Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Autumn in New York, Part 9: Material Pleasure

Part 5: Blanc et Noir   

Detail of metal and fiber sculpture by Barbara Chase-Riboud, shown full view in the post

I’m wary of defining work by medium rather than by concept or genre, because it provides a pathway to those dreaded adjectival identities (fiber artist, clay artist, wax artist) which pigeonhole the artist without providing any real information about the what and the why of the art. But in a season such as the one we are just concluding, it's worth noting the number of painters and sculptors who have chosen to work with sensuous, physically tangible materials--sometimes intentionally expanding (or undermining) a craft convention, other times fully embracing material as the best means to develop and express an idea. 

Panoramic installation view of A Line Can Go Anywhere, curated by Jenelle Porter, at James Cohan Gallery, Chelsea (September 7-October 14)

We start with an early autumn show, A Line Can go Anywhere, curated by Jenelle Porter for the James Cohan Gallery. Porter, a former curator at the ICA in Boston and now working independently in Los Angeles, selected seven Bay Area artists—some contemporary, some who broke conventions in the 1950s and 1960s in moving fiber out of its little ghetto, and at least one whose history spans both eras. The installation was elegant. I have a long history with and interest in fiber (I come from a textile family), and I enjoyed the mashup of historic and contemporary work, even if I didn't love it all. Below you'll see installation shots to give you a sense of the exhibition, and I'll and point out a few of the works works I found compelling.

We continue clockwise around the gallery with hanging sculptures by Trude Guermonprez (red and yellow) and Kay Sekimachi (black and white), and Ruth Laskey framed weavings. This and the following two installation views are from the James Cohan Gallery website

Continuing around, with Laskey on the far wall and Kay Sekimachi framed works on the short wall at right

One more turn, with Alexandra Jacopetti Hart weaving on the back wall at right

Twill Series (Sangria/Golden Yellow), 2015, handwoven and hand-dyed linen, 25 x 27.50 inches unframed. Image from artist's website

I am a huge fan of Laskey's work, which I saw for the first time a few years ago at Art Basel Miami. Her quirky geometry is expressed in a minimalist manner. Up close, you can see that the weft floats are oriented leftward, then rightward, then leftward in coordination with the geometric shape. Figure and ground are woven together, and you notice that the white ground has a different arrangement of under/over thread. This is sophisticated construction that looks deceptively simple.

Detail below

Born in 1926 and weaving for six decades, Sekimachi spans the divide between craft and art. These five small weavings honor her friend, Agnes Martin.

Closer view below of the work at far right

Homage to AM, 2015; linen, textile dye, permanent market, plain weave; 10.50 x 10.50 inches

Installation in the smaller back gallery, featuring a netted hanging on the far wall by Ed Rossbach

After Miro, 1970, jute and horsehair lace

Rossbach was a legendary teacher and textile experimenter. Much of his work was an exploration of materials and techniques. With his casual hanging and occasional loose ends, one might call him an early Provisionalist. Below I've paired a detail of his work, left, with a detail of work by Julia Bland, from her solo at Miller Contemporary on the LES. Bland's work appears below (and in the Blanc et Noir post in series).

Details of Ed Rossbach, left, and Julia Bland

Things to Say at Night, Miller Contemporary, Lower East Side(September 10-October 29)

Here, The Chase, 2017; canvas, wool, linen threads, fabric dye, wax, oil paint. Image from the Miller Contemporary website

. . . . .

Call it synchronicity, but 26th Street was a hotbed of fiber early in the season. And rugs! In addition to the show at James Cohan, two other galleries were showing work in fiber at the same time. At Galerie Lelong, Lin Tianmiao installed a gallery-size rug that consisted of kilims onto/into which she had tufted words in English and Chinese. At Alexander Gray Associates Polly Apfelbaum showed three large flat-woven rugs along with small wall-hung clay sculptures that read as textured paintings. (I’d seen some pieces from the ceramic series at Basel Miami a few years ago, where they were standouts.)  Both venues offered the option of protective shoe covers to allow you to walk on the rugs.

Protruding Patterns at Galerie Lelong, Chelsea (September 7-October 21)
The installation, 2014, wool and acrylic yarn

Tianmiao collected words that reference women, laudatory and derogatory, in various languages  and worked them into the surface of the rugs in Chinese and English

Detail below

The Potential of Women at Alexander Gray Associates, Chelsea (September 7-October 21)

From the press release: "Apfelbaum draws inspiration from graphic designer Rudolph deHarek’s cover design for The Potential of Woman, which features a flattened, stylized view of a female figure’s head. Her appropriation of this image, chosen as an icon, is consistent with her ongoing interest in applied design and popular culture. Apfelbaum was also fascinated by the book’s provocative and ultimately patronizing message. The book and its related symposium imagined a future in which women might be useful contributors; Apfelbaum instead reflects the desire for a broader appreciation and empowerment of legions of capable women in the present. In the exhibition’s title, Apfelbaum changes the word ‘woman’ to ‘women’ to reinforce an inclusive communal narrative around feminism."

