top of page

The Crafted Debate of Textile Art

In Marquee Project's recent exhibition, Riding the Weave, textile artists confront where textiles lie as a medium akin to the traditionally regarded "fine arts." In an explosion of color and texture, Riding the Weave implored visitors to question their own conceptions on craft.

 

Installation shot of Riding the Weave, Marquee Projects. (Image by Kai Hatcher)


Tactile and vibrant with color, Riding the Weave transformed the white walls of the gallery to question and elucidate craft in the space of fine arts. As an age-old debate that has been actively confronted by those who could be considered craft's “historical canon,” ­­––Cy Twombly, Lenore Tawney, Annie Albers, Paul Klee etc…–– the decorative arts has come to encompass a methodology no different to the traditional forms of sculpture and painting. Artists Eozen Agopian, Nunzio De Martino, Sam Jaffe, Courtney Puckett and Sue Ravitz break the contemporary terrain of material fundamentalism and engage in a careful dance of thread to canvas, repurposed commercial textiles, found objects and knit work to the recently closed exhibition, Riding the Weave (May 27-June 25, 2023) curated by gallery owners Mark Van Wagner and Tonja Pulfer of Marquee Projects in Bellport New York. Representing craft as broken from heedless mechanism to a medium with full creative autonomy and aesthetic value akin to other validated art forms.


Upon entering the gallery, the installation of these works were carefully considered and deliberate. Sue Ravitz’ Untitled, sat on a low pedestal in the center of the room that plays to its functionality as rug but declines the use of it as so. Regarded as an art object, the pedestal changes its baseness to become a canvas as viewed from above. My own experience of this altered mode of viewing forced me to be aware of how my body had to move around the work to see it in all orientations. On the same flat pedestal, Courtney Puckett’s N(2), 2022 yellow cloth covered wire frame blatantly directs this question of orientation with its arrow head shape pointing upward counter to Ravitz directionless rug. Among Ravitz’ other works in this exhibition, they all engage in this directionless quality and use illusion with the application of color to further confuse the eye. I couldn’t help but take my time to look for patterns when after further analyzing, there was no consistency ­­–– an obvious taunt against the expectation of pattern in textile design.


Courtney Puckett’s sculptural work Ms.Stone, 2021 stood in the corner of the gallery with its deep monochromatic structure contrasting the colorful textures of all the other works including her own. Its bubbled form with its repurposed textiles almost simulates skin stretched in a basic weaved pattern that exposes the cloth wrapped wires in some places but covers them in others. Sam Jaffe also engages with this practice of repurposing in works such as Play Date, 2022 and Spicy Bite, 2022. Using material from vintage sweaters or recycled deadstock yarn, these beautifully vibrant and 3-dimensional works are mobile and topographical. Set as diverse terrain, its levels and seams become line work in a slew of overlapping colors. Even the titles imply its previous uses and contexts, but the work abstracts its commercial past as clothing items into fine textile art.


Left: Courtney Puckett, N(2), 2022, found objects and repurposed textile, 33 x 20 x 8 inches.

Right: Sue Ravitz, Untitled, hand dyed stripped wool on monks' cloth, 43 x 53 inches. (Image by Kai Hatcher)


In a mimicry of classic painting techniques, Nunzio De Martino uses thread as paint and the sewing machine as brush in works Landscape, 2023 and Untitled, 2023. In a sort of pointillist fashion the sewn marks on the canvas from the repetitive punctuation of the needle create areas of condensed and light marks. Coupled with layered pieces of canvas swathes, the true surface of the canvas is obstructed. De Martino also plays with the temporality of the sewn marks by relieving the thread and leaving the puncture marks –– a remanent of a durational task. However, these marks are indistinguishable amongst the thread marks and the layered pieces of canvas. Eozen Agopian uses thread in a light, more deconstructed way. Open threads hang in Agopian’s First Day, 2023. This mixed media piece uses paint and thread to doubly create texture across the surface. Agopian makes clear that the same ways in which paint can accomplish these aesthetic values, thread to canvas is just as similar. First Day, 2023, in its geometric and layered mediums, feels like a crowded cityscape. There are areas where the thread creates a window and the paint, concrete or brick. Cool blues to turquoise fade backward as chartreuse greens and vibrant pinks create other shapes as well as the cut and rolled fabric attached under, through and between the thread and paint. The canvas bustles with atmospheric life and fully populated by material.


This exhibition made clear that the debate on craft as fine art is an old argument that keeps these alternative mediums in a historicism of craft as trade, however these five artists mobilize textiles to confront the historical with the contemporary and question its decorative, gendered, and domesticated definition to replace it with its capacity as a fine arts medium.


Following this exhibition is Taylor Anton White’s solo show Instructions for Remaining Upright, open now from June 30 – July 30, 2023. For more information on Riding the Weave as well as what's going on at Marquee Projects, visit https://www.marqueeprojects.org/

Comments


bottom of page