Tag: Norma Minkowitz

Art Assembled – New This Week in June

Summer has brought sunshine, adventures, and an abundance of art to browngrotta arts! We’ve been immersed in exhibitions, shining a spotlight on our fabulous artists, and proudly launched our catalog for Discourse, art across generations and continents.

As June draws to a close, join us in recapping our featured artists from the New This Week series, including Norma Minkowitz, Rachel Max, Sue Lawty, and Hisako Sekijima. Let’s dive in!

Norma Minkowitz
105nm Swept Away, Norma Minkowitz, fiber and mixed media, 40″ x 40″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Starting off the month, we featured the work of artist Norma Minkowitz. Renowned sculptor Norma Minkowitz has dedicated years to exploring the potential of crocheted sculptures, intricately interlaced and hardened into mesh-like structures.

Her artworks seamlessly blend structure and surface, offering profound reflections on themes of enclosure and entrapment. Minkowitz frequently contemplates the cycles of life and renewal, leaving twigs and branches embedded within her sculptures. These elements peek through the exterior, evoking comparisons to human skeletal or circulatory systems.

We are lucky to be able to work with her, and we hope everyone else enjoyed her feature as much as we did!

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.

Next, we featured the talented artist Rachel Max, known for her innovative approach to contemporary basketry from her London base. Max’s artistic journey explores the intricate interplay between lace and traditional basketmaking techniques, resulting in finely woven sculptural pieces designed for interior spaces.

Her creative process involves meticulous refinement, exploration, and development of delicate openwork structures, where the juxtaposition of precise patterns with more relaxed weaves emerges as a recurring motif. Throughout her work, color plays a pivotal role, serving as a unifying element essential to Max’s artistic expression.

Sue Lawty
33sl Juncture, Sue Lawty, lead, 15.25″ x 12.25″ x 1.5″, 2023. Photo by Tom Grotta

We then turned our spotlight to artist Sue Lawty; renowned for her extensive experience as an artist, designer, and educator, with works displayed in prestigious collections worldwide, including a notable residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Lawty’s creative practice delves deep into emotional, spiritual, and physical connections with the land. Through intuitive and meticulous exploration of materials and construction techniques, she constructs unique textual languages. It’s no surprise her contributions are revered across the art world.

Hisako Sekijima
668=680 Grasp V, Hisako Sekijima, walnut, black and kan-chiku bamboo, 9” x 11” x 5.5”, 2023. Photo by Tom Grotta

Last, but certainly not least, we featured the work of artist Hisako Sekijima. Sekijima is known in the art world for her sculptural baskets created with diverse materials including cherry, hibiscus and cedar bark, kudzu, and bamboo.

She describes herself as a perpetual experimenter, fascinated by concepts of order and disorder, connection and disconnection. Her artistic pursuits encompass a wide range of techniques and themes, from binding and wrapping space to exploring spheres, handles, and the interplay of materials.

We look forward to continuing this exploration with you in the months ahead. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories and artists featured in our upcoming series!


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!


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.


Discourse, Our Spring 2024 Exhibition, and the Theory of “Unexpected Red”

Discourse art installation: Pagter, Klein, Rage, Luzzi, Hatekayama
Works by Gudrun Pagter, Anneke Klein, Lija Rage, Federica Luzzi, Norie Norie Hatakeyama. Photo by Tom Grotta

In curating our exhibitions, we develop an idea, then begin to compile art to build out the concept. We tweak the theme and design the installation in response to the what arrives. The process, and the artists we work with, always deliver surprises. 

The impetus for this Spring’s Discourse: art across generations and continents exhibition was formed by our hanging abstract weavings by Warren Seelig from 1976, one white and black, one red and black, next to a strikingly kindred work of black and red and grey and off-white by Blair Tate from 2023. The works seemed to have something to say to one another. We realized we had other works from different time periods and artists who approached the same material and techniques very differently. The result: Discourse, an exhibition inviting dialogue, discourse, comparison and contrast.