The wall-hung ceramics were described as "a Greek chorus." Presumably Apfelbaum made the ceramic pieces, while the rugs were woven in Oaxaca.

Selection of ceramics below

. . . . .

A couple of shows later, Alexander Gray Associates mounted a solo by Valeska Soares that featured yet another rug, this one cut and folded into a neat geometric construction. Upstairs, several antique tables held a sparking assortment of decanters and glasses filled with alcoholic spirits. 

 Neither Here Not There, Alexander Gray Associates (November 1-December 16)
View from the stairs looking toward the entry

View from the stairs looking onto the second-floor installation

The press release describes the offering this way: “Mirroring a party scenario in which one invites guests into their home, making the private public, Soares captures the private moments after a celebration ends, when the space remains charged by the memories and traces of a fleeting moment and space; in this way, the viewer provides a narrative for this mis en scene.” I’m not a drinker, but the aroma was heady and I lingered. (20/20 hindsight: I should have included these images in the Eccentric Domesticity post.)
Detail below

. . . . .

Like Polly Apfelbaum, who combined a mix fiber and clay in her solo, Beverly Semmes did the same in hers at the Susan Inglett Gallery. I also want to single out Elisa D'Arrigo, whose non-functional ceramic vessels were a highlight of the Domestic Disturbances show in Brooklyn, which I included in the Eccentric Domesticity post.

Bow, Susan Inglett Gallery, Chelsea (September 13-October 21)

Semmes is known for her enormous stylized dresses that hang on the wall and often flow into the space of the gallery. Here that space is occupied by three ceramic sculptures with the domestic reference of pitchers, bowls, and cups, while the dresses--which initially read as "curtain"--hold the wall.  Bow (ow, not oh) would appear to reference the way the dress forms are folded at the waist so that the bodice and arms flop over and hang down. From the press release: "The forms suggest a deflation of breath and anticipated inhalation." 

Pitcher/Stack, 2015, high-fire ceramic and epoxy

Installation view from Domestic Disturbances, 490 Atlantic Gallery, Brooklyn, curated by Joanne Freeman (September 16-October 29)
Three ceramic vessels by D'Arrigo with Patricia Zarate corner sculpture

"My pieces begin as hollow, hand-built clay elements that I combine and manipulate in a period of intense improvisation: the clay is twisted, knotted, pinched, poked and crushed," says D'Arrigo of her work. "Chance is implicit; clay can assert its properties in frequently unexpected ways. The 'postures' that result allude to the body in a gestural or even visceral manner.  Although not representational, my works can evoke both tender and tough 'beings.' Their animated corporeality pays homage to, and also unsettles the description (originating with the ancient Greeks) of the structure of the vase form as comprised of lip, neck, shoulder, body and foot."

Below: Shift into Orange, 2013, glazed ceramic

. . . . .

Installation view from Malcolm X: Complete at  Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Chelsea (September 9-November 4)
Here, from left: Malcolm X #17, 2016, polished bronze and silk with steel support; and Malcolm X #16, 2016; bronze with red patina, silk, wool, polished cotton, and synthetic fibers with steel support

I showed you some of Chase-Riboud's black sculptures in Blanc et Noir, but color changes the work immensely, so I'm posting a couple of chromatic images here. The sensuousness of the materials is more apparent, with an interplay of glow, shine, shimmer, fold, and drape.

Detail  of Malcolm X #17 below

at David Zwirner Gallery, Chelsea (September 13-October 21)

I showed a number of images from this show in Blanc et Noir, too. There I placed it into the context of hue. Here, I'd like to talk a bit about construction, because while the material is not fiber--it's wire--Asawa manipulated it as if it were fiber. This is how she described her looping crochet stitch:

"You begin by looping a wire around a wooden dowel, then making a string of e’s, always making the same e loop. You can make different sized loops depending on the weight of the wire and the size of the dowel. You can loop tight and narrow or more open and loose. The materials are simple. You can use bailing wire, copper wire, brass wire. We used whatever we had. It’s an amazing technique.” 

After the initial row, each successive row of loops was worked into the one preceding, without the use of the dowel, only her hands. Here's an Imogen Cunningham photo (from the internet) of Asawa at work:

Construction detail, above, from the sculpture shown below right. Each bulbous work consists of one continuous wire used to make forms that nestle within one another

. . . . .

A Durable Web at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Chelsea (September 7-October 21)
Installation view of first floor, which featured Oppenheim's photographs of fabric swatches
Showing on the gallery's two floors, Oppenheim exhibited several related bodies of work. The two that struck me consisted of photographs of fabric and then weavings of some of those photographs. There's a twist here. The fabric remnants were small; Oppenheim enlarged them in printing and reversed the color. You can see that in the image below.  Upstairs she showed her own handweavings in the original colors but in a macro scale that matched the photographs.

