05 July 2016

Art for Every Home - Associated American Artists exhibit

Hans Moller, Chain Reaction, fabric.

On a hot day in July, DH and I visited the Grey Gallery of New York University, to view Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934-2000, an exhibit with approximately 150 artifacts on display, organized by the Marianne Kistler Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University. This traveling exhibit was scheduled to arrive at the American Textile History Museum (ATHM) this autumn, but, in a blow to textile lovers everywhere, the ATHM is closing its doors due to inadequate funds.

Enlargement of AAA catalog cover opens the exhibit.

Our arrival in July was fortuitous, as the Associated American Artists enterprise began during another hot July, in 1934, when New York businessman Reeves Lewenthal met with a group of artists including Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood and Doris Lee, to begin a studio art-print publishing venture.  Although the prints were sold in department stores as well as the AAA's own galleries, the real break-through came with the ease of ordering by mail from the company's illustrated catalogs.  The venture enjoyed success for many years, but after producing 2600 print editions by 600 artists, the AAA ceased operation in the year 2000. 

During the post-war period the company expanded into decorative arts, including ceramics, glass and, the primary focus of this blog, textiles. 

Artists' designs were adapted for apparel and home furnishing textiles by two textile converters, Riverdale Fabrics and M. Lowenstein and Sons, and utilized by companies such as Catalina Sportswear and Henry Rosenfeld.

Ad for swimsuits utilizing Laura Jean Allen's Imperial Seal fabric. Source: www.ebay.com

Left: swimsuit, Lamartine Le Goullon's Sudan fabric. Right: swimsuit, Laura Jean Allens' Imperial Seal.

Ad for men's and women's swimwear in Le Goullon's Sudan, shown in 3 colorways.

Left: Dress in The Gondoliers. Right: dress in Sunspots. Background: Puppet Ballet by Jacqueline Groag.

Henry Rosenfeld's dress company produced the dress above, right, from Laura Jean Allen's Sunspots fabric.  Laura Jean Allen is a designer who deserves to be better known; among other work, she produced many covers for the New Yorker magazine.  Miss Allen is in this brief video.

Home stitchers also used the yardage to make comfortable, stylish clothing, such as the dress on the left above, featuring Albert John Pucci's The Gondoliers print.  For me, this dress was the highlight of the show, as an artifact which demonstrated how a consumer used the design.  I would have loved to have seen images of the prints and ceramics in contemporary home interiors, but this exhibit remains a compelling first-ever survey of an organization which profitably marketed affordable art to an eager audience.

Kudos to co-curators Liz Seaton and Jane Myers, and independent scholar Gail Windisch. There is  an award-winning book accompanying the exhibit, and a much anticipated online index of prints, ceramics and textile designs. Below are details of some of the fabric prints in the exhibit; these designs were created in the early 1950's.

Lamartine Le Goullon, Futuriste.

Anton Refregier, Pioneer Pathways.

Grant Wood, The Ride of Paul Revere.

Ilonka Karasz, Calico Cow (this design was also a New Yorker cover.)

Louise Phillips, Calory [sic] Chart, designed for Youngstown Kitchens.

Witold Gordon, Shell Chest.

William Ward Beecher, Button Button.

Exterior, Silver Center at New York University, housing the Grey Gallery.

I had never visited New York University before, and enjoyed the scene in lively Washington Square, seen below in a handkerchief designed by the Picasso of pocket hankies, Tammis Keefe.

Tammis Keefe, Washington Square handkerchief, linen. Source: www.tammiskeefe.com

20 June 2016

Christo and Jeanne-Claude at The Gates in Central Park

Jeanne-Claude and Christo, 2005.

Christo has a new installation, his first in about a decade. So I though I would share some images from The Gates, the delightful deployment of orange fabric-and steel-portals throughout New York's Central Park, installed in February, 2005.   My snapshots of Christo, and his late wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude, were taken when we fortuitously glimpsed them during our visit; not the greatest photos, but the images do capture Jeanne-Claude's wonderful saffron hair, perhaps the inspiration for the color of the portals.

A phalanx of 7,532 gates marches through Central Park.

Although my aging feet might disagree, I believe walking is the most enjoyable form of locomotion and this installation celebrated the pathways of Central Park.

The metal stanchions widened to accommodate the walkway width.

Louisa May Alcott, born in November, called that month "the most disagreeable month in the whole year" (Little Women, Chap. XV), but February comes a close second in my view.  The billowing orange fabric, like fluttering sunshine, seemed to bolster and amplify the weak winter light.

The curtains create a proscenium for pedestrians.

Visitors of all ages.

