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browngrotta arts presents Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades
September 13, 2020 @ 10:00 am - September 20, 2020 @ 5:00 pm
Photo credit: Annette Bellamy, Long Lines, 2010 – courtesy of Tom Grotta
“The catalogs produced by browngrotta arts, and the photography therein, have become so superior, they are an important part of our literature.” – Jack Lenor Larsen, author, curator, and textile designer
browngrotta arts is pleased to announce their Fall 2020 “Art in the Barn” exhibition Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades – a retrospective celebration of 50 print catalogs on fiber and modern craft published by browngrotta arts and exhibition of 60 works by 50 important artists of fiber, ceramics, and mixed media, who have helped define modern craft movement since the 1950s. Artists include Laura Ellen Bacon, Polly Barton, James Bassler, Annette Bellamy, Lia Cook, Mary Merkel-Hess, Agneta Hobin, Gyöngy Laky, Simone Pheulpin, and Aleksandra Stoyanov to name a few.
A forerunner in the field, browngrotta arts has been dedicated to researching, documenting, and raising awareness of fiber and modern craft art through exhibitions and catalogs for over 30 years. The publication of the 50th catalog of the same title, will continue the tradition with full-color exhibition photos by the co-founder of browngrotta arts’ Tom Grotta, and an essay by Glenn Adamson, noted author, historian, curator, and former Director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
The range of works on view will include woven vessels, three-dimensional sculptures made of paper, wood, jute, waxed linen, cotton, gold leaf, steel, ceramic, fiber-optic, and basket forms of bark and twigs, jasmine and bamboo, willow and cedar. A number of artists have created wall works of linen, viscose, steel, cotton, horsehair, fish scales and in one case, silk from silkworm raised by the artists. The techniques are as varied as the materials — weaving, plaiting, knotting, molding, ikat, tying, bundling, crochet, and katagami.
There will be several large-scale museum-quality works on view. The show’s centerpiece is Long Lines (2010) by Alaska-based artist Annette Bellamy (b. 1951) whose work is inspired by her life on the sea as a fisherwoman. It is made of 132 ceramic hooks suspended from 12 ft of twine. The kinetic nature of the hanging work reflects the movement of the sea.
Drawing from her Nordic-Finnish roots, Agneta Hobin’s (b. 1945) fiber sculpture, Bridge (2001), traverses 18 ft across the entrance of browngrotta arts between the original structure and extension wing of the house. The artwork involves a unique technique developed by Hobin, using mica and handwoven stainless steel mesh.
Israel-based weaver Aleksandra Stoyanov’s (b. 1957, Ukraine) Waiting 1-4 (2012) is a four-panel tapestry that features life-size portraits of the artist’s ancestors, standing 9 ft tall and 2.75 ft wide each. Somber tones reflect the landscape found in northern Israel where she immigrated in the 1990s, fleeing from the worsening anti-semitism in her home country of Ukraine. Her work, woven from her own handmade threads of raw wool, portrays a deeply emotional quality that reflects the social dilemmas experienced by immigrants, the loss of family, and disconnection.
California-based Lia Cook’s (b. 1942) neuroaesthetic experiment is titled Su Series (2010-2016). It is composed of 32 woven identical images of her face as a child superimposed with empirical data from her neuroscience research, created on a Jacquard computerized handloom. Each individual image is translated and altered through different weaving structures, provoking a subtle and sometimes dramatic variation in emotional expression from the viewer.
Three periods of work by Mary Merkel-Hess (b. 1949) will be represented in the exhibition. Merkel-Hess is known for her “landscape reports” – lyrical basket forms of brilliant green, indigo, cornflower, red, and bronze, composed of paper cord and reed inspired by the natural surroundings of the prairie of her hometown in Iowa. In the mid-90s, she eschewed color and began using translucent white papers of gampi, kobo, abaca, flax for vessels, sometimes tinged with gold leaf. In her third period, her works are less recognizable as vessels; they have grown larger and more sculptural and her recognition, too, has grown.
Gyöngy Laky’s (b. 1944) four works in the show continue her personal examination of the complex relationships with the world around us Deviation,2020, is a typographical wall sculpture made of apple trimmings, acrylic paint, and screws, portrays many meanings, from functioning like diacritical marks representing “Oh ,Why?” to the myriad implications and emotions of the word “Oy” or, if flipped, “Yo; Other works include We Turn, 2019, Traverser, 2016, and Dry Land Drifter, 2010.
