Category Archives: Artist Discussion

Looming Large

KMAC has gone stark weaving mad.

Artists from 16 countries currently fill our two main galleries with over two-dozen loom woven works. Shown in conjunction with the traveling exhibit The New Art of the Loom: Contemporary International Tapestry, KMAC has organized Looming Local as a response to some of the issues raised by the international artists. The works on view range in size and content from the large 8 ½ x 11 foot tapestry Porter with Bicycle: Espagne et Portugal by South African artist William Kentridge to the small, intricate and colorful weavings by Kentucky artist Tori Kleinert.

William Kentridge, Porter Series: Espagne et Portugal, 2004, 99 x 130" Stephens Tapestry Studio, Johannesburg. (Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)
William Kentridge, Porter Series: Espagne et Portugal, 2004, 99 x 130″ Stephens Tapestry Studio, Johannesburg. (Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)
Tori Kleinert, Hidden Semblance, 2004
Tori Kleinert, Hidden Semblance, 2004

The New Art of the Loom consists of contemporary tapestries that connect with the large, ambitious, narrative works that dominated artistic production in early Modern Europe. These early tapestries functioned as a decorative way to display a coat of arms, relay a familiar story or to illustrate scenes of victorious battles, but they also provided warmth, covering the walls of large drafty castles. After falling out of favor due to growing feminine and domestic undertones the tapestry was revived by British art activist William Morris in the late 19th century, making weaving fundamental to a burgeoning international design movement that promoted artisanship and hand-made activity.

Looming Local takes a peek at the immediate surroundings of the museum to show how four artists are exploring similar issues as their international counterparts and taking the weaving tradition into the more creative, expressionistic contemporary art form that it is today. Both exhibits combined communicate a broad range of materials, methods and multiple weaving processes. The four artists represented in the local show, though rooted in a loom based practice, are markedly different from their peers in technique and composition.

Spring on the Mountain, 2008, 30 x 62" Courtesy of the artist and Craft(s) Gallery, Louisville, KY
Dobree Adams, Spring on the Mountain, 2008, 30 x 62″

Dobree Adams creates loom woven works that capture the landscape in a manner intended to evoke the intermediate or transitional states that are associated with Tibetan Buddhism. The spiritual and meditative qualities that imbue her work connect well with other artists on show in the museum who deal similarly with nature, particularly with the tapestry “Without Notice” by the Japanese artist Miyuki Tatsumi. Adams and Tatsumi are both drawn to the calmness of nature, but also to its power to change and dominate our lives in mysterious ways and without warning.

Miyuki Tatsumi, Without Notice, 2008 8'3" x 3'10"
Miyuki Tatsumi, Without Notice, 2008
8’3″ x 3’10”

Tori Kleinert’s small format works, though diminutive in size, are big in meaning and content. They pack in loads of bold color and act as deeply personal explorations of ideas and emotions often connected to the history of female craft activity. She refers to the figures in her work as ancestors or semblances, an evocation of the spirits who live on informing the work of contemporary tapestry artists from around the world. Kleinert’s Terroristic Semblance from 2003/2004 commemorates the lives that were lost on September 11, 2001.

Tori Kleinert, Terroristic Semblance: Destruction of the Fold, 2003/2004
Tori Kleinert, Terroristic Semblance: Destruction of the Fold, 2003/2004

A sharp use of color adds intensity to her subject matter and relates to New Art of the Loom artist Christine Altona’s work, also from 2004. Based on an article in the Boston Globe about alleged child abuse, Altona created this particular tapestry as a tribute to the children who have been abused in the Roman Catholic Church. Several red cardinal hats are placed at the top of the work above a knotted red circle, suggesting the strong and powerful looking down on the weak bound together in struggle. The blue represents the earth and the prevalence of this transgression around the world.

Christine Altona, Hallelujah-Boston Globe, 2004, 7'8" x 7'3"
Christine Altona,
Hallelujah-Boston Globe, 2004, 7’8″ x 7’3″

Arturo Sandoval is an art professor at the University of Kentucky and a well-known weaver from the region. His sole work in the show is part of a long running series that looks at American democracy and one of the most potent symbols of our culture, the American flag. Sandoval conceived the State of the Union series in order to work through personal issues related to his time serving in the Vietnam War. His desire to create a political art series was to commemorate the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who lost their lives in battle. The newspaper headlines and magazine images that are woven into this series were initially collected from 1980-1984. He has since continued the series as way to further express his feelings toward the recent war in Iraq.

Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, State of the Union No. 5: Baptism by Fire, 1984,  41” x 47”
Arturo Alonzo Sandoval,
State of the Union No. 5: Baptism by Fire, 1984, 41” x 47”

The most divergent work away from any form of traditional tapestry seen in either the local or international exhibit comes from Looming Local artist Philis Alvic from Lexington, KY. Her recent work consists of assembling remnants of older tapestries into fabric constructions, which she refers to as Portals. In this ongoing series of works, suggestive of windows, doors, and curtains, she intends to communicate the ideas of transition, passage, and change. Through the technique of fabric collage and drapery these works move into the more three-dimensional space of wall sculpture.

As Alvic digs through her own personal archive incorporating material from previous work she evokes the idea of the artist entering a metaphorical portal, passing from one era of creativity and production into another. In this particular series of works Alvic is weaving together remnants as well as personal histories. There are a number of transitional concepts related to creative growth and change that could be applied to this series. The idea of the portal as a signifier for moving from one period of life into another is an important factor in the life of every artist. It can often be a struggle to shift focus and enter new unknown territory, but it can also be a time when an individual artist develops greater clarity and confidence in their work.

Philis Alvic, Dark Entry, 2013 74” x 52”
Philis Alvic,
Dark Entry, 2013
74” x 52”

Bucking the Trend: Art Innovators on KMAC Radio

Tune in Mondays to KMAC Radio on ArtxFM from 11am to 12p where we use radio as a vehicle for exploring art, music, and social ideas. It’s simple to listen: Go to artxfm.com and click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website. Monday’s show will be hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and she’ll be discussing Bucking the Trend: Art Innovators.

On my recent trip to Rome and Florence Italy, I got more than the brain can handle in terms of sensory overload. Beauty lives in every corner and facet of these cities and I discovered more than just the art from the Renaissance masters.

"Portrait of the Dwarf Morgante" by Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
“Portrait of the Dwarf Morgante” by Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Marcel Duchamp, In advance of the broken arm, 1915. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.
Marcel Duchamp, In advance of the broken arm, 1915. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome
Duchamp, Re-Made in Italy Exhibition at the Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna, Rome
Duchamp, Re-Made in Italy Exhibition at the Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna, Rome
Urs Fischer, Bed/Horse 2013. Gagosian Gallery, Rome
Urs Fischer, Bed/Horse 2013. Gagosian Gallery, Rome
Eero Saarinen, Tulip Chair blueprints, 1957
Eero Saarinen, Tulip Chair blueprints, 1957

Photo as Document on KMAC Radio

Tune in Mondays to KMAC Radio on ArtxFM from 11am to 12p where we use radio as a vehicle for exploring art, music, and social ideas. It’s simple to listen: Go to artxfm.com and click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website. Monday’s show will be hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and she’ll be discussing Photo as Document. Documentary photography can serve as a historical marker in time or spur social and political change. The captured images are painstakingly raw and equally beautiful in their candor, which is testament to the artful eye of the photographer. Photographer Bob Hower and Artist Todd Smith will participate in an in-studio interview to talk further about this topic. They are both part of the Louisville Photo Biennial happening this month and are exhibiting at Swanson Contemporary (Hower) and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Smith). This topic was derived from KMAC’s current exhibit of Gene Spatz photographs that document the celebrity social life of 70s New York. The artwork discussed on today’s radio hour will be:

Bob Hower, Couple with White Cadillac. Jefferson County 1977
Bob Hower, Couple with White Cadillac. Jefferson County 1977
Bob Hower, Family in Perry County KY, 1977.
Bob Hower, Family in Perry County KY, 1977.

