Tapestries might conjure up images of medieval castles, unicorns and other mythical beasts, but a new exhibition at the Hunterdon Art Museum weaves a fascinating picture of how the art form has evolved in the past 70 years.
Contemporary International Tapestry highlights the work of three generations of artists from nine countries who are elevating tapestry to a whole new level of technical and aesthetic excellence. The exhibition opens Jan. 11, 2015, with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. featuring talks from artists from around the world. Everyone is welcome to attend.
“At the Museum, visitors can appreciate in intimate settings all aspects of the broad scope of today’s tapestries and the individuality of their makers,” said Carol K. Russell, curator for the exhibition and a leading expert in the field. “There is no sameness of imagery; no stiffness of the noble class; no disconnect from present-day life and concerns. People, animals, symbols, abstractions – and even new ways of visualizing a familiar thought or theme – are brought to life in the hands of artists from various cultures and countries. “
The exhibition featuring 39 artists will fill three of the four Museum galleries, includes loom work by some of the most renowned artists working today, among them:
- Archie Brennan, a leading international figure in tapestry for more than 25 years. Brennan joined his fellow artisans in 1948, as an apprentice, and has served as director of the prestigious and award-winning Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh.
- Joan Baxter is inspired by the rich cultural heritage and wild beauty of the highlands of Scotland where she resides. “I choose to work in the traditional woven tapestry medium because I like the way my initial ideas can develop and expand during the slow and deliberate making process,” Baxter notes. “The process, although a very ancient one, allows me to push boundaries in design, technique, materials and concepts.”
- Designer Yael Lurie and tapestry weaver Jean Pierre Larochette have collaborated on work for more than four decades and across three continents. Lurie, daughter of a painter, was brought up in a kibbutz in Israel and trained as a painter. Larochette, born in Argentina, is descended from a long line of French Aubusson weavers. The two met through the patronage of Jean Lurcat, the Frenchman widely credited for reviving tapestry in 20th-century France. “The history of tapestry in the U.S. in the latter part of the 20th century owes much of its success, direction and development to Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie” according to Susan Martin Maffei, another internationally known tapestry artist whose grand-scale tapestry appears in HAM’s exhibition.
- Polish artist Włodzimierz Cygan has always been on the cutting edge of tapestry and textile architecture and continues to reinvent his medium and his messages. Such talent has been rewarded with the Bronze Medal at the sixth International Fiber Art Biennial from Lausanne to Beijing and Zhengzhou, China. His tapestry, Orbitrek 29, earned the Grand Prix at the 12th International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland.
“We hope visitors will take away a new perspective on an ancient art form,” Russell writes. “Tapestry can and shall endure through the centuries, though its messages have become more personal. The art form has indeed evolved and become its truest self in the hands of individuals.”
Other artists featured in the exhibition are: Jo Barker, Helga Berry, Rebecca Bluestone, Elizabeth J. Buckley, Soyoo Hyunjoo Park Caltabiano, Alla Davydova, Annelise De Coursin, Susan Edmunds, Alex Friedman, Ina Golub, Barbara Heller, Susan Hart Henegar, Silvia Heyden, Dirk Holger, Peter Horn, Constance Hunt, Susan Iverson, Ruth Jones, Aino Kajaniemi, Jane Kidd, Lialia Kuchma, Christine Laffer, Ewa Latkowska-Żychska, Bojana H. Leznicki, Lore Lindenfeld, Susan Martin Maffei, Julia Mitchell, Janet Moore, Jon Eric Riis, Ramona Sakiestewa, Micala Sidore, Elinor Steele, Sarah Swett and Linda Wallace.
To commemorate and celebrate this exhibition, Russell has written a new book, Contemporary International Tapestry, to be released by Schiffer Publishing early next year featuring images and information about the artists included in the exhibition.
The exhibition closes May 10, 2015.
The Museum also plans several programs related to the exhibition:
- Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at 2 p.m. – Weaving Demonstration and Guided Tour with curator Carol K. Russell. Free with admission. Registration is required as space is limited.
- Sunday, March 22, 2015, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – A Day of Contemporary Tapestry featuring lectures with artists Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei as well as an interactive demonstration with Brennan.
- Sunday, April 19, 2015, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Handweaving Tapestries with Carol K. Russell for children ages 6 and up.