Tag: MoMA

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.


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.


Art Out and About: US

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliffe 

Our 2020 “Art in the Barn” exhibition series is not until next Spring but there are plenty of exciting exhibitions featuring some of our favorite browngrotta arts’ artists to check out this Winter season. Below is a round up of 10 must-see shows in the US:

John McQueen, Untitled #192, 1989, burdock burrs and applewood
Ed Rossbach, Croissants, ca. 1987, cartons, block print, and staples
CREDIT
The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.
John McQueen, Untitled #192, 1989, burdock burrs and applewood
Ed Rossbach, Croissants, ca. 1987, cartons, block print, and staples
CREDIT
The Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation generously support the reinstallation of the Renwick’s permanent collection.

Washington, D.C.
Connections: Contemporary Craft
at the Renwick Gallery
On view – indefinitely
Connections is the Renwick Gallery’s dynamic ongoing permanent collection presentation, featuring more than 80 objects celebrating craft as a discipline and an approach to living differently in the modern world. The exhibition explores the underlying current of craft as a balancing, humanistic force in the face of an evermore efficiency-driven, virtual world. The installation highlights the evolution of the craft field as it transitions into a new phase at the hands of contemporary artists, showcasing the activist values, optimism, and uninhibited approach of today’s young artists, which in some way echoes the communal spirit and ideology of the pioneers of the American Studio Craft Movement in their heyday. Includes artist Lia Cook, Toshiko Takaezu, Ed Rossbach, John McQueen, Peter Voulkos.
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum 

Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, Washington, DC. (212)(202) 633-7970 https://americanart.si.edu

Bamian by Sheila Hicks
Bamian Sheila Hicks (American (lives and works in Paris), born in 1934) 1968 Wool and acrylic yarns, wrapped * Charles Potter Kling Fund and partial gift of Sheila Hicks © Sheila Hicks * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston, Massachusetts
Women Take the Floor 
On view through May 3, 2020
An exhibition of more than 200 works that challenge the dominant history of 20th-century American art by focusing on the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists – advocating for diversity, inclusion, and gender equity in museums, the art world, and beyond. Includes Lenore Tawney, Sheila Hicks, Olga Amaral, Kay Sekimachi, Toshiko Takaezu
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: (617) 267-9300 mfa.org

Katherine Westphal A Fantasy Meeting of Santa Claus with Big Julie and Tyrone at McDonalds
From Off the Wall: Katherine Westphal A Fantasy Meeting of Santa Claus with Big Julie and Tyrone at McDonalds, 1978. Resist-dyed cotton. San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, CA.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Off the Wall: American Art to Wear
On view through May 17, 2020  Delight in the astonishing inventiveness and techniques of a generation of mixed-media artists who pioneered a new art form designed around the body. Coming of age during the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1960s and 70s, the artists in this distinctively American movement explored non-traditional materials and methods to create adventurous, deeply imaginative works. Includes Norma Minkowitz and Katherine Westphal 
Philadelphia Museum of Art 
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 763-8100
https://philamuseum.org

White Pinwheel by Ethel Stein
Ethel Stein,White Pinwheel, 1990 cotton, satin damask weave; woven on a loom with a drawloom attachment fabricated by the artist 87.6 x 83.8 x 2.2 cm (34 1/2 x 33 x 7/8 in.)

Chicago, Illinois
Weaving beyond the Bauhaus
On view through Feb 17, 2020
Presented on the centenary of this foundational organization, Weaving beyond the Bauhaus traces the diffusion of Bauhaus artists, or Bauhäusler, such as Anni Albers and Marli Ehrman, and their reciprocal relationships with fellow artists and students across America. Through their ties to arts education institutions, including Black Mountain College, the Institute of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Yale University, these artists shared their knowledge and experiences with contemporary and successive generations of artists, including Sheila Hicks, Else Regensteiner, Ethel Stein, Lenore Tawney, and Claire Zeisler, shaping the landscape of American art in the process.
Art Institute Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
(312) 443-3600
https://www.artic.edu