Warren Seelig and Blair Tate tapestries
Warren Seelig’s White Plus and White, 1976 tapestries, Blair Tate On Balance, 2024. Photo by Tom Grotta

As we compiled work for Discourse, an unanticipated subtheme emerged. The color red featured in several works that would be included. There was Anneke Klein’s Dialogue that we wanted to include, for obvious reasons. Gudrun Pagter sent us Red. Lija Rage sent us Leaves. Jin-Sook So offered us three red bowls, Federica Luzzi a dramatic wall sculpture, Red Shell No. 4, and Mary Merkel-Hess a red-tipped basket. After much online research, we had discovered the maker of a work from the estate of Mariette Rousseau-Vermette that we also wanted to include. It was Margareta Ahlstedt-Willandt of Finland and again, the work featured a good amount of red.  

Textiles by Margareta Ahlstedt-Willandt and Federica Luzzi
1awm Nåky Vision II, Margareta Ahlstedt-Willandt, fabric, 20″ x 19″ x 2″, 1950’s; 17fl Red Shell n.4, Federica Luzzi, dyed linen, waxed cotton, acrylic wool thread, 24” x 15” x 6.5”, 2024. Photo by Tom Grotta

There are more than 100 works in Discourse and most of them are not red. But red has a way of making itself known — as the works in the exhibition do. As we were planning, a theory, “Unexpected Red,” hit Tik-Tok, and, as Tik-Tok sensations are wont to do, then hit The New York Times, the Washington Post and Elle Decor. “Splashes of red really do just make anything mysterious, sexy even,” the Washington Post, quotes an email from Colette van den Thillart, a designer in Toronto. “Red is so dynamic, dangerous, and commanding. It can set an environment alight, which is why this trend makes total sense to me.” (“Designers say ‘unexpected red’ really works. Here’s how to use it.The theory making the rounds on social media can add a little intrigue to any room,” Washington Post, Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, March 16, 2024.)

71jss Soul of a Bowl I-III, Jin Sook So, steel mesh, electroplaited silver, pure gold leaf, acrylic, steel thread
6” x 12.75” x 9.75”, each, 2024; 212mm Another Autumn, Mary Merkel Hess, paper cord, paper, 28″ x 18″ x 12″, 2023. Photo by Tom Grotta

There’s a scientific basis for red’s preeminence, notes Ingrid Fetell Lee, who hosts The Aesthetics of Joy blog. In studies, red has been shown to capture and hold attention in emotional situations better than other colors and that exposure to red light increases blood pressure, respiratory rate, skin conductance, and eye blinking, all measures of an increase in what psychologists call arousal, a physiological measure of excitement. Many evolutionary biologists believe that our color vision evolved in large part to help our primate ancestors find ripe fruits and young leaves (which naturally appear red) among the green leaves of the treetop canopy. “So perhaps ‘unexpected red’ in a home functions more like seeing a bowl of ripe cherries than a cut to the finger,” Lee hypothesizes, like “a bright and exciting burst of joy.”

Bursts of joy is what we hope you’ll find at Discourse (May 4 – 12). Not just red; we’ve got works in shades of green, others in blue, beige, yellow and orange — lots of works in paper and natural materials, works by 50 artists from 18 countries. Schedule your visit to Discourse now.

Green artwork by Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, Norma Minkowitz, Mary Merkel-Hess, Neda Al-hilali
572mr Printemps “Spring”, Mariette Rousseau-Vermette, 40″ x 86″, 1988; 17fl Red Shell n.4, 106nm Whispers, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, 15.75″ x 15.75″ x 15.75″, 2003; 211mm Sky and Water, Mary Merkel-Hess, paper cord, paper, 21″ x 19″ x 13″, 2023; 1na Crystal Planet, Neda Al-hilali, plaited color paper, acrylic, ink drawing, paper, 43″ x 49″ x 2.5″, 1982. Photo by Tom Grotta

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.


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.


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.


