Peter Blum Gallery is pleased to present Fabric, a group exhibition featuring Alighiero e Boetti, Louise Bourgeois, Sonya Clark, Josh Faught, Rochelle Feinstein, Nicholas Galanin, Esther Kläs, Kimsooja, Turiya Magadlela, Jordan Nassar, and Shinique Smith. There will be an opening reception at 176 Grand Street, New York on Wednesday, May 31 from 6pm – 8pm. The exhibition runs through July 21, 2023.
Fabric brings together 11 artists that make use of textiles in their practice, exploring the complex associations that the medium holds, encompassing public and private, local and global, how we decorate our own bodies, and how we assess the adorned bodies of others. Each of these artists uniquely explores the friction inherent in the status of textiles in fine art, elevating and further validating the medium.
Alighiero e Boetti (1940‐1994, Turin, Italy) was a pioneer in utilizing textiles as a medium for artistic expression. Boetti's practice involved engaging local artisans from Afghanistan and Pakistan to create intricate, handembroidered tapestries that portrayed text in grids. Each piece showcased a blend of craftsmanship, cultural exchange, and Boetti's philosophical beliefs, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our world. His use of textiles not only demonstrated his penchant for exploring unconventional materials, but also allowed him to blur the lines between art and craft, fostering a dialogue about the value and meaning of creative labor.
Louise Bourgeois (1911‐2010, Paris, France) is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, with her work often delving into introspective realities, childhood traumas, and female sexuality. Her diverse oeuvre encompasses various genres, media, and materials, all deeply intertwined with her life experiences and emotions, using motifs like body parts, houses, and spiders to symbolize complex human experiences. Although Bourgeois explored painting, drawing, printmaking, and performance, she also made artwork from her personal archive of fabric that included scraps from her parents’ tapestry repair business and cherished childhood clothing, among other things. Her panels and sculptures are riddled with suture‐like stitches that unite their tattered bits.
Sonya Clark (b. 1967, Washington, D.C.) uses innovative textile techniques and unconventional materials, such as human hair, to explore culture, history, and identity. Rooted in her African diasporic heritage, her artistic practice employs weaving, embroidery, and beadwork to create powerful visual narratives addressing social issues like race, gender, and power dynamics. Her unique visual language elevates marginalized voices and contributes to a more inclusive understanding of human experience.
The Vast Filament works, part of an ongoing series, are each comprised of a cotton cloth cyanotype made with the Clark's late mother's hair. Each measures approximately 8 x 11 inches. They are inspired by evidence, found by astronomers at The Australian National University, for the textile that forms the fabric of the Universe. These researchers discovered proof of a vast filament of material that connects our Milky Way galaxy to nearby clusters of galaxies, which are similarly interconnected to the rest of the Universe.
Josh Faught (b. 1979, St. Louis, MO) skillfully investigates themes of identity and community in his work, often celebrating queer lifestyles and histories. His vibrant sculptures are adorned with ephemera displaying activist slogans, personal confessions, and jokes, providing a glimpse into the diverse experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. Faught views his use of textile armatures as metaphors for community. By celebrating gay culture and employing human proportions in his work, Faught invites viewers to relate to his art on a personal and social level, fostering a sense of connection and understanding.
The composition of Sachet draws significant inspiration from artists associated with the Pattern and Decoration movement, such as Alan Shields, Miriam Schapiro, Joyce Kozloff, and Robert Zakinitch. Utilizing crocheted hemp, a material commonly used for crafting jewelry and summer camp projects, the work showcases intricate dyeing and painting techniques in a labyrinthian pattern. Additionally, it incorporates a handwoven pocket attachment. Inside this pocket, there is a collage made of potpourri, placed on handmade paper crafted from correspondences with the California Tax Board.
The artwork bears a strong resemblance to a stretched skin covering bones, but it also adopts the scale and posture of a sign or poster, leaning against the wall. Faught has always found crochet intriguing due to its delicate nature, which carries an implicit threat of unraveling. Moreover, he appreciates the subjective nature of crochet aesthetics and the way taste and decoration contribute to the construction and communication of one's identity.