Participating artists include: Adela Akers (US), Laura Ellen Bacon (UK), Jo Barker (UK), Caroline Bartlett (UK), Polly Barton (US), James Bassler US), Dail Behennah (UK), Annette Bellamy (US), Nancy Moore Bess (US), Marian Bijlenga (The Netherlands), Birgit Birkkjaer (Denmark), Sara Brennan (UK), Lia Cook (US), Włodzimierz Cygan (Poland), Neha Puri Dhir (India), Lizzie Farey (UK), Susie Gillespie (UK), Agneta Hobin (Finland), Kiyomi Iwata (Japan), Ferne Jacobs (US), Stéphanie Jacques (Belgium), Tim Johnson (UK), Christine Joy (US), Tamiko Kawata (Japan/US), Nancy Koenigsberg (US), Marianne Kemp (The Netherlands), Anda Klancic (Slovenia), Lewis Knauss (US), Naomi Kobayashi (Japan), Irina Kolesnikova (Russia), Kyoko Kumai (Japan), Lawrence LaBianca (US), Gyöngy Laky (US), Sue Lawty (UK), Jennifer Falck Linssen (US), Åse Ljones (Norway), Kari Lønning (US), Federica Luzzi (Italy), Rachel Max (UK), John McQueen (US), Mary Merkel-Hess (US), Norma Minkowitz (US), Keiji Nio (Japan), Mia Olsson (Sweden), Gudrun Pagter (Denmark), Simone Pheulpin (France), Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila (Venezuela), Lija Rage (Latvia), Toshio Sekiji (Japan), Hisako Sekijima (Japan), Karyl Sisson (US), Jin-Sook So (Korea/Sweden), Grethe Sørensen (Denmark), Aleksandra Stoyanov (Ukraine/Israel), Chiyoko Tanaka (Japan), Blair Tate (US), Deborah Valoma (US), Ulla-Maija Vikman (Finland), Wendy Wahl (US), Gizella K Warburton (UK), Grethe Wittrock (Denmark), Chang Yeonsoon (Korea), Jiro Yonezawa (Japan), Carolina Yrarrazaval (Chile).
Cataloging the Cannon
browngrotta arts published their first catalog as a pamphlet in 1990, Markku Kosonen: Baskets and Woodwork, which included 27 b&w photographs. The 49 catalogs since have collectively recorded a narrative of Modern Craft and contributed in no small measure to preserving the continuity of the field.
“Every artist here is a master: Mary Merkel- Hess, America’s primary paper sculptor; the great structuralist Kay Sekimachi and her husband, the woodturner Bob Stocksdale; Leon Niehues from Arkansas, who has infused traditional basketmaking with rare formal intelligence; the two beating hearts of Bay Area fiber art, Ed Rossbach and Gyöngy Laky; magisterial Canadian colorist Mariette Rousseau-Vermette; and the leading exponent of pictorial tapestry of the past half century, Helena Hernmarck.” Glenn Adamson
This archival documentation has not only permitted their pioneering exhibitions, which are ephemeral in nature, to enter into the canon but provides a rare historical insight and a unique chronicle of an often-overlooked art field that is currently enjoying a renaissance. As fiber art gains renewed recognition and reappraisal from major institutions, the browngrotta arts archive, in which works by Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, Ed Rossbach, Magdalena Abakanowicz and many others are showcased, is an invaluable resource.
“There are a few catalogs that go beyond the intellect to convey the spirit of the exhibition objects. The fine images of browngrotta arts’ publications capture the dimension of the objects, something often lacking, yet totally necessary to the appreciation of fiber. Their publications seem to consistently engage much more than readers’ minds,” wrote Lotus Stack, then-Curator of Textiles at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1999.
When browngrotta arts founders, Tom Grotta and Rhonda Brown began promoting artists in the late 1980s they discovered two important facts about the field. First, at that time, before digital printing, galleries and museums rarely had the budget to document their exhibitions in a catalog or book. Second, regardless of the medium, when catalogs were prepared, the works were photographed like paintings: two lights at 45-degree angles, dimension and detail obscured.
Grotta set out with the intention to resolve this disparity and began an annual cataloging program recording exhibitions, artists, and works through photography that specifically captured the tactile and haptic characteristics of fiber and craft art. While the first catalogs were modest, black-and-white pamphlets, Grotta photographed the work with reference to scale and shape from the outset, and in the case of fiber art, a sensitivity to conveying the work’s organic and haptic qualities and unique materials. This approach allowed for an immersive experience of the works, one that extended beyond the time and geographic limitations of the exhibitions.
As technology developed, the browngrotta arts catalogs were printed in four-color, grew in size, and came to include essayists and authors of stature. By 1998, Art of Substance (#21) included an essay by renowned architect David Ling and won an American Graphic Design USA Award. Last year’s art + identity: an international view (#49) was 156 pages and featured the work of more than five dozen artists with an essay by art scholar Jessica Hemmings, Ph.D.
