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Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

Naomi Beckwith

(b Fulton, MO, Feb 4, 1959).

American sculptor and multimedia artist working in fibre, installation, video, and performance. The youngest of seven sons born into a central Missouri family, Cave demonstrated an early acumen with hand-made objects and throughout his career has created works out of texturally rich materials imbued with cultural meaning. Cave received his BFA (1982) from the Kansas City Art Institute, developing an interest in textiles and, after some graduate-level work at North Texas State University, received his MFA (1989) from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, renowned for their textile, fibre art, and design programmes. While working toward his art degrees, Cave simultaneously studied with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a company known for introducing African American folk traditions into the modern dance vocabulary. Cave moved to Chicago where he became chair of the Department of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute in 1980.

Working across the disciplines of sculpture, textile, dance, and cultural performance, Cave’s oeuvre is based on the human figure; he has produced wearable art as sculptures, arrangements of human and animal figurines as installations, and performance works. Cave’s signature works, the multi-sensory ‘...

Article

Denise Carvalho

(b Belo Horizonte, Oct 23, 1920; d Rio de Janeiro, April 25, 1988).

Brazilian painter, sculptor, interactive artist and art therapist. She was a cofounder in 1959 of the Neo-Concrete movement, whose members laid the foundation for much of Brazilian contemporary art. The Neo-Concretists broke with the rigidity of the rationalism of Concrete art and advocated a more sensorial, interactive art. Lygia Clark and her creative soul-mate, Hélio Oiticica, created participatory works that challenged not only longstanding artistic dogmas, but also the role of the art object itself, as well as the role of the artist, the spectator, and the art institution. Their most groundbreaking works required the viewer to be part of the artwork and thereby experience it sensorially, all of which made their work difficult to categorize. Clark came to see even her exhibitions at major art events as meaningless, and her emphasis on person-to-person dialogue eventually led her into art therapy. Without a therapeutic license, she devoted her last decades solely to treating patients with her own form of art therapy....

Article

Joan Kee

[Kim Sooja; Kim Soo-ja; Kim Soo Ja]

(b Daegu, April 24, 1957).

Korean mixed-media artist, active also in the USA. Kim studied painting at Hongik University, Seoul, graduating in 1984. That same year she received a scholarship to study art at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. During the mid-1980s Kim became interested in employing commonly used Korean textiles in her work. Distinctively patterned and coloured, the textiles offered different formal possibilities, and early works featured various swathes cut and sewn together to form large, continuous surfaces. In 1992 Kim was awarded a residency as part of the International Studio Program at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. Inspired by the objects collected in her studio, Kim began to use the figure of the bottari, wrapped bundles used in Korea for the easy transport of goods, in installations such as Deductive Object (1994). She also began to experiment with performance and interactive works. In Sewing Into Walking...

Article

Călin Dan

(b Cluj-Napoca, 1940).

Romanian tapestry designer and installation artist. She studied tapestry design at the ‘Ion Andreescu’ Institute of Fine and Decorative Art in Cluj-Napoca, first exhibiting her work at the National Exhibition for Decorative Arts, Bucharest, in 1965. She evolved from a two-dimensional concept of tapestry towards an original attempt to work in a three-dimensional context. She was quickly recognized internationally as an innovative designer, whose suppleness of technique (passing from high warp to ikat, or the Oriental tassel technique) enabled her to move beyond the confines of conventional tapestry design to participate in installations and happenings. In her work the textile is set in opposition to hard elements, such as wood or stone, or unexpected ones, such as leather or fruit, forming only the ambient structure of an idea of a space. An organic and disquieting element appeared in her Flying Machines and Nests, small works that attempt a Dadaist effect by being absurd and aggressive. Lupas’s ecological concerns, which dominate much of her work, were first expressed in optimistic works made from wheat sheaves and by installations such as the one executed with the help of peasant women in a Transylvanian village, who unfolded on a hill huge rolls of white hand-woven fabric. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, she became more pessimistic about the future of mankind, expressing her more morbid attitude in photographs, videos, drawings and texts as well as further installations. The festive installation of bleached hand-woven fabric was repeated in an urban context, with tar-spread fabric and funerary symbols (Bucharest, ...

Article

Paula J. Birnbaum

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 30, 1943).