Reflection on water near the pond.

Trail of orange visible through the branches.

Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

30 May 2016

Knitting on the rails

Detail of simple stitch pattern.

For several months this year my DH and I have braved America's train service, Amtrak, travelling from our home near Boston to the soul-destroying rabbit warren that is Pennsylvania Station, in New York City.  A nervous traveller, I find knitting helps me relax, and enjoy projects like scarves where the gauge doesn't matter and which don't require too much yarn.

The book  60 Quick Cowls includes a scarf designed by Debbie O'Neill called "Touch of Texture", featuring a simple stitch pattern which, while interesting enough to avoid utter boredom, is not so complicated that Amtrak's frequent surprises - delays, and worse - will lead to mistakes due to distraction.

Lilac scarf: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light. Purple scarf: Malabrigo Rios merino.

Although the book 60 Quick Cowls is published by the Cascade Yarns company, I've yet to use their specific yarn recommended in the pattern. The lilac scarf in the image used one skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, a soft alpaca/wool blend; the darker purple scarf utilized one skein of Malabrigo Rios, a washable merino.

Having made several of what I call my Amtrak scarves, I think this accessory looks best in solid colors; even the subtle variegation of the Malabrigo detracts from the texture of the pattern.  Also, when knitting in the round, there's the problem of binding off the last row of what is essentially a spiral of knitting; I found this video useful for addressing that finishing challenge.

Touch of Texture Cowl
Knitted Measurements
Circumference: 26.5”/ 67.5cm
Length: 7.5”/19cm

1   3 ½ oz/100g hank (each approx.. 197 yds/180 m) of Cascade Yarns Highland Duo (baby alpaca/merino wool)
Size 6 (4mm) circular needles, 24”/60 cm long, or size to obtain gauge
Stitch marker

Cast on loosely 132 sts. Join, taking care not to twist sts, and place marker for beg of rnd. Work in simple stitch pat until piece measure 7 ½ “/19cm, end with a rnd 1.  Bind off loosely knitwise.

Block lightly.

20 sts and 30 rnds to 4”/10cm over simple stitch pat using size 6 (4mm) needles.
Take time to check gauge.

Simple Stitch Pattern
(multiple of 4 sts)
Rnd 1 *P3, k1; rep from * around.
Rnds 2 and 4 Knit.
Rnd 3 *Pl, k1, p2; rep from * around.
Rep rnds 1-4 for simple stitch pat.

Cowl in  Malabrigo Rios merino, colorway Jupiter.

25 April 2016

Quilts Japan at the New England Quilt Museum

Kumiko Funaki, Rising Sun, detail.

From January 6 through May 1 the New England Quilt Museum played host to 32 quilts from the 12th Quilts Japan, or Quilt Nihon, international competition. These quilts, curated by Pamela Weeks, displayed outstanding technical mastery and brilliant design skills.

Kumiko Fumaki, Rising Sun.

Rising Sun, detail.

Admiring a quilt.

One show-stopper after another.

Hiroko Nakagama, Swan Song.

Swan Song, detail.

Kiyomi Shimada, Ebb Tide.

Kimiyo Inoue, Recollection.

Recollection, detail.

Yuko Eguchi, Red and Black.

Red and Black, detail.

Junko Nakatsugawa, Night with a Hazy Moon.

Night with a Hazy Moon, detail.

Miwako Mogami, Towards Space.

Towards Space, detail.

Yukiko Nakao, Flowers in the Night Sky.

Flowers in the Night Sky.

Variations on the medallion quilt theme.

Masae Komori, Looking forward to Spring.

Looking forward to Spring, detail.

Yoko Masuda, Happiness in Full Bloom "Pear Flower".

Happiness in Full Bloom "Pear Flower", detail.

Mineko Inoue, Wild Chrysanthemums in Baskets.

Wild Chrysanthemums in Baskets, detail.

Miki Yakita, My Baltimore Album IV.

My Baltimore Album IV, detail.

Hatsumi Satou, Dandelion.

Dandelion, detail.

Kazue Takao, Lake Surface.

Lake Surface, detail.

Lake Surface, detail.

Harue Konishi, Syo #66

Syo #66, detail.

Kinue Ishigame, matrix.

matrix, detail.

Jnatsu Kikuchi, Hasagi in Winter II.

Hasagi in Winter II, detail.

For the most part I decided to let the quilts speak for themselves. However, a word of explanation for the last quilt - in certain areas of Japan, harvested rice stalks are tied to specially pruned trees, called hasagi, to facilitate the drying of the rice. Rice is central to Japanese culture, so it seemed right to end my blog post with this quilt image.