Select titles include: Markku Kosonen Baskets and Woodwork (#1), 1990 – 27 b&w photographs; Changing Shapes Basketwork by Mary Merkel-Hess (#2), 1992 – 29 b&w photographs; Claude Vermette (#4), 1992 – 34 b&w photographs with the first color photo cover; Ed Rossbach and Katherine Westphal (#6), 1993 – 35 photos b&w with 2-sided color cover; Mariette Rousseau-Vermette (#7), 1993 – 31 color photos; Helena Hernmarck and Markku Kosonen (#10), 1994 – 37 color photos (although the cover is b&w); Sheila Hicks: Joined by seven artists from Japan (#13), 1996 – 64 color photos, commentary by Sheila Hicks; Art of Substance (#21) Essay by architect David Ling, 1998 – all color, 43 photos Winner of an American Graphic Design USA Award; Tradition Transformed: Contemporary Japanese textile art & fiber sculpture (#22), 1999, all color, 54 photos of 63 works featuring work by artists who were included in “Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Lenore Tawney: celebrating five decades of work (#28), 2000, 61 color photos; Lia Cook: In the Folds– Works from 1973-1997 (#36), 2007, 40 color photos; Ethel Stein: Weaver (#37), 2008, 48 color photos.
The catalog will be available for purchase for $55 at http://store.browngrotta.com/
The exhibition will be on view from September 12 from 1pm to 6:30pm and Sept 13-20 from 10am – 5pm daily.
Advanced time reservations are mandatory and can be made here https://bit.ly/2QrlI0F.
To ensure the well being of all visitors and staff, there will be a maximum capacity of 15 visitors per time slot. All surfaces will be disinfected between reservations. Masks will be required.
browngrotta arts is located at 276 Ridgefield Road, Wilton, CT, accessible from New York via Metro-North on the New Haven Line to South Norwalk transferring to the Danbury Line to Wilton Station. For driving directions click here.
All photos by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts. Not to be published without prior permission. High res. images available upon request.
For all media inquiries, contact State Public Relations at (646) 714 – 2520 or email@example.com.
About browngrotta arts
For over 30 years, browngrotta arts has been advancing the field of contemporary fiber arts by curating and exhibiting renowned contemporary artists who celebrate the exploration of fiber art techniques and drive the unique possibilities of soft materials. Representing many of the artists who have helped define modern fiber art since the 1950s, browngrotta arts reflects the cultivated eye and intellect of its directors, husband and wife team, Tom Grotta and Rhonda Brown.
Founded in 1987 in Wilton, Connecticut, browngrotta arts showcases unique sculptural and mixed media works with an emphasis on concept, supported by technique. The focus of the work is on the materials and the technical mastery of the artist as intrinsic to the significance of the work, prioritizing aesthetic value over utility. Museum-quality artworks by more than 100 international artists are represented through art catalogs, art fairs, co-partnered exhibits at museums, retail spaces, and an online gallery.
Each Spring, the couple opens their private home – a two-story barn built in 1895 expanded and contemporized by architect David Ling in 2000 – for “Art in the Barn”, a unique annual salon-style exhibition for 10 days. Over 3500-square feet of space with a viewing vista of 55’ allows for experiencing works that reflect complex illusionary space. The 21’ high ceilings permit the installation of tall sculptures and two free-standing walls enable dramatically shaped fiber structures best hung off the wall. The living environment also grants the artwork to be shown in situ.
browngrotta arts has published nearly 50 art catalogs and placed works in private and corporate collections in the US and abroad, including the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Arts and Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum. They also regularly work with architects and interior designers offering consultation for commissioned artworks and site-specific installation for commercial and residential spaces. A selection of works is on view and available for sales inquiries at browngrotta.com.
Tom Grotta graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a fine arts degree in photography. He has been recognized for his extensive knowledge of contemporary art textiles and fiber sculpture and his photography of fiber art. He has lectured on these subjects at museums and art programs in New York, California, Hawaii and elsewhere. Grotta’s art photographs are included in several private collections, that of the Serralves Museum of Art in Portugal and numerous magazines and books, including Toshiko Takaezu: Earth and Bloom (University of Hawaii Press, 2007), California’s Designing Women 1896-1986 (Museum of California Design, 2013), Fiber Sculpture, 1960 – Present (Prestel, 2014), Makers: A History of American Studio Craft (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) and Tapestry: A Woven Narrative (Black Dog Publishing, 2012). He photographed and designed The Grotta House by Richard Meier: a Marriage of Architecture and Craft (Arnoldsche, 2019).
Rhonda Brown works as an attorney for a publishing company in Manhattan and at browngrotta arts, managing editor for the catalogs, its blog www.arttextstyle.com, and online content. She is the co-author of Making Room: Strategies for Small Spaces (Perigee, 1983). Her writing on textile arts has appeared in several exhibition catalogs and publications including selvedge; Fiberarts; NBO Quarterly Review and Weston Magazine.
For more information, visit www.browngrotta.com