The sculpture's title, Sachet, is a double entendre; alluding to scented bags typically found in a lingerie drawer, while also evoking the enthusiastic calls made by a drag queen strutting down a catwalk.
Rochelle Feinstein (b. 1947, New York, NY) is known for her thought‐provoking paintings that often incorporate various materials and techniques, such as collage, text, and photography. Her work frequently addresses social, political, and cultural issues, blending abstraction with elements of pop and conceptual art to create visually striking pieces. Feinstein's oeuvre engages viewers in critical dialogues surrounding contemporary society and the role of art within it.
"Too much and too many crammed into too little space, a prison disguised as a rainbow—if you don’t think this sounds like America, I envy you. And while paintings depicting the “sick soul of the USA” have become somewhat de rigueur since November 2016, I can’t think of a recent example as deliciously concise as Someone Else’s Country (2022). Feinstein does Jasper Johns one better, reimagining America as a filthy jumble of state-like shapes squished together—she makes the Land of Liberty look as boxed-in and used-up as a cube of compacted garbage. Same shit, indeed." -Jackson Arn, Art in America
Nicholas Galanin (b. 1979, Sitka, Alaska) works from his experience as a Lingít and Unangax̂ artist to examine the complexities of contemporary Indigenous identity, culture, and representation. Embedding incisive observation and reflection into his oftentimes provocative work, he aims to redress the widespread misappropriation of Indigenous visual culture, the impact of colonialism, as well as collective amnesia. Galanin reclaims narrative and creative agency, while demonstrating contemporary Indigenous art as a continually evolving practice.
"Hung on the wall, Signal Disruption, American Prayer Rug is woven with the error image of a television screen during a broadcast signal disruption. A broadcast interference occurs when unwanted frequency-signals interfere with the use of a television. As Galanin asserts, “The work is a call for disrupting the sources of American political power and media supporting xenophobia and obliterating voices and rights of land, water, and cultures throughout the world. The American prayers of intolerance and greed said by politicians, media, and citizens can be disrupted; the reality of America’s genocidal past and racist present is the unwanted frequency-signal. The prayer rug is made into a screen, underscoring the confluence of political belief and blind faith in the consumption of American mass media. Disrupting the signal of American collective memory/amnesia, education, and branding prayers is necessary to connect to land, water, and ancestral knowledge of living in respectable ways.” -Nicholas Galanin
Esther Kläs (b. 1981, Mainz, Germany) creates process‐oriented sculptures and works on paper that challenge contemporary sculptural norms, drawing on Postminimalism and using materials such as clay, oil stick, and resin to maintain a close physical connection to her work. Her distinctive visual language reflects her body's relationship with the surrounding environment and her inner experience. Kläs's sculptures and works on paper emphasize her intuitive gestures and explore the essence of objects and her presence within a space, suggesting connections between being and seeing.
Kimsooja (b. 1957, Daegu, South Korea) grounds her work in Korean cultural traditions, using materials and activities historically linked to women's domestic labor to examine the contemporary human experience across cultures. Her use of textiles is deeply personal, stemming from childhood memories of sewing bedcovers with her mother. Her art transcends feminist perspectives, instead focusing on broader existential questions about the interconnectedness of humanity. Sewing, for Kimsooja, serves as a meditative activity, a formal artistic tool, a domestic labor, and a socially connective act.
"As a medium, bottari is traditionally feminine. In Korean, the expression to 'bundle up a bottari' means that a woman has lost her status in the household and has been forced out. Bottari also has significance as a container, or vessel, for carrying and transporting all sorts of goods. It can be unwrapped just as it can be bundled up, and in this regard I see our body as being, in the subtlest kind of way, a kind of bottari." -Kimsooja
Traditionally made by women of all classes in Korea, bottari, or bundles, are cloth wrappings used to wrap food, luggage, or gifts, among other things. One translation of Bottari is "wrapping a package with a cloth", and a bottari can range from a plain cloth to an ornately painted or embroidered wrap. Since women in Korea are taught needlework and sewing from a young age, most would be familiar with the practice of creating a bottari, making it an especially poignant reference to everyday life.