Table Topping

Christine Joy Willow boat basket
44cj Boat Becoming a River, Christine Joy, willow, beeswax, damar resin, 13.625″ x 30″ x 8.5″, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

The holiday season is upon us. Beginning with Diwali, winding its way through Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and probably others, we’ll arrive at the promise of a New Year. We wish you many celebrations, satisfying meet-ups with family and friends, and moments of cozy comfort and joy over the next few weeks.

Deborah Valoma wire vessels
20dv Clytemnestra (Undone), Deborah Valoma, copper wire, woven, patinated, unwoven, wound, series of 5 balls 6″ x 6″ to 12″ x 12,” 2001. Photo by Tom Grotta
Mary Giles copper and linen centerpiece
27mg Black Profile, Mary Giles, waxed linen, copper, copper wire, 12.75″ x 31.25″ x 6.5″, 2002. Photo by Tom Grotta

Many of those festivities will include food and drink and maybe games and they’ll take place around a table. On many of those tables there will be a centerpiece of some kind — flowers, candles, and often a work of art. In that spirit, we present several artworks that can grace a a table as well as a pedestal or shelf.

Yasuhisa Kohyama Ceramic
11yk Ceramic 11, Yasuhisa Kohyama, ceramic, 15.7″ x 14.5″ x 4.7″ , 2001. Photo by Tom Grotta
Rachel Max plaited Red sculpture
12rm Balance, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 12″ x 16″ x 9″, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

A browngrotta arts, we’ve been considering the transformative power of objects all Fall, their capacity to invoke memory and meaning. Our An Abundance of Objects exhibition can be seen in a Viewing Room on Artsy beginning November 22nd. Like those in The Domestic Plane: a New Perspective on Tabletop Art at the Aldrich Museum in 2019, the items in Abundance celebrate “the hand as means of creation, a formal frame of reference, and for the viewer, a source of both delight and tension …” And sometimes, they enhance our lives just by being beautiful. We wish you a season of as much beauty as you can muster.

Dorothy Gill Barnes glass and wood sculpture
38dgb Hackberry Dendroglyph, Dorothy Gill Barnes, hackberry dendroglyph, glass, 12″ x 27″ x 12″, 2007. Photo by Tom Grotta
Norma Minkowitz boy riding bird
99nm Unbound, Norma Minkowitz, mixed media fiber, 18.5” x 23” x 17”, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

Art Assembled – New This Week in August

As August comes to a close, we’re excited to reflect on the remarkable artwork that has graced our New This Week series throughout the month. This month, our focus has been twofold: celebrating the creative brilliance of Helena Hernmarck, Norma Minkowitz, Gerhardt Knodel, and Ferne Jacobs, while also putting the finishing touches on our upcoming exhibition, Vignettes: one venue, three exhibitions.

The anticipation has been building as we prepare to unveil this extraordinary fusion of artistry in a unique format. Vignettes will present a triad of exhibitions featuring the distinguished wood sculptor Dorothy Gill Barnes, the renowned weaver and surface designer Glen Kaufman, and An Abundance of Objects, showcasing an array of baskets, ceramics, and sculptures by over thirty international artists.

Stay tuned as we recap all of the New This Week features we covered throughout August.

5-6hh Ruskin Tickets, Helena Hernmarck, tapestry in wool, linen and cotton, 59″ x 47″, 1994-2019. Photo by Tom Grotta.

As we journeyed through August, our New This Week series began with a feature of artwork from artist Helena Hernmarck. Hailing from Sweden, Hernmarck is a trailblazer in the world of tapestry, revolutionizing the field with her innovative techniques and captivating designs. Her tapestries are not just artworks; they are harmonious unions of art and architecture, seamlessly integrating into modern spaces.

Hernmarck’s mastery lies in her handweaving technique, which allows her to conjure the illusion of movement within her tapestries. With every thread, she orchestrates a dance of colors and shapes that come alive, captivating our senses and challenging our perceptions.

Her tapestries, as displayed here, are dynamic conversations between art and observer – inviting us to explore their depths from various distances, each unveiling a different facet of the narrative.