American conceptual artist. Reichek earned a BFA from Yale University and a BA from Brooklyn College, where she studied painting with Ad Reinhardt. Well versed in the traditions of modernist painting, Reichek began critiquing those traditions in the 1970s by making art using the vehicles of embroidery, knitting, and weaving. She then engaged in a range of large-scale installation projects that retool domestic media and formats to analyse the patriarchal and modernist assumptions of American culture. In her series of samplers, including Sampler (Kruger/Holzer) (1998; priv. col.), Reichek placed post-modern media-related art within a long history of alphabetic Samplers, a decorative form of needlework long practised by American and European women to demonstrate skill as well as exercise instructional aphorisms. Reichek’s samplers also strategically reference the rectilinear grid as structuring principle in abstract painting, revealing the artist’s interest in recurring patterns of representation of both image and text....

Article

Andrew Cross

revised by Mary Chou

(b London Aug 9, 1962).

British sculptor, painter and installation artist. Born to Nigerian parents, he grew up in Nigeria before returning to England to study Fine Art in London at Byam Shaw School of Art and Goldsmiths’ College where he completed his MFA. Shonibare’s West African heritage has been at the heart of his work since he started exhibiting in 1988, when he began using ‘Dutch-wax’ dyed fabrics, commonly found in Western Africa, both for wall-mounted works (as pseudo paintings) and for sculpted figures. Generally perceived as ‘authentic’African cloth, the tradition of Batik originated in Indonesia, and was appropriated by the Dutch who colonized the country. Manufactured in Holland and Britain, the cloth was then shipped to West Africa where it became the dress of the working class in nations such as Nigeria. Shonibare used the material as a way of deconstructing the more complex histories that determine these and other images of ethnicity. As such, he has been described as a ‘post-cultural hybrid’ or the ‘quintessential postcolonial artist’ by critics as well as the artist himself....

Article

Courtney Gerber

[ née Gallagher , Leonora Agnes]

(b Lorain, OH, May 10, 1907; d New York, NY, Sept 24, 2007).

American fibre and mixed-media artist . In 1941 she married George Tawney, who died shortly afterwards in 1943. Tawney attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana from 1943 to 1945 and then completed coursework in drawing, weaving and sculpture at the Chicago Institute of Design from 1946 to 1947, supporting herself as a proofreader for a legal publisher. Her teachers at the Institute included Alexander Archipenko, Marli Ehrman (1904–82), Emerson Woelffer (1914–2003) and former Bauhaus school instructor László Moholy-Nagy. She continued studying with Archipenko in Chicago and Woodstock, NY, between 1947 and 1948. In 1954 Tawney studied tapestry with Finnish weaver Martta Taipale at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. Foreign travel played an important role in Tawney’s life and artistic production. From 1949 to 1951 she lived in Paris and also travelled extensively throughout Europe and North Africa. In 1956 she spent time in Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, and in ...

Article

Britta Erickson

(b Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, Nov 27, 1961).

Chinese installation artist. Lin studied art at Capital Normal University, Beijing in 1984. In 1987 she and her husband, the video artist Wang Gongxin (b 1960), moved to New York where, in 1989, she took courses at the Art Students League. In 1995 they returned to Beijing, where the dearth of venues receptive to mixed-media installation art led the couple to stage exhibitions in their home. Lin became one of the most notable Chinese artists creating mixed-media installation art, then a fledgling format in China. In 2001 Lin and Wang established China’s first public venue dedicated to new media art, Loft New Media Art Center, in Beijing.

1995 marked a breakthrough for Lin when she began working with white cotton thread. Her first major work in this signature material, The Proliferation of Thread-Winding (1995; for illustration see 1998 exh. cat.) was exhibited in her home. Lin’s best-known early work, ...

Article

Geraldine Craig

(b Detroit, MI, April 16, 1949).

American sculptor, animation, performance, and installation artist. Wilson was a leading figure among artists who began working in the progressive contemporary craft movement of the 1970s and1980s and gained prominence in the art mainstream by the 1990s. Influenced by the alignment of textiles with feminist art that emerged in the 1970s, Wilson employed the cultural associations of diverse source materials (table linens, bed sheets, human hair, lace, thread, wire, glass) to interrogate how craft and context can define a feminist position in art by subverting the boundaries of middle-class propriety and social values.

An early favoured subject and material for Wilson was human hair. Her internet-based project hairinquiry (1996–9) solicited responses to the questions: ‘How does it feel to lose your hair?’ and ‘What does it mean to cut your hair?’, returned through e-mail, fax, and conventional mail. Her sculptural work Lost (1998) was made by embroidering black human hair onto a used white linen tablecloth that was draped over a chair – the discarded hair treated with transgressive care suggests a powerful residue of memory and life lost. With her installation ...