 Below: Remnant (Polka Dots), 2017, c-print
In this enlargement of a fabric swatch you can see the plain weave (simple under/over) in detail

Installation view of weavings, far wall, inspired by the blue polka dot photograph

Jacquard Weave (Polka Dots), 2017, jacquard-woven cotton, mohair, and linen textile in wood frame.

Detail below

. . . . .

Domestic Disturbances, 490 Atlantic Gallery, Brooklyn

You saw these works in the Eccentric Domesticity post, but I include them here because of their material connection to this post. Besides, don't you just love the curve of Smith's Shifting Meditation #7, right, and Ravitz's needlepointed tapestry, left, in relation to  Lisa Oppenheim's weaving above them? As you scroll down I think you'll find an interesting chromatic and compositional relationship between Ravitz's tapestry and an Alighiero Boetti embroidery farther down this post.

Jellybellies, 2015, silk and wool thread on canvas

. . . . .

Selah at the Marianne Boesky Gallery, Chelsea (September 7-October 21)

Installation view above gives you a sense of the scale of the work shown below

Chorus for Paul Mooney, 2017; antique quilt, fabric, spray paint, acrylic
In using antique quilts Biggers is aware of the history they bring to his work. "Some have already been altered and re-contextualized by [previous] owners and I see myself as a late collaborator, contributing to their history and function in this present moment. Perhaps decades from now, this work will also be re-contextualized, creating an ongoing narrative over time. It’s very much like history itself, a patchwork of experiences, perspectives, and reportage that attempt to construct a single narrative, but these works recognize that history is always subject to time itself, and subsequently unfixed.”

Detail below

. . . . .

Wellspring, 2017, fired clay with mixed media surface

If this work looks familar, it's because I included it in a previous post, Eccentric Domesticity. I love the way Lyon subverts our perception about materiality, and I particularly like placing the image here after Biggers's painted quilt, which subverts our ideas about painting and quilting.

. . . . .

An Unfolding Portrait at the Museum of Modern Art, through January 28

Above and below, pages from Bourgeois's fabric book, Ode a l'oublie (Ode to Forgetting). There's more about this work in my dedicated post on that show earlier in the series, but here, with regard to her use of materials, I wanted it to seque into the final section on Arte Povera

. . . .

Curated by Ingvild Goetz, at Hauser & Wirtz, Chelsea (September 12-October 28)

At the time I visited the exhibition, I was not aware that it had been curated by a major collector of the genre. I'm not sure about the idea of major collectors curating, given the vested interest, but I was glad for the opportunity to see this museum-worthy show, which was deployed on three floors of the former DIA space on 22nd Street. As you probably know, arte povera was a movement that began in post-war Italy and flourished in the mid-20th Century. Much of the work is focused on materials--easily available materials--because the whole point of the movement was to embrace the modest, the handmade, which went against the grain of Western commodification.  Arte povera is literally "poor art" (and, BTW, it's pronounced ar-teh'  po'-vera, accent on the first syllable in povera; bonus points if you can roll your r's). Mario Merz, one of the genre's foremost practitioners, described it it this way, "Arte Povera clings to rafters and it clings to trees."

So from Louise Bourgeois's stitched collages made from a lifetime's worth of clothes and fabrics we come to Michelangelo Pistoletto's pile of clothes and then on to embroidered paintings by Alighiero Boetti and more. Pistoletto's work would suggest that Arte Povera is an early expression of Provisionalism, and perhaps it is, but Boetti's meticulous embroideries would refute the idea that the entire genre is one improvised body of casually constucted stuff at hand. The genre embraced a lot of ideas, materials and artists. (The artists in this collection are all male--surprise!--so let me provide a link to the splendid retrospective of the poverista, Marisa Merz this past summer at the Met Breuer.)

Orchestra di stracci--vetro diviso (Rag Orchestra--Divided Glass), 1968; rags, bricks, fabric, glass, kettles, steam, hot plates

Piede (Foot), 1972, Murano glass and silk

Mappa (Map), 1988, embroidery on linen on stretcher

Detail below

Installation view of Fabro's sculpture and another of Boetti's embroidered paintings on the far right wall

Tutto (Everything), 1988, embroidery on linen on stretcher

Detail below


 Confine (Boundary), 1970; wax, neon paint, string; app. 36 x 72 inches

Detail below


Senza titolo (Untitled), 1987, lead and wax on steel

Detail below

Impermeabile (Raincoat), 1966; raincoat, wood, wax, neon

Paio di lenzuola con due federe (Pair of Sheets with Two Pillowcases), 1968, sheets and pillowcases on stretcher

Closer view below

This is the last post in the nine-part series, Autumn in New York. Now I have to spend some time in the studio, but I'll be back soon with a look at Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics at the Museum of the City of New York, and a long look at the newly reilluminated The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum. 

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