Norma Minkowitz
102nm Sophia’s Heart, Norma Minkowitz, crochet, stitched some collage 34.5” x 17 x 13.5”, 2002. Photo by Tom Grotta.

As we ventured further into August, our New This Week spotlight was turned to Norma Minkowitz, a sculptor whose creations embody an intricate dance between structure and surface. Minkowitz has devoted years to pushing the boundaries of crocheted sculptures, weaving them into mesmerizing mesh-like forms that transfix the viewer’s gaze.

Minkowitz’s artistic journey delves deep into the thematic interplay of confinement and release. Her mesh sculptures, delicately formed through the art of crocheting, carry within them a profound reflection on the cycles of life, encapsulating the notions of mortality and rebirth. Beyond their visual allure, her works exude a powerful narrative that intertwines the fragility and resilience of existence.

Incorporating elements from the natural world, Minkowitz often intertwines twigs and branches into her sculptures. With each piece, Minkowitz masterfully transcends mere physicality, inviting us to contemplate the profound complexities that underlie the human experience, and Sophia’s Heart is no exception!

Gerhardt Knodel
3gkn Jacquard Suite #10, Gerhardt Knodel, cotton, linen, metallic gimp, 1982 38” x 30” x 1.75”

Up next we featured art from Gerhardt Knodel. Knodel is known across the world for his contributions that have shaped contemporary fiber art for over five decades. His artistic exploration of textures and textiles has led to pioneering applications that seamlessly merge fibers with interior architecture, pushing the boundaries of creative possibility.

Drawing from his early experiences in theater design, Knodel embarked on a unique path that delved into uncharted territories of textile applications. His innovative concepts resonated globally, showcased in exhibitions around the world and commissioned for contemporary architectural spaces across the United States. Notably, his work extends far beyond the realm of creation; for 25 years, he steered the graduate program in Fiber at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and directed the Academy from 1995-2007, ultimately earning the esteemed title of Director Emeritus.

Through his inventive approach, Knodel invites us to reimagine the potential of fiber and texture in shaping the aesthetics of our surroundings. His journey is a testament to the transformative power of artistic vision, and we are honored to be able to work with him.

Ferne Jacobs
7fj Shadow Figure, Ferne Jacobs, coiled and twined linen thread, 61″ x 11″ x 3″, 1980’s

And as we rounded out the month, we introduced you all to Ferne Jacobs, a pioneering figure who has been at the forefront of the fiber art revolution since the 1960s. With innovative ideas and a penchant for pushing boundaries, Jacobs has carved a new path in the world of sculpture, introducing an entirely fresh format to the realm of artistic expression.

Jacobs’ journey of creativity has led her to transcend the conventional, reshaping materials into striking sculptures that challenge traditional norms. Her acute sense of color, combined with her poetic and intuitive approach, infuses her artworks with a distinctive vibrancy that captures the essence of her artistic vision. Her pieces are more than sculptures; they are vibrant dialogues between imagination and reality, form and color.

As we bid farewell to August, we are humbled by the incredible artistic journeys we’ve had the privilege to explore. In the meantime, we are eagerly awaiting the opening of Vignettes: one venue, three exhibitions on Saturday, October 7. We invite you to register for the event and follow along as we continue to drop new artist features throughout September!


Art Out and About: In the US and Abroad

So many exhibitions to visit this Spring from Sweden, Australia and the UK to California, Washington and New York — and two in Connecticut. Check them out.

Beauty and the Unexpected
Modern and Contemporary American Crafts
National Museum
Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2
Stockholm, Sweden
March 30, 2023 – January 21, 2024

Gyöngy Laky Incident
Incident, Gyöngy Laky, from Beauty and the Unexpected exhibition in Stockholm, Natural and commercial wood, paint,
bullets for building (screws), 50” x 50” x 4.5”, 2012. Photo by Tom Grotta

National Museum has invited Helen W. Drutt English, pioneering craft educator and gallerist of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts since the 1960s, to assemble a collection of objects drawn from the field of “American Crafts.” The selection of 81 works from the 1950s until today will in future enrich National Museum’s collections and will provide a possibility to look at American Crafts in the Nordic context.

