Surabhi Saraf, FOLD, 2010, QuickTime 1080p high definition video, 7 minutes 36 seconds
Being safe – not stuck – at home has me both feeling very fortunate and reflecting on domesticity… Specifically, the role it plays in contemporary art.
Traditionally, there’s a pretty rigid hierarchy that’s based on the materials art objects are made from. Oil paintings are at the tippy-top, followed closely by sculpture made of materials that last eons, like marble or bronze. Those are followed – at some distance – by paintings on paper and drawings. Relatively recently, photography, installations and media art pushed up into that realm. But jumbled at the bottom are the multitude of forms generically and pejoratively referred to as craft. Their distinction comes from either the materials used to make them – for example clay or fiber – or the fact that the object actually has a function. Another commonality is that objects considered “craft” are often made by women or non-western cultures.
For years, I’ve been interested in contemporary artists who either critique or rebel against those demarcations. Our third issue of Hosfelt Gallery Magazine flirts with those ideas.
At first, Surabhi Saraf
’s mesmerizing video FOLD
, will make you think of the seeming endlessness of your domestic chores, but it soon evolves into a poetic meditation you’ll want to watch over and over. Andrea Higgins paints weavings. Emil Lukas makes “paintings” out of sewing thread; not paint. Algerian Driss Ouadahi’s paintings are of the architecture of the urban fabric, but are rooted in the childhood experience of watching his grandmother at her loom. Jim Campbell riffs on the tradition of the kitchen clock, though measures time in the days in a child’s life. Liliana Porter uses worn out toys to describe the psychology of the nuclear family. And quilter Rosie Lee Tompkins makes objects that give the best formal abstract painters a run for their money.
The piece will be available to view through Thursday, April 30th.
A portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama, in process in Andrea Higgins’ studio
reproduces the warp and weft of fabric swatches by painstakingly applying layers of oil paint to “weave” evocative “portraits” that explore the cultural importance of textiles and the way that individuals use their apparel to present a particular image or send a message.
In a painting she’s currently working on, Higgins refers to a purple with orange Narcisco Rodriguez sheath in creating a portrait of Michelle Obama. Significantly, it’s the dress Obama selected to wear to her first meeting with Melania Trump — a color choice that was widely seen as an olive branch — neither Democratic-blue nor Republican-red, but purple-state-neutral.
No matter Michelle’s intent, Higgins’ post-minimal abstractions—optical and shimmery—controvert the historical notion that abstract painting is without content.
Emil Lukas, wisp #1924, 2020, thread, plaster, nails, wood, paint, 30 inches diameter x 3 1/2 inches deep
is a process-based, multi-media artist who is possibly best known for his thread "paintings": shallow trays or plaster “bowls" over which he criss-crosses multi-colored sewing thread, creating complex, glowing color fields. These works refer to various art historical movements — Post-Minimalism and Light and Space, for example — but most importantly, they relate to Arte Povera, with its experimental substitution of household materials for traditional art-making media.
In this, his newest work, Lukas entwines light-colored thread across a dark ground (rather than his usual colored thread over a light backing), creating a moon-like surface and mesmerizing optical effects.
For more information on available work, click here
Stefan Kürten, Isla Morada
Andrea Higgins, Jackie (Dallas)
Driss Ouadahi, Drafted Landscape (image courtesy of Interior Matters, Inc.)
(L) Jim Campbell, Untitled (for Helen); (R) Liliana Porter, Them
I was fortunate to see the Rosie Lee
Tompkins (1936-2006) retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum
during the short time
between when the exhibition opened
and the museum temporarily closed.
You can scratch the surface of this show ontheir website
– but see it in person if the
museum reopens before July 19.
Tompkins made quilts… but man oh man
these are more than “quilts.” Her
understanding of complex color
relationships rivals Albers: her
compositions are as sophisticated
as any of the Geometric Abstractionists
or Op Artists. Tompkins’ eccentric
reimagining of traditional quilt design
speaks to a fearlessness you rarely
find amongst painters. Her retrospective
ought to be a nail in the coffin of
the hierarchy of “fine art” versus “craft.”
Helen's Soda Bread Recipe
Preheat oven to 350˚
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 - 8 tablespoons caraway seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups dried currants (or dark or golden raisins)
1 1/2 cups kefir (or buttermilk)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the first six ingredients, cut in butter, then stir in the currants. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients including the baking soda, then, with a fork, stir the wet into the dry ingredients. The dough should hold together nicely and not be too sticky. Use your hands to divide the dough into two balls, then form each into a dome-shaped loaf and place both on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with melted butter and cut an X on the top with a sharp knife. Bake about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely browned and a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
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