See more images from Rough Road: The Kentucky Photographic Documentary Project

Bob Hower, Coal Miners
Bob Hower, Coal Miners
Bob Hower
Bob Hower
Bob Hower, The Parklands of Floyds Fork
Bob Hower, The Parklands of Floyds Fork
Todd Smith a la Daily Climb
Todd Smith a la Daily Climb

T.Smith2

Todd Smith, Great Prairie Weeping Beech. Photo: Natalie Biesel
Todd Smith, Great Prairie Weeping Beech. Photo: Natalie Biesel
Todd Smith. Lake Nevin Sycamore. Photo Natalie Biesel
Todd Smith. Lake Nevin Sycamore. Photo Natalie Biesel

Music Playlist:
Blue Moon of Kentucky – Ben Sollee
Red-Winged Blackbird – Kathy Mattea
Golden – My Morning Jacket
Hetch Hetchy – Father President
Drew – Goldfrapp

Taking the “s” Out of Craft – The Symposium Edition

On Saturday February 23rd KMAC hosted the Aegis 3rd Biennial Symposium on Art History an Visual Culture. Inspired by the collaboration between the museum and Aegis, the association of graduate students from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville, the title set to this year’s theme was Taking the ‘s’ Out of Craft. The symposium featured six emerging scholars from graduate and doctoral programs throughout the country presenting papers on projects from different periods in history and places around the world that employ the use of craft in the creation of artwork.

The students in Aegis provided a dynamic schedule of events on Saturday and they are to be commended for their work. Aegis president Tracey Ekersley and Vice President Eileen Yanoviak selected the presenters from a national call for papers and spent countless hours organizing Saturday’s schedule of events, including the keynote presentation by Lydia Matthews, Professor of Visual Culture, School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design.

We also want to acknowledge Slade Stumbo, Taylor Crush and Nick Hartman, each from the Critical and Curatorial Studies program at U of L, who organized the accompanying exhibition. When Tracey Eckersley and I were talking one evening about a potential collaboration between KMAC and U of L it seemed a perfect time to take the past year’s efforts of our director Aldy Milliken to expand the definition of craft as it is presented at this institution and frame that in the academic excellence and thorough research methods of Aegis and the like minded, forward thinking presenters that they have consistently delivered to this symposium. Within the mission of this museum there are many avenues and topics available for the type of discourse we heard on Saturday, but it seemed the right opportunity to summarize the changes that have occurred here in the last year and punctuate that with a discussion from scholars around the country on the wider shift in views on the nature of craft in the 21st century. At the root of this change is reclamation of the word craft by young artists as a fundamental strength in the making of their work rather than as a negative distinction for objects that are void of a conceptual basis. The symposium and the Taking the ‘s’ Out of Craft exhibition are a part of a succession of programs here at KMAC that have been expanding the discussion for how we define art and craft. This was fully explored in our exhibition Storytelling As Craft from last Fall where craft was presented as an idea that reaches beyond the physical nature of objects and into the realm of the spoken word as well as sound, music, and performance. We also hosted a lecture by writer Glenn Adamson on November 5, 2012 on the subject of craft and the need to separate the term from associations to the rural and to objects created solely from traditional methods.

With the title Taking the ‘s’ out of Craft we are referencing two main points. Firstly, there is the expansion of the former definition of craft from the pursuits of 19th and 2oth century arts and crafts groups who made a distinction between physical objects with an historical basis in functionality to what now points to the limitless methods of labor that are at work in the creation of art and culture.  The title also references our institutions own change in change in name from the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts to the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. This has indeed been an ideological shift from thinking of craft as a hermetic field of traditional object making to an idea that encompasses this and countless other practices that are employed by artists working today. I cannot speak more highly of the symposium and for its continued success.

The presentations began with Traversing Boundaries: Cultural Philanthropy and the Craft of Mary Seton Watts by Kate Tuft. The paper explored Watts’ work as an artist and her non conventional approach to navigating the limitations of the 19th century woman.

Justina Lee presented her research on the Bilum the “head bag” from Papua New Guinee as a cultural bridge or artefact linked to the past and its current relevant contemporary manifestations in the paper Traditional and Modern Bilum in Papua New Guinea: A Shift from Bodily Extension to Cultural Bridge

Why Clay by Elizabeth di Donna illustrated several examples of contemporary craft artists commenting on conceptual practice and how Theaster Gates is giving meanings to materials and labor.