International Textile Art Biennale 
(Fibre Arts Australia)
Emu Park Art Gallery
EMU Park
13 Hill Street
Queensland, Australia 
From April 15 – June 10, 2023

Neha Puri Dhir handwoven silk
Overflow by Neha Puri Dhir, stitch-Resist Dyeing on Handwoven Silk (Diptych), 95 x 128cm 95 x 32cm, 2022. Photo by Neha Puri Dhir

Fibre Arts Australia is highlighting the contemporary practice within Art Textiles as an art form.

​The International Art Textile Biennale (IATB) seeks to exhibit the best of contemporary art textiles and invited submissions, from Australia and Internationally, that reflect a wide range of works related to the textile medium. Thirty-five artists were selected to participate, including Neha Puri Dhir. The works are exhibited at various locations throughout Australia.

Wendy Wahl Installation
Wendy Wahl Installation. Photo by Brooke Yung, assistant curator

Paper Town
Fitchburg Art Museum
185 Elm Street
Fitchburg, MA 01420
Through June 4, 2023

This exhibition takes paper out of the two-dimensional into a world that is fantastical, intricate, colorful, and personal. Inspired by the materiality of paper and the metamorphic quality of the papermaking process, Paper Town explores paper in pulp, cast, folded, and cut forms. The exhibition includes artwork by several artists located in New England:  May Babcock, Erik and Martin Demaine, Andrea Dezsö, Tory Fair, Hong Hong, Fred Liang, Michelle Samour, Heidi Whitman and browngrotta artist Wendy Wahl.

Polly Barton Irate
Works by Polly Barton, James Bassler and others in Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth. Photo by Polly Barton.

Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth
Seattle Art Museum
1300 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Through May 29, 2023

Visitors to Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, will enter the woven world of ikat, a complex textile pattern that knows no borders. Presenting over 100 textiles from the museum’s global collection with gifts and loans from a dedicated Seattle-area collector, Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth is an introduction to the meticulous and time-honored processes of dyeing threads to create complicated hand-weaving. Contemporary work in the exhibition includes tapestries by Polly Barton and James Bassler, and an extraordinary installation by Rowland Ricketts.

Connective Threads
Palos Verde Cultural Center
Fiber Art from Southern California
Curated by Carrie Burckle and Jo Lauria
Through April 15, 2023

Carol Shaw-Sutton installation
Persephone’s Filters by Carol Shaw-Sutton. Photo by Carol Shaw-Sutton

Connective Threads provides a window into what is currently engaging fiber artists, even as this discipline continues to evolve and change. Emanating from artists’ studios in Southern California, the exhibition offers unique perspectives on the complicated identities of fiber art as a genre. Collectively they offer a penetrating examination of fiber’s possibilities. Exhibiting artists include Jim Bassler, Cameron Taylor-Brown, Ben Cuevas, Mary Little, Michael F. Rohde, and Carol Shaw-Sutton. 

Detail Magdalena Abakanowicz
Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Montana del Fuego detail by Tom Grotta

Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle of Thread and Rope
Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
Through May 21, 2023

In the ’60s and ’70s, the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz created radical sculptures from woven fibers. They were soft, not hard; ambiguous and organic; towering works that hung from the ceiling and pioneered a new form of installation. They became known as the “Abakans.” Many of the most significant Abakans are brought together at the Tate Modern in a forest-like display in a 64-meter long gallery space.

The exhibition explores this transformative period of Abakanowicz’s practice when her woven forms came off the wall and into three-dimensional space. With these works she brought soft, fibrous forms into a new relationship with sculpture. A selection of early textile pieces and her little-known drawings are also on show.

And of course, there are the four “don’t miss” events browngrotta arts is involved in this Spring.

