La Maison Française, the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, and the Embassy of Romania to the U.S., are proud to present, in the framework of the 2011 Francophonie Cultural Festival, the U.S. premiere of an exhibition of northern Romanian (Maramureş) handcrafted rugs, from March 28th to April 15th, 2011. In the region of Maramureş traditional handcrafts are still very much alive today; you can find authentic woodcarving, pottery and wool crafting. This show presents some of the most enchanting rugs made by Victoria Berbecaru over four decades, some of them still being used at the local church. The exhibition was initiated and curated by the Romanian (Paris-based) artist Mircea Cantor, whose work is known for its subtle commentary on contemporary society, across diverse media. His approach is not that of an ethnographer or anthropologist. The object is not to document, but to emphasize the authenticity of this art, giving viewers an opportunity to enjoy the pieces, as they would any work of art. Victoria Berbecaru, one of Maramureş’ most accomplished weavers, revived the tradition of weaving rugs in the 70’s when she arrived in Botiza, a village in Maramureş. Together with the old ladies from the village she started to record the old techniques of natural dyeing, reintroducing motifs that were in use in the recent past but were about to disappear due to the lack of interest and continuity through the younger generation. She maintained this tradition for over four decades by helping younger women see its profound cultural value and by teaching them the compositions and motifs. “Looking at an authentic Maramureş rug,” says Mircea Cantor, “resembles eating jelly from grandmother’s larder. It spreads both energy and visual force hidden within its ancient symbols, as well as forms crossing over time, generation by generation until the present day. Its themes and motives are inspired by the labor on the fields, by religious or agrarian feasts and by different customs and beliefs. Their composition and choice of colors offer them their strength and life: the lord-and-ladies, the flower, the fir, the gate, the rider, the bat, the reeler, the stag, the Maramureş round dance, the wolves’ teeth, the snake, the rake, the water wave. The wool is handcrafted, colored with natural dyes, made from St. John’s wort, onion peels, nut rinds, buckthorn, and plum tree bark.”
Along with the traditional rugs in the exhibition, one can see a flying carpet (Airplanes and Angels), which is the work of Mircea Cantor. This piece resulted from his encounter with Maramureş rugs during the artists’ trips to the region in the winter of 2007, during which he eventually ended up at Victoria Berbecaru’s gate. Cantor commissioned Berbecaru to make ”Airplanes and Angeles,” which is woven with the figures of airplanes and angels in subtle grays, ochres and creams, while Cantor himself designed the color scheme and the pattern, based on a mixture of traditional and contemporary motifs. The composition is inspired by traditional rugs from the region and features a central ground with distinct borders of decorative bands symbolizing water flowing, wolves’ teeth, butterflies and the sun and moon. In the center of the carpet is a radiating pattern of geometric motifs meant to symbolize rams’ horns. Within the remaining field, Cantor introduced the more recent flying figures, which he translated into graphic form using Photoshop. The carpet embodies two distinct forms of investment, that of the time and knowledge of the carpet makers, evident in the weave and texture of the finished object, and the degrees of significance we might ascribe to the aerial forms, be they agents of intercession or destruction. The scenario pitches the viewer somewhere between allegory and reality. In describing the process of making the carpet and its possible meaning Cantor notes: “With the carpet my interest was not to copy an existing tradition, but rather to update it with my own vision. For this reason I drew in the airplanes and the angels. You will never see airplanes or angels in Romanian rugs. It was more like the dichotomy between two realities, the visible and the invisible. On top of this, you have the association of the Oriental flying carpet. Ideals of flying and traversing space are deeply rooted in humankind’s aspirations. From birds, butterflies and other creatures we’ve always tried to symbolize and copy in a very concrete way their freedom of movement. Today when flying UFOs are no longer taboo, and angels are far more mythical creatures, airplanes seem more meaningful to us. But is it really like this?” (Excerpt from Susanne Cotter: Mircea Cantor. The Need for Uncertainty, book edited by Modern Art Oxford, Arnolfini, Bristol, and Camden Arts Centre, London)
Schedule of events The exhibition opens at La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Rd NW, Washington D.C., on Monday, March 28, at 6:30 pm, and runs through April 15th by appointment only: 202 944 6091. Free admission. The exhibition will be accompanied by traditional weaving workshops for children held by Victoria Berbecaru, and hosted by La Maison Française on March 29th. Before this unique exhibition opens in Washington, D.C., visual artist Mircea Cantor and traditional rug-maker Victoria Berbecaru stop on March 24 in New York for a conversation about the exhibition and their work. The event is presented and hosted by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York (200 East 38th St., New York, NY 10016) and starts at 7:30 pm. Free admission.
