A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Contemporary Fiber Art Movement at Renwick Gallery (Smithsonian Institution)
The Renwick Gallery is located at the corner of 17 St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW. WASHINGTON, D.C.20560 and is part of the Smithsonian Institution
Collection of 19th- and 20th-century American crafts, design and decorative arts.
Phone: (202) 357-2700
The Renwick Gallery NPS Photo
Open: Daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m; extended summer hours determined annually. Guided tours and group tours by appointment; call (202) 357-2531 (voice) or (202) 357-4522 (TTY), Monday-Friday. Closed December 25.
Admission: Free Metro: Farragut West
Kiyomi Iwata, Orange Box, 1995, silk, organza and metal thread, Smithsonian American Art Museum, (c) 1995 Kiyomi Iwata.
-"High Fiber" is on view at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum from March 11 through July
10, 2005. The exhibition presents many important milestones of the American fiber art movement and illustrates the diversity of contemporary craft created from the mid 20th century to the present. The exhibition features a variety of objects
-- quilts, baskets, tapestries and sculpture among others -- by artists such as Anni Albers, Lia Cook, Kiyomi Iwata, Mary A. Jackson, Ed Rossbach, Jon Eric Riis and Claire
Ziesler. "High Fiber" includes 69 objects by 61 artists.
Kenneth R. Trapp, curator-in-charge of the Renwick Gallery from 1995 to 2003, chose the objects in
"High Fiber" from the museum's permanent collection. This exhibition is the fifth survey of the craft collection in a series that focuses on a specific medium-
glass, clay, fiber, metal and wood- or by a specific craft category. Rebecca A. T. Stevens, consulting curator for contemporary textiles at The Textile Museum, is the guest curator of the exhibition. Robyn Kennedy, chief at the Renwick Gallery, is coordinating the exhibition.
"High Fiber" celebrates the vibrant creativity of craft artists across the United States who are working with a wide range of both traditional and innovative
materials" said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
"The exhibition is filled with works that are evidence of the wonderful legacy Ken Trapp left to the museum though his acquisition program."
Fiber describes materials such as thread, yarn and grasses or objects such as baskets and quilts that are made from these materials. In the 1930s, artists began to explore the creative possibilities of fiber. Anni Albers, Mariska Karasz and Marguerite Zorach are some of the early artists represented in
"High Fiber" who transformed predominantly functional forms into expressive works of art.
"By the mid 20th century artists really discovered the expressive potential of fiber, something the influential artist Anni Albers called
" the language of thread", and traditional objects and techniques were used to create eloquent works of
art" said Stevens."The works in this exhibition represent moments that changed and expanded the way that fiber was used as a material."
Ed Rossbach was one of the first artists to show that baskets were also sculpture. His piece "The Plains" looks like a 19th-century basket but its cross cultural imagery and contemporary technology place it firmly in the 20th century. Nancy Crow, another pioneer, was at the forefront of the contemporary art quilt movement. Her quilt "Crucifixion" is a tribute to the expressive potential of the pieced quilt as an American art form.
Some objects in the exhibition depart entirely from functional forms and become purely
sculptural. Dominic Di Mare uses fibers to create personal works, such as "Mourning Station
" which is a tribute to his
father. The animated threads in Claire Zeisler "Coil Series III " A Celebration suggest the motion of a
The variety of objects in High Fiber illustrates how similar techniques and materials serve an artist's personal vision to create strikingly different works. Compare "Mary A. Jackson" Low Basket with Handle; to "Billie Ruth Sudduth" Fibonacci or Jon Eric Riis "Pair of Prickly Pears" to James Koehler "Summer Dances III".
As artists were challenged to expand the expressive boundaries of fiber, they experimented with new materials like plastic and metal and looked beyond western cultures for inspiration. Kay Sekimachi was one of the first American artists to create three-dimensional weavings. Her piece titled
"Nagare" is made from stiff nylon monofilament that holds its shape after being removed from the loom. Asian influences are evident in Tim Harding
"Cloudwave Kimono" and in "Kiyomi Iwatas Orange Box".
Other artists in the exhibition use fiber to express ideas about the world and current events. Gyöngy Laky expresses her concern for fragile ecosystems though her work. She considers the delicate balance between man and nature in her piece “Spike,” which is made from tree prunings she collected and mass-produced nails. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilter’s Network, uses imagery from African art and American jazz in her quilts that reflect on the nature of African American families.
High Fiber is organized by the Renwick Gallery with support from the James Renwick Alliance, the Stephen D. Thurston Memorial Fund, and Samuel J. and Eleanor T. Rosenfeld.
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