Woven in time: Qualia Gallery honors textile art | New

As a child growing up in a remote mountainous region of China, Dacia Xu would gather with friends to knit and crochet.

“My earliest memories include images of my mother weaving,” she told this news agency. “The sound of the loom in the house made me feel safe and warm.”

After opening the Qualia Gallery in Palo Alto in January of this year, she promised herself to present a textile exhibition as soon as possible. She realized this intention with “Interlaced”, a collective exhibition of tapestries and textile art, to be seen until October 1st.

The exhibition consists of seven artists (Terri Friedman, Kiki Smith, Hung Liu, Josh Faught, William Wiley, Robert Kushner and Xiaoze Xie) with works created through traditional and more contemporary processes. All artists adhere to one of the most basic purposes of the medium: to tell a story.

Tapestries date back to the ancient Egyptians and Incas, who buried their dead in woven garments. During the medieval period, tapestries were used by the church to convey stories from the Bible, and to insulate castles and provide privacy. A prized staple, tapestry saw a major breakthrough with the invention of the Jacquard power loom in the early 1800s. This allowed them to become more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.

The art of tapestry is represented in “Intertwined” by the work of Xie, Smith, Liu, Kushner and Wiley. All these artists created the original designs, which were then sent to weaving workshops, often in Belgium. There, computers that store design information are used to complete the project. The works are bright, colorful and incredibly detailed. Xu explained why these artists, many of whom are painters, decided to explore textile art. “I personally suspect that tapestries’ unique ability for detail, vivid color and texture might be the reason.”

Xie, a painter and professor of art at Stanford University, oscillated between painting and tapestry for many years. Her Jacquard weaves in this exhibition represent sacred books, covered with fabrics and a stack of folded newspapers. The colors of these tapestries are intensely deep and beautiful and make the rather mundane subject shine with life. Xu explained that the artist likes to use cultural objects like newspapers and books because they reflect “fleeting notions of time and our collective memory of events.” She added that there is no overt political message in these works, but rather the goal of “gathering interest in these objects, because the viewer cannot actually read them.”

Liu, whose paintings are currently on display at the De Young Museum, was born in Changchun, China, and trained in the Chinese socialist realist style. This is evident in his brightly colored “Above the Clouds”, a portrait of a young child sitting on cushions as white cranes (symbols of happiness) fly around him. There is a peaceful serenity to the tapestry, as in “Madame Shoemaker”, where a kneeling figure works while surrounded by spectacularly colored butterflies.

Liu died on August 7 at the age of 73. According to Xu, “Hung was one of the first Chinese artists to establish a career in the West. Her works which focus on the lives of women in Chinese history particularly touch me. She will be greatly missed.”

There are stark contrasts in the works of Kushner and Wiley. Using the Jacquard technique, the two artists designed marvelous landscapes. In the case of Wiley, known as a member of the UC Davis-based California Funk movement in the 1960s and 1970s, there’s a fantastical beast chomping at the sun, while planets, plants and nonsensical writing fill the back -plan.

Kushner’s work is more lyrical and figurative, with lush floral elements dancing across the tapestry. It’s easy to imagine his work adorning the walls of a well-appointed home, which is fitting since Kushner is involved in the Pattern and Decoration movement. These artists seek, according to the gallery’s press release, “to venerate and produce art forms that had been marginalized as feminine or trivial during the height of modernism.”

Xu also wanted to include artists who work in more traditional and practical weaving processes, but with decidedly contemporary, even daring results.

“I am particularly fascinated by artists who combine tapestry or weaving with other art forms. Some have turned drawing or painting into tapestry, while others have combined weaving, knitting or crocheting with printmaking, photography, found objects and materials,” she said.

Faught, a professor of textiles at the California College of the Arts (CCA), fits that description perfectly. Here he is depicted with several pieces that incorporate aspects of hand weaving (hemp is the material) with found objects woven or attached to the piece. “Off-nite” is a cheery rendering of an arched window revealing a view of the blue night sky and a large crescent moon. On the right side, however, colorful socks hang from rainbow-colored pockets. A can of paint, with a bright red overflow, sits on the floor and completes the room. The artist explained, “Found objects often exist as quick or urgent antidotes to the otherwise frigid part of my output. As the spaces in which I place my work evolve, expand and diversify, my source materials grow with it.

Friedman, also a CCA faculty member, finds ways to incorporate objects and text into her hand-woven hanging pieces that reflect her training as a painter. In an email interview, she wrote, “My work is completely driven by color. My practice has always been about trying to explore painting with new methods and new materials.”

“WHY” is a crazy quilt of colors and patterns, mostly in shades of pink and purple, with the word “why” prominently in the body of the piece. “Green Placebo,” a work in contrasting hues of green and red, also has the title woven into the tapestry. “‘Green Placebo’ is inspired by my interest in neuroscience and the whole notion of brain plasticity/neuroplasticity. My work involves rewiring the brain and the loom as a metaphor for wiring (the warp/weft threads),” said said Friedman.

Although there is a stark contrast between the tightly woven, mechanically produced tapestries and the more free-form handwork pieces in the show, Xu believes that the whole cycle of history surrounding this ancient medium has come back to its point. departure.

“New approaches to hand weaving, knitting and crocheting might be the oldest approaches,” she said. “I hope the exhibition can provide insight into the evolution and development of fiber art over time.”

Qualia Gallery is located at 328 University Ave., Palo Alto. More information is available at qualiacontemporaryart.com.

Email Contributing Editor Sheryl Nonnenberg at [email protected]

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