MARCH 23–AUGUST 19, 2012
Renowned textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen invited several textile artists to choose an object from The Textile Museum collections, then create a new artwork in response. Dynamically validating the relationship between the old and the new, Sourcing the Museum displays the recently created artworks alongside the historical textiles that inspired them. Here, Larsen gives insight into the visual breadth of the exhibition. An invitation to eleven artists working in fabric on three continents has resulted in this remarkable exhibition. Witness here the museum as springboard for new responses to earlier, sometimes ancient works. The resulting contemporary textiles are diverse in scale and weight, media and power, and much varied, too, in distance from the mentor work and, indeed, from the artists’ usual mode of expression. A powerful but unexpected additional result is the inverse of our charge: that is, looking with fresh insight at the process of the earlier makers. These makers almost invariably worked within a tradition, hidebound in terms of material, technique, and style of expression. By heart, they understood materials and process: when innovation was taboo, to excel in technique was the clear option. After we, the museum audience, become familiar with the look of historical textiles, perhaps it’s time to consider the maker’s concerns, then and now. To different degrees, today’s makers have diverged from their museum collection muse. More important is how far they have leapt from their usual style—often not yet as far as they might in the future. After all, this exhibition is the blast-off, not the landing.
Note the discontinuous brocade of Lia Cook. She has worked in many modes and scales, and for some time now has explored jacquard-woven photo imagery. Her departure here is considerable, first in the size of the piece itself and the yarns from which it is woven. While the tapestrywoven tape of her museum mentor is miniscule, almost concealing its material and structure, Lia’s work is huge, coming into focus only at some distance, with both the materials and their interlacing so exaggerated as to demand our awareness of the cloth structure. Jon Eric Riis’ pristine, classic silk tapestry is consistent with his past decade of work. The innovation here is his serious concern with U.S. politics. While this theme is new to Jon, the whole purpose of many traditional textiles, especially those by pre-literate peoples, was to express time and place, rank or religion. Archie Brennan, the undisputed master of modern tapestry, has deviated from neither his material nor craft. Rather, he has, by combining these traditions in one piece, demonstrated the concurrence of diverse textile manifestations. Because this work is within time-worn traditions and his own life work, the craftsmanship is impeccable, familiar, and durable. Swedish-born Helena Hernmarck, is famous for fresh, macro photo images in heroic scale, with weft yarns floating over the surface to produce a sensuous relief. Here, she has delved deeply and unconventionally to wefts not woven across the weave but often twisting above and below warps at the upper edge of her web. While this structure is still related to tapestry, the result is airier and freer.
Right: Carpet, Egypt, Cairo, Mamluk, c. 1500, 73” × 82”, The Textile Museum R16.2.2, Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1952.
Below: Polly Barton, Arab Spring, 2011, 92” × 161/2”, Courtesy of the Artist; Photograph by Wendy McEahern.
Left: Band (detail), Syria, 6–7th century, 31/4” × 9”, The Textile Museum 11.31, Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1953. Right: Lia Cook, Coptic Manga (detail), 2012, 52” × 72”, Lent by the Artist.
Several of the new works involve ikat—the bound-resist dye patterning of yarns before weaving. Ethel Stein’s Modernist panel, a powerful hanging created with a pre-dyed warp, is the most direct in its relation to source, in that her mentors are also resist dyed—a Central-Asian ikat coat and a tiedyed panel. Ayako Nikamoto, a Japanese ikat weaver from the Ryukus, chose a crisply geometric ikat kimono as a mentor—seemingly not a long stretch. Her result, however, has an organic pattern totally different than any we have ever seen. Face and back of this narrow-woven cloth are quite different from each other, but both are beautiful. California-born Kay Sekimachi selected a checkerboard Inca (Q’ero) cloth, tapestry woven in four shades of alpaca yarn. Of similar coloration and square format, her own piece employs a warp painted before weaving in close valued shades. Polly Barton focused on the rich coloration of a large, dense 15th–century rug. She responded with a triptych of small, gossamer panels abstractly patterned, richly colored, and intended to be viewed from either side. Her focus was on the qualities of light falling on the lustrous, diaphanous fabric surface.
