March 9, 2013

Textile Art on the International Art Scene. The Armory show, NYC

Heaven is two hundred booths of art from contemporary galleries from all over the world. That is what I saw at the 100th Anniversary Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94, in NYC on March 7th.
It was very surprising  to see some artists using thread and fabric as their medium in this venue.
Homage to Duchamp
There were nods to Marcel Duchamp's painting,  "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2" aplenty, paying homage to him as he exhibited at the first show. Several of his original pieces were also on view.
 A few pieces, though not his,   stunned me just as his work must have stunned his 1913 audience. One of those was the form of a life sized man, seemingly collapsed under a blanket on the bare floor. The blanket caught my eye of course, I love fabric so much!  but the piece made me feel helpless and without hope.
For the most part though,  the work was on the wall, and  abstract.
Some of the wall art was in relief, and some was quite deep. One was concrete mixed with paper and another was made of match sticks, dirt, plaster and paint.  
There was very little photo realism, and  one kinetic sculpture that I remember
There were sculptures also, mostly on a smaller scale. Perhaps they are just easier to transport.  I expected to see more L.E.D. light art or computer driven images. I think there was only 6 or so pieces that were lit or moving.  I only noticed two  projection pieces. One was actually using a reel to reel projector complete with the click, click sound I remember from childhood. The projector was more prominent than the image being projected onto a white weather balloon. The other was a mash up of eyes and mouths projected onto a stool sized object, the mouths were talking as a recording played. I love to see new media pieces but the equipment is always awkwardly in the center of a space trying to disappear but in a black wood box sized to trip over. This show was disappointing because I thought I would be seeing more of this cutting edge technology, but I was more than pleased by seeing the simple work of the hand in my favorite field of
Below I will offer you photos from the show of the fiber art related pieces, with details of each, and two pieces in wood that I think will inspire fiber artists. Enjoy! And please leave a comment. Thanks!

artist Chiharu Shiota

Artist Chiharu Shiota 
Detail of kimono surrounded by thread.
Steel frame approx 5 ft high, child's silk kimonosurrounded by a web of black thread. It appeared
 that the thread  only pierced the  kimono at the
 ends of the hanging rod. This is on a 
white pedestal, the beige square to the left is the 
cement floor.

Paint on an 1960's era Pakistani quilt.
The blue field is a dye transfer that appears
 original to the piece since it is underneath
 and does not affect the stitching.
The black field is a patch sewn to the corner.
The brown circle and the octopus is painted.
The small brown square appears to be a stain.

This nearly 7 foot tall piece is entirely hand stitched in 1/4 " stitches with white thread on black fabric.  The stitches run horizontally. There are spaces left that form verticals which evoke a feeling of city buildings glistening at night. The red stripes are inserts which although they are lower than the black, they visually pop up to the surface.

This is another version by the same artist.
Chiyu Uemae

The lights make this piece appear as if it is glowing, but  it wasn't.  Its just a bad picture of a beautiful piece. The inner square was thickly stitched with embroidery threads on a black background which peeks through.
The painted canvas borders were a nice frame in a slightly different tone.

You can make out some knots which add texture to Chiyu  Uemae's work.

I am sure you can see the reference to our fiber -art world and to quilts here.
This Delucia piece is 2 sheets of plywood! They are screwed to the wall.  This is my interpretation of the process. I hope it helps you understand what you are looking at. The amazing texture, depth and moire affect is achieved by incising the surface about every 1/4" in a diagonal direction. As the grooves approached the center they became deeper , reaching a new ply ,until the wood splintered and broke away.  The surface was painted black before the cutting. Areas were then enhanced with black paint after cutting. Some grooves were painted and some of the moire wood grain was enhanced with paint. This piece stunned me. I want to speak to the artist about how this process started and progressed. It is so sophisticated but so humble. 

Here you can see the large splinters in the center and the white wall.

If the illusion in the other piece didn't amaze you, perhaps this one will! You are looking at a piece that is about 5 ft square. you can see down the isle as it is close to the end of the wall. Look carefully, do you see the four violet squares on point? Do you see a center lighter square? Does the background seem pale green?
Here is a side view. The yellow spikes are another piece. There are 400 white wood cubes mounted along one edge, the backs of which are painted a bright color, either cobalt. primary green or neon yellow. The rest is reflection and shadow and your perception. AMAZING! 

and this shot is too beautiful for words. 
and there you have it. Inspiration for fabric artists from the International art scene.


  1. Cool stuff, thanks for sharing Kevan!

  2. Interesting work. Great that you are sharing since I would love to be there, maybe next year. Thanks!

  3. lovely- looks like an innovative show!

  4. thanks for this post. It was so wonderful to see this much textile art in the armory exhibit. Especially liked being introduced to Chiyu Uemae's work.

    1. oh! it was a pleasure to share what I saw. I am so happy that you enjoyed it.