In Poetry and Silence Lenore Tawney installation
In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney Installation view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2019
Courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center


Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe
On view through March 7, 2020
This series of four exhibitions explores Lenore Tawney’s (1907–2007) life and impact, offering a personal and historical view into her entire body of work. Read more about the Tawney exhibits in our earlier blog here: http://arttextstyle.com/2019/12/18/lenore-tawney-gets-her-due/  
John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC)
608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan, WI 53081
Phone: 920.458.6144
jmkac.org

Toshiko Takaezu portrait, 1998 by Tom Grotta
Toshiko Takaezu portrait, 1998 by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Racine, Wisconsin
It’s Like Poetry: Building a Toshiko Takaezu Archive at RAM 
On view through July 26, 2020
RAM’s archive now numbers over 30 works, including Toshiko Takaezu’s (1922-2011) most expansive grouping, the installation comprised of 14 “human-sized” forms, the Star Series. Significantly, the museum’s holdings span the range of Takaezu’s working career—with a double-spouted pot from the 1950s being the earliest and the Star Series (1999-2000) being the latest. 
Open Storage: RAM Showcases Ceramic, Fiber, and Regional Archives 
On view through August 30, 2020
Arranged as a series of artist solo showcases, Open Storage also highlights the earliest kinds of work given to RAM—textiles and works on paper. While ceramic works and art jewelry currently number as the two largest types of contemporary craft represented, examples of textiles, prints, drawings, and works on paper were among the very first gifts of artwork to the museum in the 1940s. This exhibition features the work of 12 artists—Sandra Byers, Gibson Byrd, John N. Colt, Theodore Czebotar, Lillian Elliott, Joseph Friebert, Ed Rossbach, Kay Sekimachi, Jean Stamsta, Merle Temkin, Murray Weiss, and Beatrice Wood—through multiple examples of their work. 
Racine Art Museum
441 Main Street, Racine, WI 53403
Phone: (262) 638-8300
https://www.ramart.org

Installation view of Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 22, 2019–January 2021). Alan Shields, J + K, 1972. Photograph by Ryan Urcia


New York, New York
Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019
On view through January 2021
The exhibition foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. This exhibition provides new perspectives on subjects that have been central to artists, including abstraction, popular culture, feminist and queer aesthetics, and recent explorations of identity and relationships to place. Together, the works demonstrate that craft-informed techniques of making carry their own kind of knowledge, one that is crucial to a more complete understanding of the history and potential of art. Drawn primarily from the Whitney’s collection, the exhibition will include over eighty works by more than sixty artists, including Ruth Asawa, Eva Hesse, Mike Kelley, Liza Lou, Ree Morton, Howardena Pindell, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine Reichek, and Lenore Tawney, as well as featuring new acquisitions by Shan Goshorn, Kahlil Robert Irving, Simone Leigh, Jordan Nassar, and Erin Jane Nelson. More on this exhibition in our previous post: http://arttextstyle.com/dispatches-making-knowing-craft-in-art-1950-2019-at-the-whitney/
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 570-3600
https://whitney.org

Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

New York, New York
Taking a Thread for a Walk
On view through April 19, 2020
True to its title, this exhibition takes a thread for a walk among ancient textile traditions, early-20th-century design reform movements, and industrial materials and production methods. Featuring adventurous combinations of natural and synthetic fibers and spatially dynamic pieces that mark the emergence of more a sculptural approach to textile art beginning in the 1960s, this show highlights the fluid expressivity of the medium. More about this exhibition in our earlier blog: Dispatches: Textiles Take Center Stage at the New MoMA, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York 
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 708-9400
https://www.moma.org

Lia Cook in front of Through the Curtain and Up from the Sea (1985) at MOCA in LA
Through the Curtain and Up from the Sea (1985) at MOCA in LA

Los Angeles, California
With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985
On view through May 3, 2020 Featuring approximately fifty artists from across the United States, the exhibition examines the Pattern and Decoration movement’s defiant embrace of forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental, or craft-based and thought to be categorically inferior to fine art. This is the first full-scale scholarly survey of this groundbreaking American art movement, encompassing works in painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, installation art, and performance documentation. Includes artist Lia Cook
Museum of Contemporary Art
Grand Avenue
250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 626-6222
https://www.moca.org 

Please check with each art institution for directions and hours.          


