09 December 2005

Textile Art

If the phrase "textile art" makes you think of this please keep reading. Your horizons are about to expand.

Art and textiles have a long history together. "Oil on Canvas", for example, is such a common thing to read in a museum that it may seem to loose its meaning. Just so you know, oil doesn’t always go on canvas. Sometimes it is oil on something else. Not being a painter myself, I have to guess about why an artist would choose canvas over a smooth board. Maybe the texture of the canvas is desirable in some way. Maybe an artist out there can tell me.

Anyway, the canvas is not the star of the painting show, the oil is. Canvas for hundreds of years was concurrently indispensable and invisible, like the backstage crew at the theater. Then, about a hundred years ago, artists started leaving bits of canvas untouched. You might think to call the painting unfinished, but it was finished. Intentional blank spots. Little bits of canvas peeking through the paint, present in a way it hadn’t been for as long as it had been.

The idea of liberating canvas got taken a lot further in the 1960s. Eva Hess made a really great piece of art that has been written and theorized about, perhaps endlessly. It was made in 1966, and is called Hang Up.

What you see is a frame, wrapped in pieces of canvas that have been dipped in paint. The wire protruding from it falls out into the space in front of it. It both hangs and drags, an interesting combination. I think it is brilliant, and I’ll try to give a few reasons why.

First, it isn’t comfortably either painting or sculpture and back in the mid 1960s, that was a big deal. It was one of fine art’s "hang-ups". The distinction between the two and the requirements of each was a big messy problem. This piece is a perfect illustration of what some people thought was completely wrong with art, and others thought was completely right. Can sculpture hang on the wall? Can painting flop on the floor?

Second, the canvas and paint are there, but they are wrapped around the frame, which this time, isn’t around anything. The frame is the point of interest because there is a void within it. Again, this raised questions about the nature of painting. Can a painting be empty? Can a painting be not-painted?

What started out as a bit of freedom for the canvas, paint, and painter grew into this piece that puts so many questions to the viewer about materials and art. So anyway, next time you see a painting, ask yourself what it was painted on. It might make a difference.


Matthew said...

I object. This is not a pretty picture, therefore it is bad art.

katperkins said...

I don't especially like this work either. It is innovative for it's time period, but I don't find it interesting to look at or aesthetically pleasing. It is interesting how art can make it's point without being "pretty". I am taking a beginner's fibers class next semester and am really interested to see what projects they have us do. I know that in the past people have made their own paper and died fabric with things like beetles. Apparently, the teacher told them that beetle juice is used to colorize things like strawberry yogurt. Gross.

Fouad said...

I am sorry manne. Call me conventional and uninteresting, but this I cannot call art. There has to be an esthetic value to art. Call it conceptual representation, assemblage, something, I don't know. The use of art as too emcompassing an umbrella has bastardized artistic creation. The slippery slope is that anyone can do just about anything and get acclaimed through the intellectual overinterpretation of unintentional randomness really...

d.g. said...

For a student of art, it is art, and a clever statement at that. For everyone else, it's just another monstrosity you'd never put in your house.

I have difficulty respecting this sort of art, because it's so irrelevant outside the scope of a gallery. It reminds me of overly self-referential rap lyrics — the sort that boil down to nothing more than "I'm a badass, 'cause I rock the house and you can't handle it."

My reaction? "If you say so."

Mary Ann said...

That's a good comment, D.G.

Kat, I wish I was taking that class. Please post about it and let me know what you learn there. I'll be sure to check it out. . . .

Fouad, while it is true that "anyone can do just about anything" getting recognized isn't so easy. If it was, art wouldn't be such a tough field to succeed in. There is more to these works, and that "more" makes all the difference.