31 January 2015

How to Survive a New England Winter

Chestnut Hill garden,  spring, 2014.
We've had about 20" of snow here this week, and are expecting more this coming Monday.  But in three months, there will be tulips. There will be tulips!

27 January 2015

Thread Lines at The Drawing Center, Manhattan


On the day before the exhibit closed, DH, daughter and I journeyed to The Drawing Center, in SoHo, to see the textile art show, Thread Lines. 2014 was a banner year for textile art exhibits, and this show, while small, provided a fitting denouement to a cycle of events which included the Kimono show at the Met, as well as exhibits at the Fuller Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

Union of Water and Fire, Lenore Tawney.

For Thread Lines curator Joanna Kleinberg Romanow show-cased work by both the grandes dames of textile art, such as Sheila Hicks and Lenore Tawney, whose Union of Water and Fire, above, was created in 1974, and by a succeeding generation of weavers and stitchers.  It's fun to see the family tree, so to speak, of textile artists, but also to view the art that Sheila Hicks, now in her eighties, has created recently.

Itaka, Sheila Hicks.

The small "minim" above, as she styles these small works woven on a portable loom, by Sheila Hicks, is approximately 5 1/2" x 9 1/2" and incorporates porcupine quills.  This combination of filament with other objects, or substrates such as paper, is a recurring theme throughout the show.

Colors in Clay, Alan Shields.

The work above, on handmade paper, reminds me a bit of a pieced quilt; the triangular sections not seamed in cloth, but presented in washes of color, partially outlined in stitching. I like this idea of the incomplete line very much.

Another artist who allows us to explore the way in which our brain can decode from partial information is Monica Bengoa, whose embroidered still life segments, on photographic printed cloth, interact with outlines drawn directly on the gallery wall.  The embroidery hoop frames form small keyholes through which we glimpse the fulfillment of color in the linear still life. Which is more "real" - the line drawing actually on the gallery wall, or the life-like depiction of the fruits and veggies, plush and weighty in thread and fabric?

163 Shades of Yellow, Green, Orange, Red, Purple, Brown, Grey and Blue (so far).

163 Shades..., Monica Bengoa, detail.

163 Shades..., Monica Bengoa, detail.

163 Shades..., Monica Bengoa, detail.

Another type of embroidery is cross-stitch - an under-appreciated technique, probably due to the many kits for hobbyists available from needlework supply houses. In imaginative, skilled hands, however, this approach can create imagery of depth and animation. Elaine Reichek combines cross-stitches with linear embroidery to celebrate language visually, in a quote from Ovid's Heroides, or The Heroines.

Perhaps My Love, Elaine Reichek.

Perhaps My Love, detail.

Cross-stitch up close has a pixelated quality.

To Cross (Walking New York), Anne Wilson.

The center of the gallery featured a site-specific performance piece. Artist Anne Wilson co-ordinated the efforts of black-clad dancers who wrapped the gallery's four central columns in bands of bright threads. We missed the actual creation of the work, which has a veil-like quality - present in the gallery, but not dividing it.

Untitled, William O'Brien.

There's something about blue and white...William O'Brien creates work of energy and contrast using blue shapes hand-sewn onto white felt. The white stitches - of regular length and spacing - form a perfect foil to the exuberant, free-form shapes which could easily be tactile cousins of Matisse's papercuts.

Untitled, detail.

Untitled, detail.

William O'Brien was born in 1975 and is one of the younger artists in the show. Louise Bourgeois (1911 - 2010) is probably the eminence grise of the show, represented by four late works, of striped, pieced cloth,  reminiscent of spider-webs - one is in fact titled Spider; the other three are untitled.

Four works, Louise Bourgeois.

One of the fun things about a blog is that I can combine images of things that have never met in person, so both the fabric spider webs and the spider herself can co-exist online. In Louise Bourgeois' iconography, spiders are clever, strong, fierce but protective and benevolent.

Maman, Louise Bourgeois. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maman_%28sculpture%29#mediaviewer/File:Maman_de_Louise_Bourgeois_-_Bilbao.jpg
Youngsters at the gallery.

It was interesting to see a student group  sitting on the floor, engaged in an activity. Textile art is a valuable medium  through which to make art accessible. Few people encounter paintings or sculpture often in their everyday lives, but everyone wears cloth, woven or knitted, decorated or plain, and the tactile appeal of thread and fiber is hard to resist.