I was very interested to view (alas only virtually) the exhibit of tapestries called Banners of Persuasion: Demons, Yarns & Tales at the James Cohan Gallery in New York and London. These tapestries and needlepoint canvasses were designed by a number of internationally artists whose usual work is in other media. They were handmade in editions of 5 over 3 years.
The gallery felt that although fiber “has faded as a primary art medium”, it has nevertheless often been explored by major artists throughout the 20th century. They hope that this show will renew interest in the medium.
above: Shahzia Sikander: Pathology of suspension, 8”10 by 6”1”
I have a number of mixed feelings about the show (nothing new, I have mixed feelings about many things!). On the positive side it is wonderful that galleries are supporting major fiber shows and that internationally known artists are using this medium; on the other hand I don’t feel that anyone in the fiber world as a whole would have considered that fiber had “faded”, though interest in it may have of course. And certainly while it has not been considered a Major Fine Art form probably since medieval times, there have been many beautiful examples of fiber work from many different artists and in different countries that have not been valued by the “art world”. However, if they are looking up now! all to the better.
above: Jaime Gili, Zelada, (wool, silk tapestry) 8”2” by 7’
Another aspect of the show for serious cogitation is the commissioning of artists from other media to design the work. It’s fascinating to see how their work translates absolutely gorgeously to the medium – totally proving the point over and over that fiber is a wonderful and much undervalued substance for art making! It is also very thought provoking to see what fiber can look like in the hands of an accomplished artist – these are heights to which we should aspire!
But…it is sad that they didn’t ask Actual Fibre Artists to design and/or make the work. and why not? Weren’t they good enough? or did they feel they would not have had a high enough profile?
Above: Grayson Perry: Vote Alan Measles for God (wool needlepoint), 8’2 by 6’7
Overall, it’s great that fiber is being recognized in this way even though it has been somewhat slid in sideways on the reputations of major artists…and it is wonderful to see how this medium can really blossom when amazingly talented, well trained and experienced gardeners try their hands at it. Let us also see just what can be done and aspire ourselves to similar levels. I would love to see a gallery commission this level of artist to design art quilts, and then put on a show of “artist designed” art quilts AND “quilt-artists designed and made” art quilts – now that would be a Real challenge!! for everyone!
Above: Gary Hume, Georgie and Orchids, 8” by 6”10
So…take a look at the pieces pictured here…and enjoy, but also Think!…Do visit the website to see all the work.
And a thank you to the James Cohan Gallery, NY and Banners of Persuasion, London for their courtesy in allowing me to reproduce these images.
If you have been, thanks for reading!
After Migrant Fruit Thugs
wool silk tapestry
8’2 by 5’4