Hanging by a Thread explores the current status of craft processes and techniques in use by contemporary artists. The works in Hanging By a Thread make use of fiber media, manual labor and the tactic skills to successfully develop craft materials and techniques into works of art. Many objects and materials encountered in these artworks have histories that often overlap the boundaries of Western Art with other histories. This exhibition features hybrid sculpture, new interpretations to painting and drawing, non-conventional uses of textiles. Furthermore, it examines craft’s revisited importance in contemporary art.
Cosima Von Bonin’s fabric paintings and soft sculptures create social environments that questions issues of art presentation. The quilted text found on works by Tracey Emin and Leah Modigliani serve as banners announcing personal stories, cultural expectations, rhetoric and social cantor. The sculptural works of Danielle Gustafson-Sundell and Nina Lola Bachhuber incorporates soft textiles and solid objects for minimal and elegant presentations. On the floor, Gustafson-Sundell’s coiled strip of blue denim spirals around a glass jar filled with levels of colored sand layered to show a sunrise or sunset. Bachhuber’s uniformed spheres rest waiting for “action” perhaps referencing a futbol team or uniformed school girls.
Ghada Amer’s hand-embroidered figurative painting appears at first glance to be an abstract image painstakingly worked onto the canvas. Upon closer examination the viewer discovers erotic images blurred by abstract gatherings of thread. On the other hand, Orly Cogan accentuates the same subject matter with bold lines and thick pattern. Both artists shed new light on female archetypes, stereotypes and new feminist ideology.
Mark Newport’s knitted costumes explore issues of masculine identity by using traditional knitting to make soft and vulnerable costumes inspired by pop culture characters like Batman and Spider Man. This work suggests a retracing of the history of knitting, reminding us that the first knitting trade guild, started in Paris in 1527, members were solely male. In a similar fashion, Elaine Bradford crochets sweaters for household objects, most recently taxidermy animal heads, to explore ideas of camouflaging domestic accoutrements.
Frances Trombly mimics ordinary items by weaving and knitting detailed “copies” of the utilitarian originals, often possessing little visual interest or monetary value. Recently, she used these labor-intensive techniques to duplicate birthday party goods such as balloons, streamers, confetti and piñatas. Rowena Dring’s pop inspired landscapes are covered from top to bottom in thread. She uses an elaborate appliqué technique with sewing machines to transform the scene into basic and fragmentary visual data. The work of Dring and Trombly attract attention by their intimate and detailed handy-work.
Cut fabric, paper and various materials assembled within painting and drawing are among the techniques that have surfaced new results in collage making. Arturo Herrera’s collages are made of fragmented cartoon imagery and storybook characters. The contours and lines in his works often refer to psycho-sexual aspects and childhood experiences. His felt abstractions are reconfigurations of these same forms. Similar to Herrera, Kristine Roepstorff and Gean Moreno appropriate visual materials from recycled sources such as photocopies, record albums, magazines and colored paper. Brian Belott also collects these materials to reorganize and redistribute them into highly inventive collages that demonstrate his keen sense of humor. Jon Pylypchuk prefers artificial fur, felt, glitter, sand, cardboard and glue for the feline creatures found in his body of work.
A handful of artists in this exhibition contain references to the past in a romantic yet haunting manner. The silk shantung painting by Angelo Filomeno and the paper tapestry by Diego Singh take on a theatrical presence with their subtle images, delicate beadwork and monochromatic palette. Hope Atherton’s work resembles a 19th Century curio imbued with fantasy, naturalism and an obscure history offering a glimpse into the grotesque version of nature. Choosing printed fabrics with romantic scenes of the Baroque period, Kent Henricksen sews mundane objects to devise dark narratives. Items such as rope, hoods and additional foliage transform these European pleasure scenes into uncontrolled pastures. Henricksen suggests an ambiguously sexual, perverse and playful narrative by sewing knotted hoods on the frolicking figures.
Mixing traditional painting with untraditional strategies results in some very playful and imaginative renditions of landscapes, still life and portraiture, as well as pop and abstract painting.
Michael Raedecker’s subject matter is overlapped by his use of thread and embroidery in combination with paint that is applied in thick brushstrokes and pools of somber colors. Jacin Giordano concentrates around striped bands of color, clumps of threaded yarn and carpet swatches. This refers to The Wizard of OZ and John Keats' poetic mourning over Newton's scientific breakdown of rainbows. Tal R’s eye-catching canvases of large shapes, vibrant colors and a naïve oeuvre give the work a deliberately childish, crafty and chaotic quality. William Villalongo’s black velvet paintings incorporate art historical and mythological subject matter while merging content from contemporary issues. Although velvet is a peculiar textile to paint on, it’s history as a medium includes Victorian young ladies who stenciled genteel imagery on white velvets as a pastime in the 18th Century.
Friendswithyou, Hanna Fushihara Aron and Misaki Kawai produce large scale installations inspired by particular microcosmic worlds created by each artist. These are places controlled by magic, beauty, dreams and adventure. On a more personal scale, Fushihara Aron uses artificial gardens and lights to infuse small villages made from paper maché rock formations. Misaki Kawai’s Himalaya Space Station is a haphazard fortress filled with dolls, electronics and hidden surprises influenced by 1960s Western counterculture.
The disco-infused artwork of Christian Holstad and the Rave dance parties referenced in Frankie Martin’s work both incorporate craft techniques throughout their videos, performances, flatwork and sculptural installations. Holstad’s sculpture Big Drag, crafted with pink and purple embellishments, transforms a stuffed hyena into a cross-dresser or performer. Martin’s music video titled Esto es que tu quieres?, “Is this what you want?” is a quintessential piece that ties all the artworks in Hanging By a Thread onto one skein. This piece is written, designed, produced and performed by the artist who incorporates Reggaeton, a wildly popular Spanish-language dance music. This cross-cultural mix in musical genre is similar in the way craft is revamped by the artists in Hanging By a Thread. These artists try different techniques, materials and ideas that blur and stretch the boundaries between painting, sculpture and all media to renew the importance of craft in contemporary art.
Nina Arias and Jose Diaz