January 31, 2012

Coming Soon--Bridge 11: Lia Cook

I am pleased to report that after a relatively smooth installation process this week (there are always some bumps along the way), the curatorial team at HCCC has finished installing Bridge 11: Lia Cook. When I went home for the day yesterday, there were only two pieces left that needed to be hung, and I came in this morning to find that Anna Walker, Curator, and Susie Silbert, Curatorial Fellow, had finished the installation. The exhibition is exquisite. I have been looking forward to it since the proposal was brought to the exhibitions committee meeting last year, and I am especially delighted that this show and HCCC will be a part of FotoFest 2012.

Above, clockwise from top left: Susie Silbert (HCCC Curatorial Fellow) up on the genie
lift during the installation of Bridge 11: Lia Cook. Partial view of Bridge 11: Lia Cook at
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Ashley Powell (HCCC Curatorial Assistant) and
Anna Walker (HCCC Curator) on the genie lift while installing Bridge 11: Lia Cook
at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Photos by Ashley Powell.

Lia Cook has been on the forefront of the textile-arts and craft communities for decades due to her visual innovations, as well as her technical mastery. Bridge 11 includes large-scale weavings of photographs created on an electronic Jacquard loom. The information present in each photograph has been translated into a computerized code for the loom to read. This is similar to the way a computer is able to break down a digital photograph into pixels, or tiny portions of information that construct the image when combined. The weavings present the viewer with traditional aspects of weaving, such as texture and pattern, as well as the intrinsic qualities of photographs, including time and memories. Cook’s work also investigates human vision, representation, and basic human emotional reactions.

Bridge 11 was organized by the Society for Contemporary Craft (SCC) in Pittsburgh, PA, and Cook’s work is part of the 11th biennial Bridge Exhibition Series. The series was first presented in 1988 to establish and heighten the public’s awareness of the powerful work being produced by contemporary artists.  SCC has presented solo exhibitions by 28 artists working in a broad range of craft media, including clay, metal, fiber, wood and glass.

As Anna, Susie, and I unpacked the work and ascended in the genie lift to hang the weavings on the walls and from the ceilings, I started thinking about the Bridge Series and began to wonder how it started, the way in which artists were selected, and why the title was chosen. I decided to contact the exhibitions department at SCC to learn more. Kate Lydon, the Director of Exhibitions, kindly took the time to speak with me earlier this week.

Above images: Susie Silbert and Anna Walker in the large gallery installing Bridge 11:
Lia Cook
  Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Photos by Ashley Powell.

Some of the first topics we spoke about were the series’ origin, the mission, and the significance of the title. Lydon has been at SCC for quite a while and informed me that, in the early years of this series, the dialogue about the divide between craft and fine art was growing immensely. Since then, she believes this conversation has started to fall by the wayside and isn’t as significant. With this in mind, the series had a goal to bridge the gap and blur the lines between craft and fine art, to show high-quality work by mid-career artists working in the traditional craft media. When I asked her whether the original mission still stands today, she responded by explaining that the divide is not highlighted as much, because the conversation has subsided; however, this series and the title provide an opportunity to reference it historically.

The idea of showing mid-career artists goes back to the title of the series and the theme of a bridge. The idea was to explore the gap between early and late-career craft artists. So, not only is the bridge used to lessen the gap between craft and fine art, but also generations of makers.

Lydon informed me about SCC’s selection process and how they search for artists not only creating high-quality works but also creating with a concept behind the work. The processes the artists are using are taken into consideration. Since the exhibition is comprised of three solo-artist shows, exhibiting work of different scale and media is important. The diversity and contrast helps to highlight the uniqueness of each artist’s work.

We are very excited to be a participating venue for Bridge 11: Lia Cook, and we hope you will join us for the opening reception this Friday, February 3, 5:30 – 8:00 PM.

Bridge 11: Lia Cook will be on display February 4 – May 13, 2012, in the large gallery, along with Transference: Andy Paiko & Ethan Rose in the small gallery.  Alyssa Salomon–The Handmade Print will be on view February 4 – April 8, 2012, in the Artist Hall.

--Ashley Powell,
HCCC Curatorial Assistant

January 16, 2012

CraftTexas 2012 Juror Jade Walker

CraftTexas 2012 is just around the corner! The call for artists will close on March 15, and the exhibition will run from September 29 - December 30, 2012. All of us at HCCC are looking forward to this, our seventh in a series of juried exhibitions showcasing the best in Texas-made contemporary craft. We are especially excited to have Jade Walker, an Austin-based artist and Director of the Visual Arts Center and the Creative Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, as one of our three jurors.

Walker is an active participant in the Texas visual arts community and, along with her day job as the director of the Visual Arts Center in the department of Art and Art History at the UT Austin, she has her own rigorous studio practice. On January 20th, an exhibition of her work, titled Contact, will open at Lawndale Art Center, our awesome next-door neighbor. The exhibition features an array of characters--some fictional and some real--permeated by physical breakdown and includes several sculptures and sculpture-based installations that are inspired by the physical repercussions of trauma on the human body.

Jade Walker,  Figures # 6.
Fabric, hat rack, mixed media
59” X 40” X 60" 2009
Photo courtesy the artist.

