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UNCOMMON THREADS The Box Project: Uncommon Threads presents widely divergent commissioned works produced by thirty-six internationally recognized artists between 2004 and 2013. Many of the invited artists customarily work in two dimensions and with fiber, but others consider themselves painters, sculptors, and designers. The works were made in response to a challenge issued by collector Lloyd Cotsen and his textile curator Mary Hunt Kahlenberg (d. 2011), who stipulated that each artist’s entry must be three-dimensional and sized to fit inside a relatively small, square or rectangular box of standardized dimensions. The artists were also asked to create something with fiber, broadly defined, and the materials used include plastic tubing, copper wire, paper, manzanita wood, zippers, buttons, beads, magnets, reflective tape, rubber sponge, and spools of thread. In setting these parameters, Cotsen and Kahlenberg presented the artists with a creative problem that would encourage them to broaden the scope of their studio practices. They wanted them, in effect, to “think outside the box” by forcing them to work within it. The great variety of solutions that resulted and the wide range of materials and techniques used by the artists speak to the project’s successful outcome. Video interviews, material samples, maquettes, correspondence, and concept sketches chronicle the creative strategies of the artists and shed light on the complex relationship between artist and collector. Viewing an individual Box Project is an intimate experience, and an invitation to step inside and consider the challenge presented by the confines of the box. To give an even greater sense of the problem solving and inventiveness involved in fulfilling the commission’s challenge, twenty-two large-scale pieces borrowed from a number of the participants are included to convey the often-monumental and highly variable nature of fiber art today. Helena Hernmarck Color Triptyk, 2005 (detail)


Gere Kavanaugh’s Box Project is one of the more self-reflective works in the collection. Kavanaugh’s long friendship with Cotsen led her to draw on materials and memories of her own life, her early fascination with color and design, and her childhood in Memphis, Tennessee. The resulting work is a riot of colors and shapes, cleverly and playfully constructed to both fit inside its box and to occupy space both horizontally and vertically when displayed with the box open.

Gere Kavanaugh b. United States, active Los Angeles, California Untitled, 2010 Double-ruled paper inscribed in pencil, spools of thread, thimbles, bobbin, fabric samples, and straight pins 15¼”h x 50”w x 2⅝”d Cotsen Collection, t-3109a–c


Carson Fox recently transitioned from making filigreed wire pieces to working with colored resin. Her work in wire started off as a contemporary take on mourning jewelry, or Victorian hair sculpture (memento mori). Fox feels this work, like needlework and other women’s pastimes, was a creative outlet, a meditation, and place to put anxiety. Her early works in resin were inspired by roadside memorials, but more recent pieces are based on rocks, geodes, and natural formations. They represent an idea of time and history embedded in the object itself. Blue Green Pom, 2013–2014 Cast and carved resin 30”h x 19”w x 17”d Collection of the artist photo by carson fox ©  carson fox

Carson Fox b. United States, active Brooklyn, New York Greener Grass, 2015 Cast and carved resin 8”h x 55½”w x 14”d Collection of the artist photo by carson fox ©  carson fox

Untitled, 2008 Twisted and matted wire filigree 38”h x 12”w Cotsen Collection, t-2995a


For this exhibition, Helena Hernmarck loaned her large-scale work Homage to Mary Kahlenberg. Created for the Textile Museum exhibition of 2012 titled Sourcing the Museum and curated by Jack Lenor Larsen, Homage was, in part, triggered by Kahlenberg. Each artist involved in that exhibition was asked to create a work inspired by something in the Textile Museum’s vast collections. Kahlenberg suggested that Hernmarck look at inscribed textiles from Egypt known as tiraz. Homage is based on a nine-hundred-year-old pile carpet fragment from that region.

Helena Hernmarck b. Sweden, active Ridgefield, Connecticut Homage to Mary Kahlenberg, 2012 Wool, flax, recycled sequin plastic 48”h x 54”w x ¼”d Collection of the artist photo by sally andersen-bruce ©  helena hernmarck

Color Triptyk, 2005 Wool yarn woven in double weave with strips from sequin manufacturing 14”h x 20¼”w x 105⁄16”d Cotsen Collection, t-2506a–c


Gyöngy Laky’s work reflects environmental concerns as well as her fascination with the architecture of weaving. Laky sees woven structures and nets not only as verticals and horizontals; grids and scaffolding, fencing and nets or metal screening are all textile-related. Her fascination with both the natural wood material she works with and the language of symbols results in works like Thinking Clearly.

Gyöngy Laky b. Hungary, active San Francisco, California Thinking Clearly, 2012 Eucalyptus and wooden dowels 21”h x 104”w x 2”d Collection of the artist photo by m. lee fatherree ©  gyöngy laky

This Way and That, 2013 (detail) Cut and assembled manzanita wood painted with acrylic paint and secured with trim screws Cotsen Collection, t-3214a–h

SHIGEKI FUKUMOTO Shigeki Fukumoto b. Japan, active Kyoto, Japan Double Refraction: Lapis Lazuli, 2005 Rözome with fiber-reactive dye and gold leaf on linen cloth 50”l x 15¼”w x 2⅝”d Cotsen Collection, t-2578e–f

Pyramid B, 2002 Cotton, linen dyed with fiber-reactive dye, inlaid with gold and silver platinum leaf 66½”h x 65½”w Collection of the artist photo by yasutaka kamio ©  shigeki fukumoto

Shigeki Fukumoto and his wife, Shihoko, are both experts in traditional Japanese dye techniques. Mr. Fukumoto is interested in the history of Japanese dyeing and its cultural implications; he is interested in the Japanese soul, and how to express his Japanese heritage in his artwork. He used a dyeing technique called rōzome to create the fluid colors in his Box Project and created a group of three so that his project could stretch out into the distance. His two loaned works, Pyramid B and Pyramid R, are constructed from tiny cut pieces of rōzome-dyed cotton. The group of artists represented in this exhibition offers a glimpse of the innovative and unconventional creativity that characterizes fiber art as a medium. These works invite you to experience the diversity and creativity of this artistic genre and to explore the ingenuity and engineering behind each work.

