Until December 14th, The Drawing Center is showcasing a number of textile artists who employ their medium in ways "that activate the expressive and conceptual potential of line and illuminate affinities between the mediums of textile and drawing", as stated on their website. This exhibit is a welcome one, as textile arts continues to expand its reach & show up in spaces that in the past would not have considered showing such works. The debate over whether textile art is fine art or craft seems quickly to be waning in its relevance, as more and more artists employ textile - and craft - techniques in their work. This show is out alongside a Cheim & Reid exhibition of Louise Bourgeois.
The work that most struck me in the exhibit was a piece by Mónica Bengoa entitled One Hundred and Sixty Three Shades of Yellow, Green, Orange, Red, Purple, Brown, Grey & Black (so far). Clearly a piece that has had multiple incarnations, the date on the piece reads 2005-2014. What I loved in this piece was the way color truly dominated, and the exactness of it all. The vegetables appear as still life paintings in their embroidery hoops, incredibly realistic in a calm, quiet way. That she left the pieces in the hoops themselves could have functioned to create distance between the drawings and the embroidery. However the exactitude she musters in the placement of these vegetable morsels does not allow for such separation to occur between the two mediums, it is as if the hoops themselves operate as microscopes, illuminating the true nature of the vegetables whose representations are otherwise dull and unspecific in the pencil drawings.
Perhaps it has to do with my utter adoration of vegetables, or the elegance with which she has represented them. I simply love this use of embroidery, not in any way referential to its historical usage, but instead moving it forward in an innovative way, and collaborating with drawing to mimic, and arguably expand, the genre still life paintings
Of course there was the beautifully rendered meditation on weaving entitled Union of Water & Fire by Lenore Tawney, 1974 which never disappoints. Somehow the powerful red of the fire has maintained its brilliance over the past 30 years. The woven linen strips function as two elements of life becoming one body, suggesting their interdependence even as opposing elements in our world. It is beautifully presented - clean, sharp and concise - with magnificent shadows, something I always love in a piece.
Finally, a piece entitled Termagant (La fille de Theia), 2014 by Jessica Rankin spoke to me. Simply stitched, the piece was meant to represent cosmic light - Theia the Greek goddess of shining light and her daughter Selene, the goddess of the moon. Yet these powerful women of light, while celebrated in the work itself as it shines and shimmers, creating wonderful undulating lines, are complicated in the name she chooses to give the piece.
This exhibit warrants a visit if you find yourself in the proximity. It reminded me that art is not confined to a medium, nor a wall, nor a message - it is an openly expanding term that includes so much that we do. Thank you to Joanna Kleinberg Romanow at the Drawing Center for curating this delightful exhibit.