Dispatches: Textiles Take Center Stage at the New MoMA, New York, NY

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliff

To much fanfare, New York City’s beloved Museum of Modern Art reopened on Oct 21, 2019 after undergoing major renovations over the summer to expand to more than 40,000 square feet of gallery spaces. 

Magdalena Abakanowicz Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Magdalena Abakanowicz Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

The museum’s Department of Architecture and Design organized the inaugural exhibitions reexamining the role of both disciplines as “integral to the interdisciplinary conversation with the visual arts” — an approach we have ascribed to at browngrotta arts for over 30 years.

Of particular interest to arttexstyle is the textile exhibition titled Taking a Thread for a Walk, which is a whimsical play on Paul Klee’s pedagogical lesson that “a drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” This exhibition is on view at The Philip Johnson Galleries on the museum’s third floor through April 19, 2020.   

Taking a Thread for a Walk, according to MoMA’s official press release, “looks at how successive generations developed new material and constructive languages from the 1890s through the 1970s, highlighting the flexibility of textiles, a medium that continues to defy easy categorization. The installation ‘takes a thread for a walk’ among ancient textile traditions, early 20th-century design reform movements, adventurous combinations of natural and new synthetic fibers in industrial production, through to the emergence of a more sculptural approach to textile art in the 1960s and 70s. Textiles and the adjacent practices of architecture, painting, drawing and sculpture have long had a close affinity, especially in the 20th century, when there was a concerted move to emphasize the underlying unity of all art forms and to connect modern art with industry and daily life. Woven artifacts appeared at the forefront of ongoing debates around abstraction, the total work of art, and the fusion of art with technology, challenging the widespread marginalization of textiles as ‘women’s work.'” Many of the pioneers in this narrative have been women, chief among them Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Florence Knoll and Sheila Hicks. Also featured are  recent acquisitions by Monika Correa (India), Aurèlia Muñoz (Catalonia), and the French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, making clear the medium’s global relevance.

Upon entering the exhibition, we were greeted by a large scale sisal sculpture Yellow Abakan 1967–1968 by Magdalena Abakanowicz whose monumental works were often misperceived as a “feminine’ craft.” For more than half a century, Magdalena Abakanowicz produced critically acclaimed, poetic sculptures about the fraught and fragile condition of being human, shaped by her experiences growing up during WWII and living through the Soviet domination of Poland. According to MoMA, “Abakanowicz and many artists of the Eastern Bloc were drawn to craft and textile traditions as expressive mediums less regulated by Soviet censorship. Yellow Abakan‘s form is determined by the drape of the textile, which is coarsely woven from sisal, an industrial plant fiber used to make rope. The scarred seams and anatomical appendages lend the work a figural quality, something Abakanowicz continues to explore in large-scale sculptures cast in hardened fiber. Yellow Abakan was among works by several Polish weavers included in

Wall Hangings, a 1969 MoMA exhibition showcasing the work of international contemporary fiber artists. Abakanowicz’ work was first exhibited in the US by gallerists Anne and Jacques Baruch of Chicago. The Baruch’s work with fiber artists from Eastern Europe is the subject of browngrotta arts’ catalog, Advocates for Art: Polish and Czech Fiber Artists from the Anne and Jacques Baruch Collection.