Olga de Amaral has leapt from the small brocaded chrysanthemums of a Japanese ohi (sash) to a large, flat hanging of short narrow-woven tapes interlaced on the diagonal—all in a powerful, if patinated, lacquer red. Also dynamic, and red too, is the huge, translucent cone of Warren Seelig. Inspired by the sheer piña cloths of the Philippines, his tube of tautly strung yarns is much like a circular warp without crossing wefts. Portraying tension and creating the most beautiful shadows, it reminds us of the adage “elegance usually derives from subtraction.” The two-sided jacket of James Bassler, with ikat-like patterning, is just as exceptional, created with a fugitive dyed magenta yarn wicking into the adjacent areas. If wicking prints are extremely rare, his patterning of the back side, created by clamping and steaming together the patterned front and the plain back, is a unique and primitive form of transfer printing. Bassler has been successfully sourcing museums with varied and extraordinary results for a long time, and here he seems inspired to create a technique not yet in museums! Jack Lenor Larsen, Guest Curator Left: Jon Eric Riis, Congressional Constraint Tapestry, 2012, 60” × 60”, Lent by the artist; Photo by Tom Abraham. For a gallery of images, visit the Sourcing the Museum page at www.textilemuseum.org
Left: Buddhist stole (ohi), Japan, Late 18th-early 19th century, 63” × 12”, The Textile Museum 1973.12.4, Gift of Stuart J. Fuller, Jr; Photo by Renee Comet. Right: Olga de Amaral, Folio Red / Folio White (side one, side two), 2012, 39” × 142”, Lent by the Artist.
Left: Robe (detail), Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara, Late 19th century, 61” × 43”, The Textile Museum 2005.36.98, The Megalli Collection; Photo by Renee Comet. Right: Ethel Stein, Butah, 2010, 73” × 87”, Lent by the Artist; Photo by Tom Grotta.
For the most up-to-date list of exhibition related programs and events, please visit www.textilemuseum. org. Sign up online or at the front desk for The Textile Museum eFriends newsletter and be the first to know about upcoming events. To register for programs, call (202) 667-0441, ext. 64.
A Morning with Contemporary Fiber Artists Saturday, March 31, 10:30 AM
Join us for a morning of engaging presentations by artists featured in the exhibition Sourcing the Museum as they illustrate their creative process. The moderated panel will feature James Bassler, Helena Hernmarck, and Jon Eric Riis, and will be followed with a Q&A session. Fee: $20/members; $25/non-members. Advance registration required; space is limited.
Making Fabric Sing Saturday, June 23, 10 AM–4 PM
Local artist and designer Bonnie Lee Holland will guide you through color and design basics, introducing textile painting, printing, and other surface design and manipulation techniques. Fee (includes instruction sheets and most materials): $65/members; $75/non-members. Advance registration required; space is limited.
Shape Intensive Saturday July 14, 10 AM–4 PM
Terry Jarrard-Dimond, an award-winning textile artist from South Carolina, will help you create a number of paper studies using geometric, natural, and abstract shapes, forming the foundation of an inspiration portfolio for your future work. Fee (includes instruction sheets and most materials): $65/members; $75/non-members. Advance registration is required; space is limited.
Faces, Mazes, and Neural Networks Thursday, May 31, 6 PM
Join internationally acclaimed fiber artist and educator Lia Cook as she describes her residency at the University of Pittsburgh. With neuroscience researchers, Cook mapped the response of the human brain to viewing and touching art. Fee (includes refreshments): $20/members; $25/non-members. Advance registration required; space is limited.
FREE ARTS FOR FAMILIES PROGRAM Be Inspired! Create A Mixed Media Piece Saturday, May 12, 2–4 PM
Where do you get ideas? What inspires you? Spend the afternoon creating a mixed media artwork inspired by The Textile Museum’s collection using fabric, paper, yarn, crayons, markers, and glue.
VISITOR INFORMATION Location
2320 S Street, NW, in Washington, D.C.’s historic Dupont-Kalorama neighborhood, near the Dupont Circle metro.
Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays, federal holidays and December 24. The Arthur D. Jenkins Library is open Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 12 to 4 p.m.
$8 suggested for non-members.
The Textile Museum is wheelchair accessible. Please call (202) 667-0441, ext. 35 for more information.
The Textile Museum Shop offers a unique array of handmade textiles, jewelry, books, gifts, and other merchandise created by contemporary textile artists from around the world. Shop online anytime at www.textilemuseumshop.org.
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Members of The Textile Museum enjoy many benefits: a 10% Textile Museum Shop discount, the quarterly Members’ Magazine, special rates for programs, and invitations to opening receptions. Visit www. textilemuseum.org or call (202) 667-0441, ext. 17. The Textile Museum relies on support from individuals, foundations, corporations and grants to sustain its educational programs exhibitions, collections care and scholarship activities. To make a donation visit www.textilemuseum.org/about/support.htm.
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Cover left: Shirt (detail), Myanmar, Shan; 20th century, 26” × 18”, The Textile Museum 2009.15.3, Museum Purchase, with funds provided by Stanley Roth in honor of Mattiebelle Gittinger; Photo by Renée Comet.. Cover right: James Bassler, My Letterman Yantra (detail), 2011, 331⁄2” × 331⁄4”, 2011, Lent by the Artist.
ART • TRADITION • CULTURE • INNOVATION 2320 S St, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (202) 667-0441 www.textilemuseum.org ©The Textile Museum