"Interwoven" at MASS Gallery
In this group show of fiber artists, a stitch in time saves, nein?
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Feb. 1, 2019
MASS Gallery, at last ensconced in its new and somewhat smaller digs, presents "Interwoven," a show featuring six contemporary artists who work in textiles. Here, as the gallery notes say, is a spectrum of strategies, materials, formats, and content.
Here, for instance, is Good Luck, a work by Arizona's Melissa Cody, a specialist in the Germantown Revival style of Navajo weaving. It's a beautifully woven wall hanging, bright with the earth tones so redolent of the Southwestern U.S., boldly depicting the titular exhortation and accompanied by the Navajo whirling-logs symbol of prosperity that at least one fool will probably mistake for a Nazi swastika. But what are the wishes of good luck warding against, in particular? The words and graphic device are surrounded by a border that almost meets at the bottom of the piece: One end of it's the head of a kachina; the other's the male end of an electrical plug. Tradition, it seems, is about to meet the digitized future. As if it's destined, ready or not, to be plugged in. Yeah, that transition will require nations of luck.
The New York-based Orly Cogan's been exhibiting her work for more than two decades and has been at the forefront of the fiber arts movement, with an emphasis on feminism in contemporary art. Her contribution to this show is Alice in Blunderland: colorful line-drawings-via-careful-embroidery that depict a nude and somewhat older and definitely weed-smoking version of someone who might, after all, be Lewis Carroll's classic heroine centered in a series of erotic vignettes. A little fabric'd bestiality, anyone? A little bloody, Angela Carter subtext for your narratives? You see this, and you like it, and then you click onto Cogan's website and see that she's done so many vivid, intricate embroideries of that general eroti-fabulous vibe, and you begin wishing she'd do a two-person show with painter Natalie Frank somewhere. Because that would, ah, that would be something and a half.
Austin's own Fort Lonesome group is represented in this show, too, with a work rendered in what's called chain-stitch embroidery – their specialty. What chain stitch means to the eye of the observer is that the fibers are thick over their background, the different colors often presented as solid fields, layered as if sedimentary stone, conjuring the creative vision in boldly graphic style. If polychrome screenprints like rock posters were suddenly turned, by magic, into threads, this is what they'd be.
Those are three reasons hanging – three reasons to see this "Interwoven" exhibition for yourself – at the new MASS venue, where you'll also find work by Amada Miller, Haleh Pedram, and Suzanne Wyss enriching the big white cube of a freshly inaugurated space.