Norma Minkowitz installation
Norma Minkowitz: Body to Soul installation. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz: Body to Soul
Fairfield University Art Gallery
Bellarmine Hall
Fairfield, CT
Through April 6, 2023

Gyöngy Laky and John McQueen
Out on a Limb by Gyöngy Laky and Billboard by John McQueen from the WordPlay exhibition.

Wordplay: Messages in Branches & Bark 
Flinn Gallery: Greenwich Library
101 West Putnam Avenue 
Greenwich, CT
March 30 – May 10, 2023

Aby Mackie detail
Detail: We Can All Be Saved 10 by Aby Mackie, gilded gold lead decontructed and reconfigured antique textiles, 2022. Photo by Tom Grotta

Making a Mark: The Art of Self Expression
Bay Street Theater
1 Bay Street
Sag Harbor, NY
Through May 7, 2023

And last, but not least, our Spring Art in the Barn at browngrotta arts:

Dominic Di Mare installation
The Mourners, Dominic Di Mare from the Acclaim! Works by Award-Winning Artists exhibition, waxed linen, wood, 46.5″-50.5″(h) x 24″each, 1962. Photo by Tom Grotta.

Acclaim! Work by Award-Winning International Artists
browngrotta arts
276 Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
April 29 – May 7, 2023


The Human Figure in Abstract

The human figure in art is the most direct means by which art can address the human condition, says The Roland Collection of films on art, architecture and authors. “In early societies its significance was supernatural, a rendering of gods or spirits in human form. Later, in the Renaissance, although Christianity provided the dominant social belief system, Western art’s obsession with the figure reflected an increasingly humanist outlook, with humankind at the center of the universe. The distortions of Modernist art, meanwhile, may be interpreted as reflecting human alienation, isolation and anguish.” 

Dawn MacNutt, Testimony 1 & 2, woven willow 51” x 24” x 24”, 1980s 42” x 22” x 22”, 1980s. Photo by Tom Grotta

Among the artists represented in the browngrotta arts’ collection are several who recreate the human figure in three-dimensions with provocative results. Dawn MacNutt of Canada is known for her nearly life-size figures of willow and seagrass. The sculpture and architecture of ancient Greece has been a major influence on her vision. “I first experienced pre-classical Greek sculpture in the hallways of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as a teenager in the 1950s.” she says. “When I visited Greece 40 years later, the marble human forms resonated even more strongly.  The posture and attitude of ancient Greek sculpture reflects forms as fresh and iconic as today… sometimes formal … sometimes relaxed. Her works, like Praise North and Praise South, reflect the marble human forms, columns, caryatids …  sometimes truncated… found outdoors as well as in museums in Greece. They were inspired by two study and work trips to Greece just before and after the millennium, 1995 and 2000.

Stéphanie Jacques sculpture installation
Stéphanie Jacques sculpture installation. Photo by Tom Grotta

Figures created by Stéphanie Jacques of Belgium are clearly humanoid, but less literal. “For a long time I have been trying to create a figure that stands upright,” Jacques explain. “…all of this is related to the questions I ask myself about femininity and sexual identity. My driving forces are the emotions, the wants and the impossibilities that are particular to me. Once all this comes out, I seek to make it resonate in others. My work is not a lament, but a place where I can transform things to go on.”

Lead Relief, Mary Giles
Detail: Lead Relief, Mary Giles, lead, iron, wood, 23.75” x 56 .75” x 2”, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

As Artsy has chronicled, drawn, painted, and sculpted images of human beings can be found in Han Dynasty tombs in China, in Mayan art, and even in the nearly 30,000-year-old wall drawings of the Chauvet Caves in southern France. In incorporating the figure into her work, Mary Giles responded to the graphic power of the male image in early art, such as the petroglyphs of the Southwest, aerial views of prehistoric land art, and the rudimentary figures of Native American baskets. She used similar representations of men on her baskets. Her husband, architect, Jim Harris, told the Racine Art Museum, “Sometimes they were made with the bodies of the men created as part of the coiling process but with the arms and legs added as three-dimensional elements, Some baskets were supported by the legs of the figures. Later, this idea evolved into totems with coiled bodies, the legs as part of a supporting armature, and the arms as free elements. She made over 50 totems! They were small and large, singular and in pairs. They were embellished with everything from puka shells gathered at the beach, to all sorts of metal elements both found and individually made by Mary.”