About the artists Victoria Berbecaru is a teacher and weaver from the Romanian village of Botiza, Maramureş. She has rediscovered and mastered traditional carpet-making and natural wool coloring. She has held workshops and has exhibited her work throughout Romania and in Vienna, Strasbourg and Berlin, with solo exhibitions at Parma Castle, Italy, and Peruwelz Cultural Centre, Belgium. Mircea Cantor (born 1977, in Romania, lives and works in Paris, France) is a visual artist who has received wide acclaim for his subtle commentary on issues of contemporary society. This includes, on a larger scale, the positives and negatives of globalization. On a more specific scale, this includes characteristics of Romanian folk traditions such as with his photograph “’Hiatus”’ (2008) which presents scaled-up version of traditional wool spindle or his other monumental work the “’Arch of triumph”’ (2008). Cantor’s choice of media is diverse, in that he has employed video, animation, sculpture, drawing, painting, and installation in his practice. Cantor’s 2005 video work, “’Deeparture”, which was on view in the contemporary galleries at The Museum of Modern Art, features a deer and a wolf together in a pristine white box environment which works to heighten the palpable tension. His visual effect is often ambiguous - often left for the viewer to make sense of. Cantor’s work is included in prestigious public collections such as Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Wash-
ington, DC; MoMA, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museum Abteiberg, Monchengladbach, Germany; Magasin 3, Stockholm, Sweden, as well as in other collections worldwide. Mircea Cantor is represented in Paris by Yvon Lambert Gallery, in Tel Aviv by Dvir Gallery and in Rome by Magazzino. www.mirceacantor.ro The Romanian Cultural Institute in New York aims to promote Romanian culture throughout the US and internationally, and to build sustainable, creative partnerships among American and Romanian cultural organizations. The Institute acts as a catalyst and proponent of initiatives across artistic fields, striving to foster understanding, cultural diplomacy, and scholarly discourse, by enriching public perspectives of contemporary Romanian culture. La Maison Française is the cultural center of the Embassy of France in Washington presenting films, concerts, exhibitions, conferences, and more! In 2010, La Maison Francaise organized over 100 events and welcomed more than 200 French artists. The Francophonie Festival 2011 is co-organized by the French-American Cultural Foundation, and the Smithsonian Associates in partnership with the French-speaking embassies in Washington, D.C., the Alliance Française, and La Maison Française. www.francophoniedc.org La Maison Française Embassy of France 4101 Reservoir Rd., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007 www.la-maison-francaise.org Romanian Cultural Institute in New York 200 East 38th Street (at 3rd Avenue) New York, NY 10016 www.icrny.org
The Traditional Maramureş rugs of Victoria Berbecaru and Mircea Cantor’s Flying Carpet March 28 – April 15, 2011 La Maison Française in Washington D.C. March 24: Preview and Conversation with the artists Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Mircea Cantor Three weavers working in sync for Airplanes and angels Botiza, March 2011. © 2011 by Mircea Cantor
Old lady weaver making “The week’s seven days” Botiza, March 2011. © 2011 by Mircea Cantor
“The week’s seven days” by Victoria Berbecaru Hand woven carpet, wool, natural dyes. © 2011 by Mircea Cantor
Handwoven carpet by Victoria Berbecaru 2008, Hand woven carpet, wool, natural dyes, 150 x 220 cm © 2011 by Mircea Cantor
“Airplanes and Angels” by Mircea Cantor. Exhibition view at Modern Art Oxford, April 2008. Hand woven wool carpet, made by the weavers from Botiza and Victoria Berbecaru, 198 / 300 cm © Photo by Andy Keate. Courtesy the artist and Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris
Handwoven carpet by Victoria Berbecaru Hand woven carpet, wool, natural dyes © 2011 by Mircea Cantor
Maramures rugs made by Victoria Berbecaru. Exhibition curated by Mircea Cantor at Maison Francaise, Washington DC, march 2011. With the gene...