Stitch in Time: the Fabric of Contemporary Life
Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork
2 April – 5 July 2015
Artists: Anni Albers, Sarah Browne, Jeremy Deller, Sissi Farassat, Angela Fulcher, Grayson Perry, and Slavs and Tatars
Curated by Chris Clarke and Fiona Kearney
The use of textiles as a creative medium stretches back to the earliest civilisations. Traditionally, there was a separation between fine and craft art practices, but in the early 20th century, the Bauhaus advocated the importance of design in everyday life, and embraced the use of fabric as part of their experimental approach to visual culture.Stitch In Timelooks at the ways in which artists have used textiles to consider ideas of gender, community, labour and race. From protest banners to embroidered passports, abstract fabric designs to narrative tapestries, the exhibition demonstrates how such seemingly traditional practices remain particularly relevant to our present-day society.
The exploration of how textiles can be deployed in new and imaginative ways is exemplified by the work of Anni Albers (1899–1994). Having enrolled in the Bauhaus, the groundbreaking teaching institution that transformed modern design, art and architecture, Albers had to embrace the possibilities of textiles when she was refused a place on the architecture course because of her gender. The exhibition includes pieces created throughout her life, including reproductions of the 1930s hand-woven Bauhaus diploma textiles, window coverings from her 1999 retrospective in Venice and the wall hangings she created for the AT&T Building in New York.
In Sarah Browne‘s A Model Society, the artist advertised for knitwear models in Iceland to complete a survey on their everyday lives, expectations, and ambitions. Their responses were knitted into traditional lopi sweaters worn by the models, presented as slide projections. This notion of collaboration also informs Jeremy Deller‘s protest banners, designed with different community groups and hand-sewn by Ed Hall. His video Procession is a “self-portrait” of Manchester, documenting a march through the city that featured banners, floats and musical performances.
Slavs and Tatars‘s Love Letters woolen carpets are based on drawings by Russian artist, playwright and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, whose embrace of the Bolshevik revolution led to him being declared “the people’s poet” during the Russian Revolution. The caricature-like imagery of their works describes the forced imposition of a unifying alphabet, first Latin then Cyrillic, upon the Muslim populations of the new Empire, and reflects the disillusionment that led Mayakovsky to commit suicide at the age of 37. Angela Fulcher‘s works reveal her interest in the historical and social associations of textiles. The colours, tones and patterns of her found and altered draperies and carpets are resonant of domestic settings from the 1960s, and indicate the artist’s research into the largely undocumented role of women in the design and production of 1960s hippy communes.
The juxtaposition of the decorative and the political informs the works of Sissi Farassat, whose glittering, appliqued surfaces belie their provocative subject matter. The artist’s expired passports are embellished with mosaics of abstract designs, Iranian flags, and stylized emblems that recall the ornamental aesthetic of her Persian heritage. Ideas of national and personal identity also come together in Grayson Perry‘s Comfort Blanket. Based on a 10 GBP banknote, this large tapestry incorporates elements of Britain’s national heritage alongside stereotypical traits associated with the British. Perry’s work represents his nation as a multicultural, diverse community, and an antidote to staid—and often politicized—perceptions of British identity.
Stitch In Time features a programme of free public talks exploring design, politics and society, including architect Santiago Cirugeda (15 April) and Dr. Laurence Davis (13 May).
An exhibition catalogue accompanies Stitch In Time. For further information and advance orders, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stitch In Time is supported by University College Cork, Irish Design 2015, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, The Arts Council Ireland and private philanthropy through Cork University Foundation.