Jade Walker,  Figures # 6 (rear view).
Fabric, hat rack, mixed media
59” X 40” X 60" 2009
Photo courtesy the artist.

On October 5, 2011, the LVL3 exhibition space in Chicago had a post on their blog naming Jade Walker their “Artist of the Week,” and it included a short interview with the artist. When asked how to explain her work to a stranger, Jade responded, “My practice is a mixture between an exploration of materials (fabric, rubber, found objects, crusty old paints, tool-dip and whatever else I can get my hands on) and my desire to reproduce the human body.  I am interested in the mechanics of gender, both physically and symbolically, and that interest patinas the work as well.”

Walker’s exhibition at Lawndale could not be on display at a better time, as it will be an incredibly enjoyable opportunity to acquaint ourselves with her as a person and as an artist. CraftTexas 2010 is most definitely one of my favorite exhibitions that have been on display since I became part of the HCCC family in early 2010, and one of the reasons is the incredible variety of work that is submitted. Work in every craft medium, as well as both functional and non-functional work, is selected. I am thrilled to see what craft artists around Texas are currently making, and we hope that Walker enjoys participating in the jury process just as much as we enjoy putting the exhibition together.

Jade Walker, Trophy Room (detail 1).
Vacu-form panels, plastic, leather, found objects.
Site-Specific installation: 12’ X 11’ X 8’
Domy Books 2009. Photo courtesy the artist.
Jade Walker, Trophy Room (detail 2).
Vacu-form panels, plastic, leather, found objects.
Site-Specific installation: 12’ X 11’ X 8’
Domy Books 2009. Photo courtesy the artist.

The CraftTexas series began in 2002 and is one of the most exceptional and significant exhibitions in the Texas craft community. And, for HCCC, it is an event deeply rooted in the core mission of our organization. It serves as a starting place for the general public to appreciate the depth and breadth of craft being made in our own communities and across the state.

--Ashely Powell, Curatorial Assistant

To learn more about how to apply to CraftTexas 2012, click here.

If you would like to read more about Jade Walker and view more photos of her work, check out her website: http://jadewalker.org/

Click here to read the Lawndale press release that includes info on her exhibition.

January 3, 2012

Thoughts on SPUN

Needlepoint artist and Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoints (SPUN) founder, Mary Smull, came to HCCC for two events in early December. Smull is one of the artists featured in HCCC’s current exhibition, Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft. Curator Anna Walker shares her thoughts on her work and the events.

I’m guilty of procrastination. There, I said it. I think it is something that everyone struggles with to some degree. I definitely remember it as a common excuse for many of my friends in school. What I find interesting about procrastination is the different ways and various projects that are unique to the procrastinator.

For instance, I’m known for beginning a project, getting it most of the way complete and then leaving the ending undone. This is true of the simplest tasks, such as mailing a birthday gift to a friend. I buy the gift, wrap it, and then it sits for weeks--sometimes months--in my office awaiting a short trip to the post office.

Through my personal experiences of “unfinished labor,” I am able to better appreciate the motivations behind Mary Smull’s Unfinished Needlepoint series.  Smull purchases unfinished needlepoints and completes them using only white thread, visually calling attention to that which was left undone, but also recognizing the labor invested by an anonymous hand. At the beginning of December, Smull brought her “Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint” (SPUN) to our large gallery. A bright blue banner signaled the event, and representatives in matching blue t-shirts were there to assist visitors in completing stitches for the cause. (Click here to see the event photos.)

At Friday’s group therapy session, Finish Fetish, with artist Mary Smull.

SPUN representatives who helped “get it done.

Each visitor brought stories about their own unfinished projects, and we even had a visitor bring her own unfinished needlepoint in hopes that she would be inspired to complete it after talking with the artist. We talked extensively about the feelings associated with incompletion, guilt, avoidance, curiosity, even apathy. Looking back on the conversations, one area we did not spend as much time talking about were the reasons or thoughts on why works were left unfinished. Was it out of boredom with the project, competing external demands, or pure forgetfulness? 

I have to be honest--I even procrastinated on writing this post and on the previous assignment from Curatorial Assistant, Ashley Powell, which you can read about here.  What caused me to not even begin these projects? I would like to think it is because I had competing external demands, and that is partly true. However, for me, I recognize a fear of whether the finished project lives up to my initial expectations and standards. During Friday night’s discussion, Finish Fetish, we talked specifically about writing projects. How some of us never feel resolved about writing, and I agreed--writing can always be changed; it seems to constantly be under revision, editing, and perfecting. Perhaps, this is why I feared beginning the post, as I knew I might not reach the “finish.”

Above is an HCCC volunteer/SPUN representative assisting a
visitor at one of the unfinished needlepoint stations.

The counterpoint to SPUN’s blue t-shirts:  a group of ladies from “Oktoberfest,”
clad in pink t-shirts commemorating 27 years of gathering together.

You can follow Mary Smull’s “Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint” on her website http://www.unfinishedneedlepoint.org. Her work is part of the current exhibition, Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft at HCCC through Sunday, January 8, 2012.

-- Anna Walker, Curator