The introduction of craft into the world of Fine Art with a capital A is hardly a brand new concept. For centuries, the World’s Fairs have showcased visual culture from regions that didn’t fit into the standards of Western ideals, albeit the earlier results may have been not the most culturally sensitive. As the Modern era commenced, artists were able to transcend the conventions of painting and sculpture by re-imagining forms that had been past reserved to the purely decorative realm, namely Picasso creating a copious collection of hundreds of ceramic editions.
A resurgence of the tapestry form in high art has prevailed since the mid-century. Keith Haring is exemplary of contemporary approach to this movement. The artist was famously known to seamlessly shift his roles as designer, activist, muralist, and museum-worthy artist, so seeing his iconic figurative works in tapestry form is surprisingly natural as seen in the graphic blue, orange and black Twins. Handmade of woven fiber, the piece has a textural body that is rich yet utilitarian. Tactile and corporeal, Twins embraces textile arts’ distinctive object quality, that is not unlike the experience of viewing the artist’s works on concrete walls.
While not necessarily a renaissance of sorts, this merge between the decorative and the art object for art’s sake seems to be experiencing a flourishing moment of recognition and appreciation. ArtNews reports that Denver Art Museum is establishing textile galleries. To mark the opening the museum has commenced a project “ Spun Adventures in Textiles” showcasing textile art throughout the location in a series of ten shows launching May 19th. The shows will feature everything from Navajo weaving, an exhibit on the history of denim, Chinese textiles, to contemporary approaches to the theme. While it is important to acknowledge the project’s inclusive acceptance of Textile Arts into the fine art museum, the contemporary and modern instances where there is a fusion of craft and high art is what produces the most exciting results.
A showpiece is Agustina Woodgate’s Tapestry. While beautifully ornate, the piece is made up of pieces of stuffed animal skin. A kallediscope of colors and shapes, it would be difficult to guess the source material. When this context is analyzed, the work critiques not only the limits of painting, but the limits of conventional tapestries. Woodgate is able to engage the audience by creating a beautiful object from unconventional materials, an experience that she describes as sentimental. It has the same impact as an abstract expressionist painting, yet with the intricacy of precisely planned quilt. The layer of surprise unfolds as the viewer discovers the plushy fur, and the resulting feeling is entirely personal and expressive.
It can be disheartening to think of a time when these stunning sectors of the arts had been dismissed as purely decorative, and this issue would perhaps require a further conversation about the problems with Western aesthetic values which have systematically denigrated the feminine and Non-European as inferior.That these regressive stigmas can be momentarily derailed through the collaboration and elevation of craft is worthy of celebration.
Information Derived from:
Anderson, Lamar. “ART TALK: Blanket Statement”, ARTnews May 2013.