Kaffe Fassett Show traces 50 years of textile art



BATH, England – The colors – blue, green, yellow, pink, purple – are bright enough to crush spring daffodils. And that only refers to the lively knitting that dresses garden lamps and the crazy decoration of multicolored pom poms hanging from a century-old tree.

The entrance to “The Colorful World of Kaffe Fassett”, on display at the American Museum in Britain until November 2, is an explosion of cheerful hues on a leafy hillside outside Bath.

Inside, it’s even more dramatic: the deep blue of Turkish tiles inspiring a patchwork rug; a blood-red Chinese glazed vase alongside Mr. Fassett’s scarlet craftsmanship, and leafy green patterns woven onto cushions or digitally printed onto plastic flooring.

“I hope this will banish the fear of color,” says the artist. “People dress in gray and beige, but they will come here and see that there is mileage to be made from absolutely passionate pools of colors.” Mr. Fassett’s wild and marvelous undertones permeate everything from berets made of buttons to a buttercup yellow patchwork evoking the golden reflections of Gustav Klimt.

In the 50 years since the artistic young man from the California coast first came to England to do portraits of the period rooms of the American Museum, the designer has become a king of color.

“It’s about textile art,” said Laura Beresford, who curated the show – though it’s actually a four-way collaboration between herself, Mr Fassett, her partner Brandon Mably and designer Johan Engels, known for his opera sets.

Mr. Fassett, 76, spends much of the year traveling with Mr. Mably – most recently to Australia – to give talks and workshops on the craft. The show highlights both his current passion for patchwork and his explorations of fashion in the 1970s.

These include her work with British designer Bill Gibb, such as the spectacular knit bodice and skirt with dotted butterfly wing sleeves featured in the exhibit.

Mr Fassett’s craft history began when he went to Scotland for a Gibb event, bought skeins of colorful wool and enlisted the expertise of another passenger to teach him how to knit during the long train ride home, a skill he refuses to see as “an exclusively female activity.” Therefore, the exhibition features Mr. Fassett’s spectacular long-sleeved knit coat, inspired by ballet star Rudolf Nureyev’s vision in “Romeo and Juliet”.

There are also walls of hand-knitted sweaters, which were developed by M. Mably with the exquisite textures of silk and alpaca.

Mr Mably, discussing his partner’s enthusiasm at the stunning mockup of their London studio, refers to a famous statement by Fassett: “My motto is always: when in doubt add 20 more colors.”

Some of Mr. Fassett’s other hints appear as posters on a multi-colored wall: “Every good piece of decoration is like a piece of music. It has an emotional impact. “And” The importance that some purists attach between art and craftsmanship does not exist for me. I always try to make my textiles as beautiful as possible, imbuing them with all the efforts of a work of art.

A colorless Kaffe Fassett world can also be seen in the museum. In paying tribute to him with this exhibition, the museum director, Dr Richard Wendorf, took the opportunity to show the pen and ink drawings of Mr Fassett from 1964, which are hung in the hall. 17th century period of the museum.

The American Museum was founded in 1961 by two dedicated collectors to showcase American art and craftsmanship. Inside the 19th-century Claverton Mansion, there are rooms created with wood panels and filled with furniture shipped from old homes in Connecticut or Massachusetts, while other pieces come from as far away as Mexico. .

With a collection of over 250 patchwork quilts, there was plenty of color in the neoclassical mansion even before the Fassett exhibit. Only the neutral and natural hues of the Shakers drew a veil of beige, although this was also offset by a room dedicated to quilts, hung from rotating screens.

Dr Wendorf even allowed Mr Fassett to fill a void above the grand staircase carved with colored fluttering flags.

How will the museum prevent visitors from lashing out, petting the sewn-on chair, chunky knits, silk threads and woven images of vegetables, from artichokes and onions to cabbages and leeks?

Ms Beresford says she believes viewers – who are encouraged to touch a few specific pieces – will be respectful of this textile art.

They could, however, be driven mad by the deliberate lack of information on the walls or next to the objects, which blend together so perfectly that a flower tapestry designed by Mr Fassett for the packaging of British retailer Marks & Spencer stands alongside the Venetian glass and Mexican hearts. – “things that feed my imagination.”

“The cobalt blue, the sizzling green and all of these wonderful, intense, deep, dark and cold colors,” Mr. Fassett said. And it doesn’t seem surprising that his autobiography is titled “Dreaming in Color”.

The artist answers mundane questions about dates and details with a affable smile and a shrug of the shoulders in a striped shirt. A purple sweater is tied around her neck and her pants are made of grass green corduroy.

Such a blur of date and place is understandable from a designer who rejected black and white a long time ago and stuck so true to his color credo.


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