Presidents Blog, June 12, 2013

Well, Paris is nice, but New York also has a lot to offer in the textile world.

Today at MOMA I was curious about the different textile-related art that might be on view. Wandering through the building I came across some interesting pieces—but it was later in the afternoon when I met up with Shelia Hicks she told me to go look at the Architecture and Design gallery.

There was a wonderful installation of some favorites—The Magdalena Abakanowicz (Yellow Abakan, 1967-68, sisal), a Lenor Tawney (Little River, 1968, linen) and two Shelia Hicks (The Evolving Tapestry: He/She 1967-68, linen and silk and Prayer Rug, 1965, wool)

The monumentality and presence of these pieces were really great—all from the 1960s in an era when artists working in the textile and fiber medium were truly pioneers. And the size and space they occupy is altered by their physical tactile character.

The Abakanowicz was great to see—it has been a long time since I have seen one in person—but surprising as it is made of sisal. Sisal as many of you know is a fiber that has a very short self life: it is used in farming, for example, to tie bundles of hay—something used for a very short time period. It degrades, turns acidic (sorry this is the textile conservator in me) and is very difficult for long-term preservation. Yet the piece looks fresh and haunting—sensual in its form though friendlier than I remember.

The Tawney piece—not my favorite of hers—has a rigidity in its structure- surprising as it is made of linen—but the geometry and symmetries punctuated by horizontal bars hold its purity of form.

Tawney (left hanging) and Hicks (right hanging and floor piece)

The Hicks—the playful slump of woven mounds evokes a pleasure of cloth and soft forms—laid like woven bricks but conforming to its own shape and dimension. So too the Prayer rug casts its burden downwards, gravity with depth and weight, hints of orange silk peeking through the shaggy surface.

Shelia commented that every time these pieces are installed in a museum setting, it is a surprise for her, as each time, depending on who handles and places them, they are different.

But before I leave MOMA there was one other piece that caught my eye:

Auerbach Untitled painting

A painting by Tauba Auerbach, Untitled 2012, synthetic polymer paint on canvas.

Obviously someone who also loves textiles.

 Elena Phipps