Fiber Art Is the Binding Thread at This Manhattan Show

Nestled in the historic cobblestoned streets of Manhattan’s breezy Seaport District is an unsuspecting exhibition orienting us toward the future of contemporary fiber art. The Golden Thread: A Fiber Art Exhibition, an offsite show organized by Chelsea’s BravinLee Programs, features over 100 works by 61 fiber and textile artists actively expanding the medium’s capabilities.

The exhibition takes up every floor of the 18th-century building it’s situated in, from dedicated displays of Ray Materson’s bite-sized embroidery compositions to enormous, site-specific installations like that of Melissa Webb. I’m a paint-on-paper person myself, and the extent of my “fiber art foray” was some amateur (read: bad) embroidery on canvas followed by a months-long tussle with a barely functional sewing machine, so I found The Golden Thread particularly exciting in how so many artists blew past boundaries of tradition and utility as they reinvent the medium.

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Installation view of Jeila Gueramian’s “It Reminds Me of You” (2024) (photo courtesy BravinLee Programs)

The first floor is equal parts inviting and thought-provoking with Jeila Gueramian’s immersive installation “It Reminds Me of You” (2024), rife with easter eggs throughout, and Jacqueline Qiu’s delicate handwoven tapestries, suspended in mid-air and created with obvious devotion to both negative space and fine details. Adjacent to Qiu’s work and contrasting in both scale and form, Meg Lipke’s plushy “Garden Gates II” (2019) leans up against a white wall, gently commanding attention.

As the exhibition ascends from floor to floor, the featured works become more and more disparate — connected by medium alone, and barely at that. Such variety has its advantages and disadvantages as the show contorts throughout the old mercantile storage building of red brick walls, exposed wood fixtures, an enormous turning wheel, and several precariously narrow and steep staircases. And yet, the space and the concept lean into each other pretty poetically, considering that a show about the present and future of fiber art exists in a formerly industrial site that has had to reinvent itself as the city’s needs evolve.

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Capucine Bourcart, “Act 4” (2023), sand, wood, threads, velvet, 37 x 41 inches (photo Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic)

I was particularly drawn to Robert Forman’s fastidious double images from glued Rayon thread, Capucine Bourcart’s strangely harmonious intertwining of sand, velvet, and embroidery, Fanny Allié’s vague fabric vignettes on rug canvas mesh, and Tania Alvarez’s mixed-media enhancements of quotidian scenes. I also found a moment of reprieve watching Lisha Bai’s linen tapestry, “Dueling Light” (2024), billow ever so gently from the vaulted ceiling between two skylights.

BravinLee Programs pulled out all the stops in order to showcase the evolution of fiber and textile art, leaving viewers with more than enough to mull over across both material and concept. The Golden Thread is on view through May 19.

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Detail of Robert Forman’s “Focal Point” (2022) (photo Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic)
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Lisha Bai, “Dueling Light” (2024), linen and voile, 67 x 43 1/2 inches (photo Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic)
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Installation view of The Golden Thread, featuring works by Natalie Collette Wood, Sarah George, Nereida Patricia, Courtney Puckett, Kim Beck, and Ray Materson (photo courtesy BravinLee Programs)
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Tania Alvarez, “The Only Thing Left” (2023), acrylic, graphite, thread, various fabrics, plastic, recycled papers, and cardboard stitched on canvas, 10 x 13 inches (photo Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic)

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