Weav­ing, fiber arts get new MoMA treat­ment

The Korea Times - - CULTURE -

NEW YORK (AP) — Mod­estly sized but ex­pan­sive in scope, the ex­hibit “Tak­ing a Thread for a Walk” in the newly re­vamped and en­larged Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art ex­plores the of­ten over­looked art of weav­ing.

With a nod to weav­ing in an­cient times and at the dawn of the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, it goes on to tell how a small group of artists, some of them women side­lined by the more fa­mous men in the Bauhaus move­ment, pushed the age-old craft in new di­rec­tions.

It de­vel­oped a more sculp­tural ap­proach, known since the 1960s as fiber arts, even as it con­tin­ued to evolve as an in­dus­trial art.

“The tex­tile me­dia have been un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated for many years, and there’s def­i­nitely a re­newed in­ter­est now in tex­tiles as tak­ing func­tional, sculp­tural and ar­chi­tec­tural forms,” says Juliet Kinchin, who co-or­ga­nized the show with An­drew Gar­ner.

MoMA’s “How Should We Live” ex­hibit ear­lier this year fea­tured some rel­a­tively little-known Bauhaus tex­tiles; the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art re­cently ex­hib­ited tex­tiles by Frank Lloyd Wright; the New York Botan­i­cal Garden in­cluded tex­tiles in its re­cent “Brazil­ian Mod­ern” show; and the Tate Mod­ern, in Lon­don, also re­cently showed modernist tex­tiles.

This ex­hibit, one of the in­au­gu­ral ex­hibits of the new MoMA, opened to the pub­lic when the mu­seum re­opened on Oct. 21, and will re­main on view through April 19, 2020.

Although tex­tiles don’t im­me­di­ately spring to mind when you think about modernist art, Gard­ner points out that artists as var­ied as Le Cor­bus­ier, Matisse and Miro all cre­ated works in fiber. The ex­hibit takes its name from a quote by artist and Bauhaus pro­fes­sor Paul Klee, who ad­vised ap­proach­ing draw­ing by “tak­ing a line for a walk.” At the multi-dis­ci­plinary art school, where Anni Al­bers stud­ied and taught tex­tile design to a generation of young artists, that spirit car­ried forth to weav­ing.

“Just as it is pos­si­ble to go from any place to any other, so also, start­ing from a de­fined and spe­cial­ized field, can one ar­rive at the re­al­iza­tion of ever-ex­tend­ing re­la­tion­ship . traced back to the event of a thread,” Al­bers wrote in 1965.

The show in­cludes Al­bers’ ta­pes­tries, gouaches and screen prints from the ‘20s through the ‘80s, and even a 1950s loom of hers, as well as video footage of weav­ing be­ing done on her loom, to give vis­i­tors an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the com­plex­ity of the art.

“It’s a very math­e­mat­i­cal process, and there is no place­ment of a thread that is ac­ci­den­tal or out of place,” says Gard­ner.

The ex­hibit opens with a look at the his­tory of weav­ing, with an an­cient Cop­tic ta­pes­try frag­ment dat­ing to be­tween the 6th and 8th cen­turies — not the type of thing one might ex­pect to en­counter in a MoMA ex­hibit. It was do­nated by none other than Lil­lie P. Bliss, one of the three founders of MoMA.

“There was a modernist ob­ses­sion with look­ing at the an­cient world for inspiratio­n,” Gard­ner says.

But the show’s fo­cus is on tex­tiles of the Bauhaus, and by artists trained by Bauhaus teach­ers and alumni, many of whom — like Al­bers — moved to the United States, where they con­tin­ued to teach.

Works in­clude a 1924 wall hang­ing by Gunta Stolzl, the only fe­male mas­ter at the Bauhaus school.


This 2019 photo shows an in­stal­la­tion view of the ex­hibit “Tak­ing a Thread for a Walk” at the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art in New York. The new ex­hibit at the mu­seum ex­plores the of­ten over­looked art of weav­ing. The ex­hibit is mod­estly sized but ex­pan­sive in scope. It’s one of the first ex­hibits in the newly re­vamped and en­larged mu­seum.

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