An interesting development has taken place in the field of art and textiles. Exhibitions featuring art by women have been organised in English-speaking countries, and some of them have included a large number of textiles. Examples are “Pathmakers: Women in Art” held at the Museum of Art & Design (MAD), New York, in 2015 and “Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women”, presented by Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles in 2016. The latter event aimed to show that “their collective innovation – their pioneering of new forms,** materials, and processes – has been far more influential than has been previously understood or recognized”, according to the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel press release.
A similar exhibition is currently on view in Europe, “Entangled: Threads and Making” held at the beautiful Turner Contemporary art museum in Margate on the coast of Britain from 28 January to 7 May 2017. More than 40 artists present sculptures, installations, tapestries, textiles and jewellery from the early 20th century to date. The potential offered by knitting, embroidery, weaving, sewing and woodwork, often using unexpected materials such as plants, clothing, hair or feathers, is explored to the limits.
The curator of the exhibition, Karen Wright has visited more than 200 artists in their studios for a series of articles entitled, “In the Studio”. This intimate encounter with artists at work provided the inspiration for a show focusing on processes and materials. What began as a textile exhibition expanded to include work with a sense of textiles. “It’s a loose interpretation of threads. A jigsaw,” says Karen Wright.
The museum director, Victoria Pommery comments: “At a time when women’s rights across the world are under threat, this is an extremely timely exhibition. Inventive, curious and experimental, all of the artists in this exhibition demonstrate innovation and creativity.”
The exhibition plays with the idea of textiles as women’s work – whether tapestry, sewing, weaving, knotting or stitching – and how women react to this idea. Some of the participating artists certainly disagree with this view!
Even the idea of “making” in this exhibition provokes some controversy as several of the works on display were not produced by the artists themselves, such as the jacquard pieces by Kiki Smith.
The artists selected for the exhibition are: Anni Albers; Caroline Achaintre; Ghada Amer; Paola Anziché; Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir / Shoplifter; Phyllida Barlow; Marion Baruch; Karla Black; Margrét H Blöndal; Regina Bogat; Louise Bourgeois; Geta Brătescu; Sonia Delaunay; Sonia Gomes; Ximena Garrido-Lecca; Eva Hesse; Ann Cathrin November Høibo; Laura Ford; Mona Hatoum; Marianne Heske; Sheila Hicks; Susan Hiller; Maureen Hodge; Christiane Löhr; Kate MccGwire; Annette Messager; Rivane Neuenschwander; Lucy + Jorge Orta; Arna Óttarsdottir; Sidsel Paaske; Maria Papadimitriou; Anna Ray; Maria Roosen; Ursula von Rydingsvard; Hannah Ryggen; Betye Saar; Judith Scott; Samara Scott; Kiki Smith; Aiko Tezuka; Rosemarie Trockel; Tatiana Trouvé; Frances Upritchard and Joana Vasconcelos.
The interesting thing about the selection is that it is highly diverse, both in terms of chronological division and in the techniques and ideas used.
In the series of exhibitions about art using textiles, this exhibition takes off in a new direction. I will visit it in April, and a report will follow.