Tag: Lenore Tawney

Dispatches: Chicago’s Art institute, Contemporary Fiber Art from the Permanent Collection

Carter Taking Pictures on the entrance ramp that leads to the art institute

We made a hurried trip to the Art Institute on the

last day of SOFA to see Contemporary Fiber Art: A Selection from the Permanent Collection, the inaugural exhibition in the reopened Elizabeth F. Cheney and Agnes Allerton Textile Galleries, which were closed for five years during the construction of the Modern Wing. We walked there in the glorious morning sunshine, through a corner of Millennium Park, and entered the Institute from the bridge. Heading down to the textile galleries feels a bit like entering the basement, but once inside, the spaces are light and airy.

Posters for the two fiber exhibits photo by Carter Grotta

The holdings of the Department of Textiles at the Art Institute comprise more than 66,000 sample swatches and 14,000 textiles ranging from 300 BC to the present. Extensive holdings of ecclesiastical textiles, 16th- and 17th-century velvets, 18th-century silks, 18th-20th-century printed fabrics, and lace are included in the department’s impressive collection of European textiles. Other notable holdings include American quilts and woven coverlets, historical fashion accessories, dress and furnishing fabrics and Japanese and Chinese holdings.

Entering the Exhibition facing “Red Doors” by Robert D. Sailors photo by Carter Grotta

Helena Hernmarck’s Mu1 and and its maquette next to Si Rothko M’etait Conte by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette photo by Carter Grotta

The Collection also includes more than 400 textiles and fiber art works from the 20th Century. These are not freestanding fiber works, sculptures vessels or baskets, for the most part, but wall hangings and ceiling-hung pieces. Sixty-one of these pieces are currently on display. Nonetheless it is an impressive grouping. The usual suspects are here – Lenore TawneySheila Hicks and Claire Zeisler, Peter Collingwood and the Poles, Magdalena AbakanowiczZofia Butrymowicz and Jolanta Owidzka. But there are some surprises. Red Doors, by Robert D. Sailors, which graces the entrance is a show stopper. The Cynthia Schira that is included is an excellent piece.  Helena (Barynina) Hernmarck’s 1965 abstract tapestry Mu1 is enhanced by the powerful painted maquette that is displayed alongside. The Mariette Rousseau-Vermette work, Si Rothko M’etait Conté (If Rothko Himself Had Told Me a Story)(which we assisted a client in donating) was luminous. We were delighted to see the tapestries  floating off the wall, as we recommend, giving added dimension to the works. One quibble, the works in the cases in the conference room, which include a piece by Scott Rothstein, need to be better lit. Maybe motion detection lights would work, which would minimize energy use and uv exposure but still enable the works to be seen when viewers enter the room.

The items selected work well together, as curator Christa C. Mayer Thurman, emerita of the Department of Textiles, intended. The exhibition’s stated aim — to explore how fiber art has developed as an art form from the middle of the 20th Century through today and illustrate how the flexibility and variability of the medium encouraged artists to explore the potential of different fibers and methods — has certainly been achieved.

View of exhibit centered around a work by Claire Zeisler photo by Carter Grotta

 


Check Out: “On Thin Ice: Two Russians Skate Off the Reservation,” in the WSJ

 

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Contemporary textile artists’ work is often rich in references to other cultures. Traditional techniques are used to generate new forms; images and themes from other cultures are re-envisioned and contemporized. Through her study of Peruvian gauze weavings, Lenore Tawney discovered a reed that she was able to adapt to create the innovative slits and openings that characterized her work.

Shrouded River detail by Lenore Tawney

Carol Eckert’s coiled sculptures feature animal figures that are inspired by African ceremonial head dresses of the Yorubas; Kirsten Wagle and Astrid Løvaas

use old Norwegian tapestry techniques on unconventional materials from aluminum cladding to pantyhose;

Løvaas & Wagle create tapestries that are visually captivating, beautiful, surprising, and rich in references to art historical sources

Nancy Moore Bess’s baskets are informed by her travels to Japan, most recently re-interpretations of the jakago/snake baskets used in Asia to bind stones at the edge of a river or lake to prevent soil erosion; and Jin-Sook So reinvents Korean pojagi by creating patchworks of gold-plated steel mesh instead of the traditional scraps of ramie and hemp.