Directly across and in stark contrast in size is a beautiful raffia basket by Ed Rossbach Raffia Lace Basket, 1973. Rossbach was a relentless experimenter and according to MoMA “his career began in with ceramics and weaving in the 1940s, but evolved over the next decade into basket making. He is best known for his innovative and playful baskets made from nontraditional materials such as plastic and newspaper.” Rossbach was also featured in our recent exhibition Artists from The Grotta Collection which is now extended online on Artsy. 

linen sculpture by Sheila Hicks titled Cartridges and Zapata 1962–1965
Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Another highlight of the exhibition is a linen sculpture by Sheila Hicks titled Cartridges and Zapata 1962–1965. Hicks is one of the several modern craft and dimensional art artists who are part of The Grotta Collection. Hicks’ work is featured in browngrotta arts’ catalog, Sheila Hicks: Joined by seven artists from Japan, which documents an exhibition Hicks curated at bga in the 90s, one of several bga exhibitions in which Hicks’ work has been included.

Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019
Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Also of interest is a curious framed coptic rounded tapestry from the 6th-8th century titled Christ enthroned by an unknown designer. There is a loom on the left by Anni Albers labeled Structo ArtCraft 750 loom c. 1952 and to the right is a sculpture by Aurèlia Muñoz and Antoni Gaudi’s Study of a catenary arch for the Gaudí crypt at Colonia Güell, 1996. And directly above is a 3-panel digital video projection titled Warping Threading Weaving Drawing, 2014 by Simon Barker and Ismni Samanidou.

Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 
2019
Installation view of “Taking a Thread for a Walk”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Poorly

Another section of the exhibition featured a collection of woven textiles and in the foreground we were delighted to see a mesmerizing wall hanging by Jack Lenor Larsen, Interplay Casement Fabric, 1960, made of rovanna saran microfilamant. An international textile designer, author and collector, Larsen has long played an influential role in textile arts and has been an important mentor and supporter of browngrotta arts. “I think of interior fabrics as something to be in, not just to sit on or look at. Objects are out: the surround is in, and how we feel and relate to space is everything,” Larsen is quoted from 1978 on the MoMA art label. Behind these collections of soft fabrics is Halyard armchair, 1950 by Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner who was commissioned by Lou and Sandy Grotta to design several pieces for their home, The Grotta House. Anni Albers’ popularity is well represented in the exhibition, too, with 18 works ranging from 1926 to 1983 including screenprints, design drawings and tapestry. 

Sheila Hicks Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column
Installation view of Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Denis Doorly

Wait, there’s more! On the sixth floor of the museum is another exhibition Surrounds: 11 Installations, showcasing for the first time 11 watershed installations by living artists from the past two decades, all drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition includes Hicks’ monumental Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column (2013–14) that “playfully and subversively challenges notions of architecture as permanent, solid, and tectonic.”

Be sure to go and see this abundance for yourself. Taking a Thread for a Walk is on view through April 19, 2020. The MoMA is located at 11 West 53 Street, New York. Open daily from 10am to 5:30pm. For more information, visit MoMA.org


Process Notes: Aleksandra Stoyanov

Aleksandra Stoyanov small woven sculpture
Aleksandra Stoyanov, 9as Reflection wool, plexiglas, 8” x 8.125” x 3.375, 2004
photo by Tom Grotta

We recently corresponded with Aleksandra Stoyanov, known as Sasha, about her practice and influences. Here is what we learned:
On Influences Sasha began drawing in childhood. She was not very healthy as a child. She spent a lot of time in the hospital and this influenced her further understanding of people and life itself. 

Aleksandra Stoyanov, JUDGES wool, sisal
Aleksandra Stoyanov, 5as JUDGES wool, sisal, 91” x 60”, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

Her mother sent Sasha to a Art School in Odessa to study drawing. Afterschool she attended Odessa Theater Art College where she studied stenography, graphic arts, painting and theater. Her first great art inspiration in college was her teacher Leon Alshits. He gave her an understanding of composition and the understanding that objects can speak with the same significance as a man and that objects have their own biographies. Studying in Theatrical college altered Sasha’s vision of the world she lived in. Among other things, Sasha was inspired by both Medieval Art and especially taken with black-and-white photography. 