Turiya Magadlela (b. 1978, Johannesburg, South Africa) creates abstract textile art and installations that employ emotionally significant fabrics, such as pantyhose or old sheets from correctional institutions. Her art embraces her cultural history, growing up under Apartheid, and speaks to themes of judgment, separation, discrimination, confinement, and humiliation. Her work aims to examine the pain of human existence, drawing inspiration from the Xhosa word 'imihuzuko', or collective pain. Magadlela masterfully incorporates both new and found fabrics, creating pieces with a flexible, organic appearance that reference traditional female handwork.
"Through her works, which appropriate, alter and recontextualize new and found fabrics, Magadlela invites the viewer to reach their own personal interpretations and to experience their own inihuzuko, or collective pain. This experience is reached, in these works in particular, through distinctive abstract geometric designs made by using pantyhose. The nylon fabric has been cut in uneven shapes, and the pieces then folded, stitched, pulled, and stretched over a frame, resulting in their distortion. The sheer, tactile quality of the material - classically associated with female undergarments - relates to femininity, sexual intimacy, transparency, fragility, womanhood, beauty, and vulnerability. The flexible, organic appearance of Magadlela's work refers to female handwork, a gentle and time-hungry practice that carries a nurturing quality. It also implies internal dialogue and compromise. The modification, distortion, and reinterpretation of the original condition of the material can be seen as alluding to the changing phases of the female psyche, evoking the transformations from womanhood to motherhood and old age." -Elbe Coeste, from Vitamin T
Jordan Nassar (b. 1985, New York, NY) explores heritage and homeland through various mediums, such as hand-embroidery, wood inlay, and glass, often using "the landscape" as a unifying theme. He adapts the Palestinian tatreez embroidery technique to reflect his hybrid upbringing and collaborates with Ramallah and Hebron‐based craftswomen to create contemporary works that juxtapose local traditions and modern aesthetics. Nassar's imagined landscapes evoke a connection to Palestine and the Palestinian‐American diaspora, expressing both joy and diasporic longing in relation to his cultural identity.
Shinique Smith's (b. 1971, Baltimore, MD) artistic practice revolves around using clothing as a raw material, which serves to reference the human figure and the broader social and economic systems within which individuals operate. Her works often vary in scale, from portraying a specific person to representing a vast crowd through the amassing and binding of hundreds of garments. Smith's most notable creations feature clothing tightly compressed and arranged into striking color blocks and gradients, evoking the way used garments are packed and shipped for reuse in less affluent nations. While her work is frequently discussed in relation to feminist labor discourse, Smith eschews traditional textile techniques like sewing, crocheting, or knitting, opting instead to reinterpret handcraft through an art‐historical lens.
"For me, art-making has always been both an intellectual and spiritual exercise, and ideas of transformation permeate everything from my materials to the process. I transform clothing, fabrics, and language into new forms and shapes with dying, bundling, and brushwork. Everything is in motion and evolving while maintaining a central focus, so each piece becomes a meditation." -Shinique Smith, interview in Edition Modern Luxury
"Smith focused on the clothing, on the opposing politics of excess and need, and on the method whereby thousands of pounds of cast-off garments were gathered into neat layers, forced into four-foot-high bales, shrink-wrapped, and cinched with metal straps. The tightly uniform vocabulary of these parcels—each one composed of apparel once belonging to and then discarded by countless individuals—fascinated the artist, and the imagery lingered in her mind. For her, the symbolism of the bales didn’t stop with current social and political systems, however. She also homed in on the bales of cotton that were the economic driver of systematized slavery in the southern United States. More than 150 years separate the cultivation of cotton by enslaved Africans from the export of used clothing in today’s system, yet their parallel histories form the warp and weft of Smith’s sculptures." -Brooke Kamin Rapaport, in Sculpture Magazine