Chad Alligood spoke about an influential artist from Cranbrook in Wallace Mitchell and the Challenge of Craft. He charted the artist’s transition from abstract painting to several large commissioned rugs in the more collaborative atmospheres of architecture and design.

Haptic Rainbow: Installing Craft in the Work of Gabriel Dawe by Zoë Samels discussed the artist’s reactions to gender bias in his native Mexico. The use of installation art or a series of objects within objects questions the idea of craft as an object. She also notes concepts surrounding process and labor for the artists.

Sara Christensen Blair’s research in More is Less: The Domestic Sublime in Liza Lou’s Kitchen looked at the 3 year project of artist Liza Lou to bead and entire kitchen, the central nerve center of modernity, as an example of philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s definition of the sublime.

Lydia Matthews, the keynote speaker, delivered an engaging talk titled Craft Matters: Exchanging Knowledge in the Wake of Globalization, which navigated both the concepts and traditions of craft practice.  Through international teaching, curating, and publishing, she consistently explores how artists, artisans, designers, scholars and students can work together to foster democratic debates in the public sphere, and focuses on critical craft practices that inspire intimate community interactions. As a 2012 Fulbright Fellow, she co-curated various socially-engaged projects in Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia, highlighting and catalyzing local responses to social and ecological crises resulting from globalization.

Lydia Matthews is Professor of Visual Culture and Director of the Curatorial Design Research Lab at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, where she served as Dean of Academic Programs from 2006-2011. Trained as a contemporary art historian at UC, Berkeley and the University of London’s Courtauld Institute, she worked as a cultural activist in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years, founding the graduate program in Visual Critical Studies and co-directing the MFA Fine Arts program at California College of the Arts.

Photo from left to right: Sara Christensen Blair, PhD Candidate, Institute of Doctoral Studies in Visual Arts
Chad Alligood, PhD Student, Art History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Zoë Samels, MA Student, Art History, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
Elizabeth Di Donna, MFA Student, Florida State University
Justina Yee, MA Student, Indiana University (Bloomington)
Katie Tuft, PhD Student, University of Washington
and Aegis President, Tracey Eckersley, PhD Candidate, Byzantine Art and Archaeology at Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville

Discussion Series

Artist Discussion: Friday, June 1st @ 7p
Canadian/American glass artist Laura Donefer will lead a glass demonstration at Flame Run at Glassworks, 815 W. Market Street, from 1:00pm-3:00pm. Later that evening, she will give a gallery talk about her self-described “crazy experiences” as an artist over the past 30 years. The talk is being held at KMAC in conjunction with the First Friday Trolley Hop and “50 Years of Studio Glass,” Exhibit.
Artist Laura Donefer has used glass as the primary medium in her art for 30 years. Mentoring and teaching is equally important to Laura, who has taught at Espace Verre in Montreal, Pilchuck Glass School, Penland School of Crafts, and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York for many years. Laura is the notorious instigator behind the crazy Glass Fashion Shows, the next one being at the Glass Art Society conference in Toledo. Laura is represented by Hodgell Gallery, Sarasota, Florida
Both the demonstration and gallery talk are free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served.

Art21

Thursday May 17, 6pm
Screening of Art 21′s Season 6 Episode of Change
featuring artists: Ai WeiweiEl Anatsui, and Catherine Opie

How do artists respond to a world in flux? In what ways do artists act as agents of change, and what kinds of aesthetic choices do they make to express it? This episode features artists who bear witness, through their work, to transformation—cultural, material, and aesthetic—and actively engage communities as collaborators and subjects.

Thursday May 24, 6pm
Screening of Art 21′s Season 6 Episode of Boundaries
featuring artists: assume vivid astro focusDavid AltmejdLynda BenglisTabaimo

Who and what limits our freedom of expression? In what ways do cultural differences affect our understanding of art and other forms of communication? How do an artist’s process and choice of medium affect our perception of his or her work? This episode features artists who synthesize disparate aesthetic traditions, present taboo subject matter, discover innovative uses of media, and explore the shape-shifting potential of the human figure.

This event is FREE and snacks and soft drinks will be available.