Aleksandra Stoyanov, Personal space wool, linen, silk
Aleksandra Stoyanov, Personal space wool, linen, silk tapestry, 63” x 208.7” 2004


After college Sasha worked in theater production but was disappointed. She left the theater and began experimenting with threads. Sasha loved playing with threads. Feeling a thread for Sasha was feeling a living material. The feeling of thread as a live material and a desire to draw with it brought Sasha to develop her own technique. She began working on a small, simple frame loom working in bright colors.

Aleksandra Stoyanov, From Chaos to Reality
Aleksandra Stoyanov, 2as From Chaos to Reality, 103″ x 101″, 2003


In the 90s, Sasha  and her husband Yan Belinky, packed up and left Odessa to get away from the anti-semitism there that was growing worse. They chose Israel as a better environment to bring up their daughter and give her a motherland. They had no idea what to expect since there was no internet. They just picked up and flew to Israel.

Aleksandra Stoyanov tapestry, From the First Person I
Detail of Aleksandra Stoyanov tapestry, From the First Person I, wool, sisal, silk, cotton threads, 49.25” x 55.6”, 1999 From the First Person II is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Tom Grotta

In Israel, Sasha learned from Zilli Landman how to work on large looms for her tapestry. Landman helped her refine her technique for weaving on these large looms.

FORWORD, Aleksandra Stoyanov
4as FORWORD, Aleksandra Stoyanov, brown paper and thread, , 106.5″ x 45.5″

Sasha began making her own handmade threads from the wool of the Avassi sheep. Sasha makes all of her threads from their wool, which she says are the only sheep whose wool has the texture she prefers. She dyes the wool in large batches to create the palette for her works.
Sasha’s color palette has completely changed since moving to Israel.  She fell in love with the colors of the burnt summer dessert. Sasha has found that grey-brown hues can suggest more colors and be more expressive than bright colors. Burnt trees, grass and rocks have been the main colors of her palette ever since. 


Anniversary Alert: 10 Years of Feminist Art…

Anniversary Alert: 10 Years of Feminist Art in Brooklyn;
More Chances to Celebrate at MOMA, LongHouse Reserve and elsewhere

Faith Ringgold, Early Works #25: Self-Portrait, Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in. (127 x 101.6 cm), 1965. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Elizabeth A. Sackler, 2013.96. © artist or artist’s estate.
Photo: Jim Frank

Lots of opportunities to see work by women artists and consider their role in the canon. The centerpiece are the exhibitions and events that make up A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum which celebrates the10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. A Year of Yes recognizes feminism as a force for progressive change and takes the contributions of feminist art as its starting point. It reimagines next steps, expanding feminism from the struggle for gender parity to embrace broader social-justice issues of tolerance, inclusion, and diversity. Among the exhibitions on view is We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, through September 17th, which presents a large and diverse group of artists and activists who lived and worked at the intersections of avant-garde art worlds, radical political movements, and profound social change, the exhibition features a wide array of work, including conceptual, performance, film, and video art, as well as photography, painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Faith Ringgold, known for her quilts among other works, protested in the early 70s the Whitney Biennial’s prepondence of male artists. Ringgold also visited incarcerated women at Riker’s Island, and created a large painting there using their narratives, which is part of We Wanted a Revolution. Others artist included Alva Rogers, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Coreen Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems. Know before you go, with this primer from Artspace, 6 Black Radical Female Artists to Know Before You See We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.” If you are tied up for the next month, you have a second chance to see the exhibition at the ICA in Boston when it opens there next June 26th.
Also upcoming at the Brooklyn Museum is Roots of “The Dinner Party”: History in the Making which opens October 20, 2017 and runs through March 2018. Since the 1970s, Judy Chicago has been a pioneer in the development of feminism as an artistic movement and an educational project that endeavors to restore women’s place in history. Her most influential and widely known work is the sweeping installation The Dinner Party (1974–79), on which Judy Mulford worked, celebrating women’s achievements in Western culture in the form of a meticulously executed banquet table set for 39 mythical and historical women and honoring 999 others.Roots of “The Dinner Party”: History in the Making is the first exhibition to examine Chicago’s evolving plans for The Dinner Party in depth, detailing its development as a multilayered artwork, a triumph of community art-making, and a testament to the power of historical revisionism. Chicago’s ambitious research project combatted the absence of women from mainstream historical narratives and blazed the trail for feminist art historical methodologies in an era of social change. It also validated mediums traditionally considered the domain of women and domestic labor, as the artist studied and experimented with China painting, porcelain and needlework.