Pyramid R, 2002 Cotton, linen dyed with fiber-reactive dye, inlaid with gold and silver platinum leaf 66½”h x 65½”w Collection of the artist photo by yasutaka kamio ©  shigeki fukumoto


MASAE BAMBA Reborn, 2009 Floating Letters, Falling Words, 2012 (displayed at the Fowler Museum and The Textile Museum) Drops, 2013 (displayed at the Racine Art Museum)

HELENA HERNMARCK Color Triptyk, 2005 Homage to Mary Kahlenberg, 2012 AGNETA HOBIN Arctic Light, 2009

PAOLA MORENO Untitled, 2004 BARBARA MURAK Red Vessel, 2006

PAT HODSON Crystalline x4 Books 1-4, 2007

KYOKO NITTA Index, 2005 Clothes: Bags Circulation II, 2003

MARY BERO Compendium, 2012–13

KIYOMI IWATA Water, Earth and Sky Four, 2007 Southern Crossing Four, 2014

HEIDRUN SCHIMMEL They Want to Expand or Shrink…, 2008–09

ZANE BERZINA Topography, 2009–10

GERE KAVANAUGH Untitled, 2010

N. DASH Untitled, 2008

AI KIJIMA United States, 2013 Protect, 2005

CYNTHIA SCHIRA Variations II, 2004 Nocturnal Mirage, 2001

JAMES BASSLER Boxed Blocks, 2004

VIRGINIA DAVIS Bounded by a Nutshell, 2004 CARSON FOX Untitled, 2008 Blue Green Pom, 2013–14 Fool’s Gold, 2013–14 Orange Craggyrock, 2014 Greener Grass, 2015 (exhibited at the Racine Art Museum and The Textile Museum) SHIGEKI FUKUMOTO Double Refraction: Turquoise, 2005 Double Refraction: Maroon, 2005 Double Refraction: Lapis Lazuli, 2005 Pyramid B, 2002 Pyramid R, 2002 JOHN GARRETT Untitled, 2004 The Musician’s Trinket Net, 2010 ANA LISA HEDSTROM Fissures, 2005 Horizontal Shift, 2009

HISAKO SEKIJIMA Spaces and Lines, 2005

HIDEAKI KIZAKI Untitled, 2009

CAROL SHINN Early Morning Palisade, 2013

LEWIS KNAUSS Golden Sea, 2008 Another Drought, 2011 Winter Kudzu, 2011 After Sandy, 2013

SHERRI SMITH Water Table, 2004

GERHARDT KNODEL Untitled, 2008 Left, Right, Left-Right-Left (A Dexterity Game), 2010

HADI TABATABAI Tar-O-Poud #7, 2007

NAOMI KOBAYASHI Cosmos, 2005 NANCY KOENIGSBERG September Harvest, 2008 Tempest, 2010 GYÖNGY LAKY This Way and That, 2013 Thinking Clearly, 2012 JUN MITSUHASHI Circular Flight, 2005 Murmur of the Rain, 2008

AUNE TAAMAL The Language of Light, 2008

KOJI TAKAKI MA, 2006 RICHARD TUTTLE Remain’s Target, 2008 PETER WEBER Frontside/Backside/Coincidence, 2008

Shigeki Fukumoto Pyramid R, 2002 (detail) photo by yasutaka kamio ©  shigeki fukumoto


Fowler Museum at UCLA

Racine Art Museum

The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum

SEPTEMBER   11,  2016  –   JANUARY  15,  2017

MAY   21,  2017 – AUGUST 27,  2017


This exhibition was organized by the Cotsen Foundation for Academic Research with the Racine Art Museum. The Box Project: Uncommon Threads was co-curated by Lyssa C. Stapleton and Bruce W. Pepich. Our special thanks go to Lena Vigna, Lacy Simkowitz, and Jolie Godoy who helped keep this project inside the box. Unless otherwise noted all photography is by Bruce M. White © Lloyd Cotsen, 2016. : Paola Moreno (b. Chile, active Santiago, Chile). Untitled, 2004 (detail). Shibori-dyed linen cloth wrapped with silk thread. Cotsen Collection, t-2743. : Ana Lisa Hedstrom (b. United States, active Emeryville, California). Fissures, 2005 (detail). Hand-pleated shibori-dyed silk. Cotsen Collection, t-2507a

above front

© Lloyd Cotsen, 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher.

The Box Project: Uncommon Threads  

Guide to the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum's exhibition (September 30, 2017, through January 29, 2018)

The Box Project: Uncommon Threads  

Guide to the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum's exhibition (September 30, 2017, through January 29, 2018)