In 2007, Giles made a piece with individual male figures made of wrapped wire placed directly into the wall. It was composed of hundreds of torched copper wire men arranged outwardly from dense to sparse. She continued this work by placing the figures onto panels. These dealt with Giles’ concerns about population. “They are not baskets,” she explained , “but the men they incorporate have been on my vessels for nearly 30 years. I am still working with these ideas of overpopulation, density and boundaries,” she said in 2013 in her remarks on being awarded the Master of the Medium Award for Fiber from the James Renwick Alliance.

Its a Small World Isn't it?, Judy Mulford
Detail: Its a Small World Isn’t it?, Judy Mulford gourd, waxed linen, fine silver, antique buttons, Japanese coins, beads and antique necklace from Kyoto flea market, pearls from Komodo Island, photo transfers, pounded tin can lids, Peruvian beads, paper, dye, paint; knotting and looping 13″ x 13″ x 16.5″, 2003. Photo by Tom Grotta

Where Mary Giles featured male figures in her works, Judy Mulford’s figures were nearly always women — mothers, sisters, daughters. “My work is autobiographical, personal, graphic and narrative,” she said. “And always, a feeling of being in touch with my female ancestral beginnings.

John McQueen Man with dress willow sculpture
43jm Guise, John McQueen, willow, 48″ x 18″ x 18″

The humans that John McQueen creates of bark often answer questions. McQueen received a Gold Medal from the American Craft Council this year. He has “revolutionized the conventional definition of a basket by raising issues of containment and isolation, security and control, and connections between humans and nature through his work” in the view of the Council, “creating highly original forms.” In Centered, that connection is front and center as a figure emerges from leaves. In Guise, a male figure wears a skirt to help his balance, the artist says. Tilting at Windmills, speaks for itself — a human figure tips sidewise on one leg — holding its own for the moment, but capable of toppling over at any time.

 

Norma Minkowitz Collected
Collected by Norma Minkowitz, mixed media, fiber, wire, shell, paint and resin, 2004. Photo by Tom Grotta

Norma Minkowitz also began her explorations with vessels, sculptural and crocheted, adding depictions of human figures later in her career. “As I exhausted the possibilities of the many enclosed vessel forms that I had created,” Minkowitz told Zone Arts, “I turned to my interest in the human form.  My earliest drawings in pen and ink were always about the human form as well as the human condition. I now returned to the idea of using the figure in my sculptures which was a difficult transition to create –making them transparent and at the same time structured. These where at once much larger and more complicated than the vessel forms. These veiled figurative sculptures were mostly created in the 1990s to the mid- 2000’s. I have also created multi-figure sculptures that illustrate the passage of time and other kinds of transitions, I call these installations sequential as I often use several juxtaposed and related figures together.”

Magdalena Abakanowicz portrait and work
Magdalena Abakanowicz in her art room and Klatka i plecy, Wikimedia Commons

The best-known human figures of fiber are perhaps those by Magdalena Abakanowicz, made of burlap (and later of steel).  “Abakanowicz drew from the human lot of the 20th century, the lot of a man destroyed by the disasters of that century, a man who wants to be born anew,” said Andrzej Szczerski, head of the National Museum in Krakow when the sculptor died in 2017. (https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-magdalena-abakanowicz-20170424-story.html). She had begun her art work as a painter, then created enormous woven tapestries, Abakans, in the earlier ’60s, which heralded the contemporary fiber movement. These works led to burlap backs, then standing figures then legions of figures of metal, like those in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Like other artists promoted by browngrotta arts, Abakanowicz, “… showed that sculpture does not need to be in one block,” art critic Monika Branicka said, “that it can be a situation in space and that it can be made of fabrics.”