Review of TSA’s Juried Exhibition New Directions: A Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Textiles
By Hadley W. Jensen,SNPA recipient
New Directions at CAFAM is not only visually stunning, but also indicative of the dynamic shifts occurring within the field of textiles today. It features technical, aesthetic, and structural innovations in textile art from around the world, showcasing nineteen works from both established and emerging artists that were carefully chosen from more than 400 submissions.
Stepping into the space, one quickly sees that this is not a typical museum, nor is it a typical exhibition. The museum’s façade, present amidst larger concrete buildings on Museum Row, upon entering, yields an intimate, two-floor gallery space, providing an ideal venue for experiencing such an exhibition, overflowing with color, shape, and tactility. CAFAM hosts artists and makers whose work is often not represented in larger art institutions. It’s mission to challenge established notions about craft, design, and folk art parallels the sympo- sium’s theme and encourages the transmission of knowledge about textiles across disciplinary boundaries. Many of the artists represented here push materials and processes to their limits, creating a dialogue about traditional techniques, new technologies, and diverse perspectives in the field of fiber.
Of note is the Los Angeles-based artist, Guillermo Bert, whose QRC-encoded textiles integrate Chilean Mapuche weaving techniques with encryption technology, ultimately guid- ing viewers to an eight-minute documentary video on the Mapuche struggle for land preservation Lukutuwe, (Fertility), 2012. This current project, Encoded Textiles, comments on issues of identity within indigenous communities by telling stories from across the Americas, encrypting them on bar- codes, and having them woven into textiles by master weav-ers from the same communities. This multifaceted project has involved collaborations with Mapuche, Navajo, and Zapotec weavers (the piece on view was woven by Anita Paillamil, from the Mapuche community).
In contrast, Jenne Giles attempts to recreate the actual dead hare from Joseph Beuys’ performance piece, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965). She thus provokes viewers to consider the lifeless realism of taxidermy through the medium of felting Dead Hare, 2013. Although she is an internationally recognized feltmaker for her commercial designs, her work in soft sculpture is more representative of conceptual fine art. One of my personal favorites is June Lee’s mixed media instal- lation, Bystander. This piece serves as a provocative commen- tary on the term “bystander effect,” tracing how an individual can become an outcast in society, and how the majority of the population can often overlook that individual in silence. Departing from previous materials and methods, she made an impressive series of small figurines that assume two different postures—the figures either have their arms crossed or have hands tied behind their back in Bystander, 2011-2014. Lacking distinctive facial features, the detail and individuality of each figure is remarkable, each of which is intricately woven with a different pattern and color.
Celebrated weaver Lia Cook turns to the intersection of a variety of media, such as photography, weaving, painting, and digital technology. Her current practice explores the sensual qualities of the woven image, and the emotional connection to memories of touch and cloth. She uses public participa- tion, as well as collaborations with neuroscientists, to explore the emotions evoked by an engagement with textiles. She then embeds this data back into her woven cloth. Her digi- tal Jacquard loom weaving is superimposed with visualized data of neuro-scientific readings from the viewer’s emotional response to the work in Intensity Su-Data, 2013.
Other artists seek to uncover and convey completely new ways of making. Caroline Charuk’s sewn creations, which begin with a muslin sack stitched into the shape of a partic- ular figure, are present in the gallery only as dust prints—the residual effect of dropping the concrete-filled forms onto paper and then mounting the print, Square Knot #1, 2013. Her interest in material and form is evident in this work; the prints seem to capture a moment of impact or encounter and its subsequent material traces, which are rendered in a nearly photographic precision.
The exhibition brings several questions to light. How is new technology/media shifting traditional boundaries in the textile arts? How important are technique, material, and process to contemporary makers in the field? What connections to the past, if any, are evident in the work of these artists and mak- ers? This juried show demonstrates the variety, density, and context present in the artistic production of textiles today—it challenges established ideas about craft through the exhi- bition of compelling work, which traverses disciplines and pushes traditional techniques in new directions. Furthermore, it bridges a scholarly interest in textiles with the artistic pro- duction of designers and craftsmen in the field, providing an outlet that is perhaps more suited for the medium.
Hadley Jensen explores the intersections between art, anthropology, and material culture. She has a BA in Religion from Colorado College and an MA in the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from Bard Graduate Center. Hadley is returning to the BGC as a doctoral student, where she will focus her studies on visual anthropology and material culture.