(Pojagi-inspired work) by Jin-Sook So

Is there a point at which cultural “borrowing” stops being an acceptable compliment and becomes unacceptable co-option? That’s the criticism being made of Russian figure-skaters Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, whose multicultural ice-dancing theme, based on aboriginal costumes, music and dance, have drawn the ire of Australian Aboriginal activists. On January 28, 2010 in the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten reviewed the Olympic controversy, similar arguments made about white musicians having no right to play jazz, and recent cross-cultural creations by the likes of Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend.
In “On Thin Ice: Two Russians Skate off the Reservation,” Felten cites T.S. Eliot as endorsing artistic appropriation, quoting him as saying, “bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” Felten argues that it is too much to expect “cultural interlopers” to make something better; it should be enough that the borrowing “makes for something different”. And sometimes that something different will be more than different. It will be art.


Dispatch: American International Fine Art Fair, Palm Beach, February 3rd-8th

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Lenore Tawney collages, In Chaco and The Loftiest Word and sculpture, Boy with Duck, at AIFAF

From February 3rd to the 8th. browngrotta arts will join more than 80 international galleries exhibiting at the American International Fine Art Fair (AIFAF) in Palm Beach, Florida. AIFAF is recognized as the “crown jewel” of American art fairs and is the only American art and antiques fair rated 5 stars by The Art Newspaper. AIFAF is a fully vetted fair, featuring prestigious international dealers presenting a mix of paintings, sculpture, jewelry, antiques, contemporary design and decorative arts. In cooperation with the Baruch Foundation and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, browngrotta arts will feature the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz and Lenore Tawney at AIFAF, artists whose work redefined weaving and sculpture in the 20th Century.

Abakanowicz is the best-known Polish artist in the world. She initially gained acclaim for her “Abakans,” monumental woven works of sisal, ropes and other fibers that hung free in space. Next were headless human forms of burlap and later bronze. Large groupings of her sculptures are installed around the world, from Chicago’s Millennium Park to Olympic Park in Seoul to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In presenting her a Visionaries! award in 2000, the Museum of Arts and Design cited her for “her powerful explorations, dealing with the impact of social and political reality on individual identity, that have demonstrated the potential of fiber as an effective and expressive sculptural material.”

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Weavings by Magdalena Abakanowicz at AIFAF. The weavings on the far right and far left were woven in the 1980s; the piece in the center is from the 1960s.

At AIFAF, browngrotta arts will exhibit three weavings by Abakanowicz, one from the 1960s and two, from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection, Ltd., created in the 1980s. The Baruchs opened a gallery in Chicago in the late 1960s, bringing work to the U. S. from Central Europe in order to give exposure to the Slavic art that Jacques, who died in 1986, once described as “the finest work of tomorrow…not what is known…the new blood.” Jacques was unable to travel after 1970, but Anne continued to travel to Central Europe to search for art. As the political situation in the area tightened, Anne, began smuggling art into the US, often at great risk. Government agents would seal her packages of approved art before she left; with the help of artists, she would often unseal the packages and reseal them in order to add unsanctioned works. She would travel with a bright red Hartman suitcase with a false bottom, filled with art supplies that the artists could not buy. On her return trip, artworks would be hidden inside. In this manner, Anne amassed a singular collection of contemporary textiles and historical and contemporary Czech photography. The Baruch Foundation was established in 2008, subsequent to Anne’s death in 2006 and is comprised of her personal art collection and the artwork inventory of The Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection, Ltd. The missions of the Foundation are to preserve and foster the growth of the visual arts of Eastern and Central Europe through donations of artwork to museums and schools, and to fund educational programs and scholarships by the sale of artwork.

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Works by Lenore Tawney on display in the browngrotta arts booth at AIFAF.

At AIFAF, browngrotta arts will also show weavings, drawings, collages and mixed media assemblages by Lenore Tawney, who died in 2007 at the age of 100. “Luminous is an apt word to describe the entire career of the American artist Lenore Tawney,” wrote Holland Cotter in the New York Times in 2004. In the 1950’s, he noted, “she created a series of monumental open-weave sculptures that were like nothing seen before or since. Astonishing.” About her collages Cotter has written, “Whether she sets cut-up bits of handwriting spinning around a reproduction of a Michelangelo sibyl or turns strips of antique German books into suspended grids, she touches on the roots of the collage medium in language and personal history with a reticent orginality.” The Lenore G Tawney Foundation was established in 1989 by Tawney for charitable and educational purposes. Its aim is to support other artists in their own artistic efforts and to support special projects at art museums and non-profit educational arts organizations; its highest priority is to nurture emerging artists and to provide them with learning opportunities through established educational programs.