If the work were unraveled, could the text be read? Yes, the artist answered and it became a plot twist — in his book, Hiding in the Weave, a student’s tapestry has to be unwoven to discover a clue to her death.

Wendy Wahl encylopedia Floor Sculptures
20ww Rebound: m/ixed Volumes 3, Wendy Wahl, discarded/deconstructed/restructured encylopedia pages, 40″ x 16″ x 17″ , 50″ x 78″ x 17″ , 60″ x 95″ x 17″, 2009. Phtot by Tom Grotta.

Lawrence LaBianca looks at books from different vantage points. In Thesaurus, he posits a slice of a tree with its mirror image in glass as book pages that can be read. What Lies Beneath, is a bit tongue in cheek. In this work, he considers an iconic book, Moby Dick, from the perspective of fish. He sent it into the ocean in a waterproof box and filmed it in place.

Lawrence Labianca Book Art
1ll Thesaurus, Lawrence LaBianca, cast glass, stainless steel, redwood, 15″ x 15.5″ x 3.5″-11.25″, 2004. Photo by Tom Grotta. 12lb What Lies Beneath, is a mixed media sculpture. The unique water housing was created to submerge Moby Dick by Herman Melville underwater. The image was taken while the book was underwater and tethered to a rock. Lawrence LaBianca, 40″ – 85″ x 18.5″ x 8.5″, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Francis Bacon got it right in our view, when he said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some are to be chewed and digested.” (Essays (1625)) Bacon’s Essays By Francis Bacon, Richard Whately.) Those are just some of the options available to artists considering books as inspiration. As viewers, we are left to anticipate and appreciate the works that result.


Face Forward: Exhibition Portraits

Tom Grotta’s passion since beginning to represent artists in art textiles and fiber sculpture has been to effectively present the work in photographs. With artwork, he aims to highlight the haptic quality of work made by hand and give viewers a sense of each work’s scale and presence. His portraits of artists often show them at work and give people a glimpse of their practice and passion. As a result, browngrotta arts receives regular requests to share Tom’s photographs for books and articles including Fiber: 1960 to the Present; Golden State of Craft; Tapestry: A Woven Narrative and The New York Times, Interior Design, selvedge; and FT: How to Spend It. He also gets requests to use his portraits in exhibitions — and we use them ourselves for that purpose. It’s always a thrill to see them blown up. In this post will share some of those with you.

Works by Toshiko Takaezu; portrait of Toshiko Takaezu by Tom Grotta at This Present MomentCrafting a Better World, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Photo by Ted Rowland.

Last year, ceramist Toshiko Takaezu’s work was highlighted in a gallery space in This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC (at the same time her work was on exhibit at the Venice Biennial). Takaezu’s works were displayed aside a large portrait taken by Tom Grotta.

Portrait of Ethel Stein in front of her portrait at Ethel Stein: Master Weaver at the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Tom Grotta.

In 2014, we were thrilled to go to Chicago to attend the opening of Ethel Stein: Master Weaver, a one-person retrospective for Ethel Stein, then 96. She has been steadfastly “counter-trend,” as textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen observed, creating squares of quiet pattern to be placed on walls at a time when other textile artists were emphasizing the sculptural potential of fiber by working in three dimensions. Produced on a drawloom—a type of handloom that incorporates a figure harness capable of controlling each warp thread separately—her work seems deceptively simple, but as one understands the mysteries and complexities of this weaving method historically favored for creating figured textiles, the sophistication and challenge of her work become undeniable. The drawloom was donated to the Art Institute, as well — The exhibition included 38 of the artists works and a large version of Tom’s portrait. The portrait graced the cover of our catalog, Ethel Stein: Weaverwhich was sold in the Art Institute’s bookstore.

Portrait of Ed Rossbach in Ed Rossbach: Quiet Revolutionary at SOFA, Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Tom Grotta.

In 2004, browngrotta arts co-sponsored Ed Rossbach: Quiet Revolutionary, with LongHouse Reserve at the SOFA exhibition in Chicago. A diverse grouping of Rossbach’s works was included.  The exhibition had been organized first at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan and then traveled to LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York.

Portrait of Judy Mulford at SOFA in front of the portrait in the special exhibition,  Judy Mulford: 80 Chairs. The portrait is of Mulford in her California studio. Photo by Tom Grotta.

At SOFA Chicago in 2017, we presented Judy Mulford’s 80 Empty Chairs. The installation featured a central sculpture entitled “What now?” she said. “What now?…What now?…What now?…” surrounded by 80 individually rendered chairs in frames. The intimate and emotional sculpture chronicles domestic life. The dollhouse chairs, dolls, buttons and embellishments used in the work were collected by the artist from family members, flea markets, antique stores and friends. Mulford spent a year on the work, which marked her then-upcoming 80th birthday. She also produced a limited-edition book, 80 Empty Chairs, as a part of this project.

Portraits of Gyöngy Laky and John McQueen in their respective studios at WordPlay: Messages in Bark & Branch at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Library, Connecticut. Photos by Tom Grotta.

Most recently, this May, Tom’s portraits of Gyöngy Laky and John McQueen welcomed visitors to WordPlay: Messages in Bark & Branch at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Library, Connecticut. These portraits are among the several dozen Tom has taken in as part of what we call our studio visit project. We have been to California, Ohio, New York, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands photographing artists. We hope to create more of these images to share with you.