Sheila Hicks, Prayer Rug, Hand-spun wool, 87 × 43″ (221
× 109.2 cm), 1965, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Dr. Mittelsten Schied, 1966

But that’s not all. You still have  four days to see the acclaimed MOMA exhibition, Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction which includes 100 works that “range from the boldly gestural canvases of Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell; the radical geometries by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Gego; and the reductive abstractions of Agnes Martin, Anne Truitt, and Jo Baer; to the fiber weavings of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, and Lenore Tawney; and the process-oriented sculptures of Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, and Eva Hesse. The exhibition will also feature many little-known treasures such as collages by Anne Ryan, photographs by Gertrudes Altschul, and recent acquisitions on view for the first time at MoMA by Ruth Asawa, Carol Rama, and Alma Woodsey Thomas.” Again, you can become well-informed before your visit (or visit online in lieu of inperson) with online resources, YouTube presentations, one when the exhibition opened and another, a tour of the exhibition with a MOMA curator.

Beginning on September 13th, the ICA, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, will present Nathalie Du Pasquier: BIG OBJECTS NOT ALWAYS SILENT, a retrospective exploring the prolific creative practice of artist and designer Nathalie Du Pasquier on view from September 13 through December 23, 2017. A founding member of the Italian design collective Memphis, Du Pasquier’s work across painting, sculpture, drawing, installation and design demonstrates a unique and considered interpretation of space and objects. A catalog will accompany the exhibition. A collection of graphic and whimsical textile designs by Nathalie Du Pasquier and George Sowden has been released by 4 Spaces and Zigzag Zurich.

Nathalie Du Pasquier, Still life on my bicycle, oil on canvas, 39 x 59 inches, 2005. Courtesy of Kunsthalle Wien and the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania

Must these artists be categorized as “women artists”? That’s just one of the questions that Hampton’s artist, Toni Ross hopes to explore ina  series of conversations at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York. “In my mind this is a complex issue,” she writes. “I do believe that there are forces that confront all non-white male artists and that that conversation is evolving and changing rapidly. The Hamptons, with its rich history of artists includes many important women who broke ground for us, many whom may have been overshadowed by their more recognized partners. I look forward to the conversations in all of their complexities.” The conversations, in WOMEN ARTISTS: Reshaping the Conversation, A series of panel discussions in the LongHouse Garden will unfold in three events, beginning this Saturday:

Saturday, August 12, 11:00 am
CHRISTOPHE DE MENIL
MICHELE OKE DONER
APRIL GORNIK
UZOAMAKA MADUKA
NEDA YOUNG

Saturday, August 26, 11:00 am
JOAN JULIET BUCK
ANDREA GROVER
BARBARA ROSE
MICHELLE STUART
TERRIE SULTAN

Saturday, September 23, 11:00 am
ALICE AYCOCK
PERNILLA HOLMES
BASTIENNE SCHMIDT
ALMOND ZIGMUND
additional panelists to be announced

Reservations to these events are required. RSVP to Mr. Jack Meyer at jack.meyer@gsmltd.net, 212.271.4283.