An exhibition review and an interview with Carole Kunstadt

Nikkal, with her art at the 2018 ArtsWestchester Triennial

See me above. I have 6 collages installed on the 2nd (balcony) level at the ArtsWestchester Triennial exhibition in White Plains, NY (May 8-July 28, 2018).  I am one of 15 artists in the show. These works are part of my new Curvy Geometric series. Each work is mostly black and white and made with art magazine and painted papers. Some works include tiny wood strips, curved wire, and canvas.  Some include thin Washi papers layered over the painted papers to create transparency and texture. The sign on the wall to the left of the installation reads: My studio is filled with papers, glue, scissors and tools. I am a contemporary collage artist…exploring color relationships, layers, edges and connections within a gridded geometric format.

The Triennial exhibition includes a wide range of media from painting to photo collage, video, delicate sculpture made with human hair, sculpture in clay and terra cotta, ink on paper, installation and much more. The ArtsWestchester gallery is located at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY. Visit the exhibition (May 8-July 28, 2018) during gallery hours: Tue-Fri, 12-5 pm and Sat, 12-6 pm.

I interviewed Carole Kunstadt for this post. Like me, she is one of 15 artists in the Triennial exhibition. The image below was taken from the balcony at the opening reception and shows her installation titled PRESSING ON. What you see are antique irons covered in lace and text. Notice a visitor is reading wall text for the installation.

Balcony view of PRESSING ON installation at the Triennial

The wall text was written by Mara Mills, Deputy Director of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, NY (HVCCA) and says: “Carole Kunstadt’s work is always unique and layered, literally and metaphorically. Her juxtaposition of materials, for her PRESSING ON SERIES combines artifact, word and fabric. The hardness of iron, the graciousness of lace, and the wisdom of words combine as a testament to women’s tenacious movement forward. PRESSING ON honors abolitionist/feminist Hannah More, and integrates history, memory, domesticity, and celebrates women’s political and public voice.”

 

Carole Kurstadt, PRESSING ON table installation

The image above shows 12 “sad” irons with lace and text similar to the 14 displayed on a pedestal at the Triennial. The image below shows 17 “sad” irons with lace, linen thread and other media on a shelf at the Triennial. Each iron in the installation is unique – small but powerful –  and I urge you see them all at the Triennial before it closes July 28th.

Carole Kurstadt, PRESSING ON shelf installation

Carole Kunstadt is a collagist, painter, book and fiber artist and her media are antique books, music manuscripts, ephemera and photo postcards. In her artist statement she says: “Through the exploration and manipulation of the antique materials, history, memory and time merge in a hybrid form. My devotion to books is inspired by the ability of the written word to take the reader to other places through stories, poems and prayers. My process reveals how language can become visual through re-interpretation.”

I asked Carole to tell me how she found the book that was the genesis for the PRESSING ON series. She said she was in a bookstore in Connecticut about 8 years ago, looking for an inexpensive antique book to utilize in her work. Carole cuts and pastes papers from books. She said she found a small book titled “An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World by One of the Laity” (London, 1791). The book was published anonymously but, through researching the title, date and publisher, Carole discovered the book was attributed to Hannah More. Carole told me she found a more recent biography “Fierce Convictions – the Extraordinary Life of Hannah More, Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist,” by Karen Swallow Prior. She added: “… the more I read about Hannah More, the more inspired I became.”

Read about Hannah More (1745 – 1833) at Carole’s website. Hannah More was an abolitionist, poet, social reformer, philanthropist, feminist, writer and a member of the intellectual group “Bluestockings.” Hannah More is referred to as the “First Victorian”, bridging the 18th and 19th centuries…Hannah More’s life-long cause was galvanizing women to act not as domestic ornaments, but as thinking, engaged and responsible beings. She devoted herself to educating and helping the poor, and established over sixteen charitable schools.

I asked Carole to tell me about the irons. She said there’s a common element – scorched lace and text from book pages. She said most of the lace came to her through family. Her maternal grandfather worked in the garment district in NYC and used lace to embellish clothing. Some lace came from a dress her mother wore years later. There’s a delicate tatting lace that was made by her paternal grandmother and a piece of lace that was sewn to the border of a tablecloth from her husband’s paternal grandmother from Vienna. The use of personal fibers creates the connection.

Carole Kurstadt, PRESSING ON: Homage to Hannah More, No.5

The image nearby is titled PRESSING ON – Homage to Hannah More No. 5, 4x3x8 inches. This is an antique “sad” iron with scorched linen thread and paper, and pages from the book An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World: By One of the Laity, London, 1791, Hannah More.

I asked Carole how she started the PRESSING ON series. She said the idea of combining the irons and the text and fibers came when she inherited an iron that had been in her mother’s house. She said it was not as old as the sad irons collected for the series, and added the first few sad irons did not incorporate scorching.

I asked Carole how long she has been involved with the PRESSING ON series. She said she started the series in September of 2017 and is continuing to develop it. She has over 70 works in the series and will have a solo show in December at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. All of the sad irons include some text from the book by Hannah More.

Fabulous PHOTO COLLAGE on the 1st floor at the Triennial

Gary Burnley, photo collage

I recommend viewing the 6 photo collages by Gary Burnley on the 1stfloor at the Triennial before the exhibition closes. The top left image is titled QUEENS OF YESTERYEAR #10. The other 5 works are titled FACING HISTORY #7, #10, #15, #18 and #19. The image you see shows my collage students Anne and Paulette in front of Burnley’s works. Burnley’s artist statement says he is conflating and contrasting the ideals, manners and purposes of recognized portraits from art history with images seemingly produced for contradictory purposes with historic photos and pictures from African American school yearbooks and/or photographs from family albums. Burnley says his works create unions that are strange bedfellows –transient confederates. He says what the viewer sees is influenced by the social, class and racial background of them as onlooker. Try to see his images before the Triennial closes July 28th. If you cannot visit the exhibition, see Burnley’s works online here.

Art on the Balcony at the Triennial

Michael Barraco, THE WORD, neon, 2015

You can see a neon installation titled THE WORD by Michael Barraco as you look up to the balcony from the 1st floor. I think this neon work may be more than 20 feet long. It’s all lower case letters that start bababadalghara….

Michael Barraco, BIRD SONGS: An Archive of Love and Loss, 2016

The image above, also by Michael Barraco, is titled BIRD SONGS: AN ARCHIVE OF LOVE AND LOSS. It’s a customized jukebox with 100 photographs, 100 CDs and preserved bird specimens.

Steven Lam, Director and Associate Professor, SUNY Purchase School of Art and Design wrote: “Michael Barraco’s works bridge humor with a biting critique on the ruins and pitfalls of modernity. His work titled BIRD SONGS: AN ARCHIVE OF LOVE AND LOSS includes bird songs and a photo album of birds that fell victim to building collisions. The work mixes melancholy, memory and poetry – a timely work for a chaotic moment.”

Michael Brown, IN THE MEANTIME, stainless steel

The image above shows Sarah and Jane, two students in my collage class at the Pelham Art Center who are standing in front of two of 4 large works made of hand-made stainless steel by Michael Brown. The installation is titled IN THE MEANTIME…III, VI, VII and IX. I took the photo and you see Sarah and Jane reflected in the pattern created by the stainless steel. Also reflected, you see an installation with abstract mixed media paintings by Karlos Carcamo on the opposite wall.

Barry Mason, oil on shaped canvas

The image above shows an installation (one of two) by Barry Mason, with oil on shaped canvas titled SAY IT LOUD, BETWEEN THE WORLD. It’s on a wall near my 6 collages on the balcony at the Triennial. There’s a sign near his installation which reads: “My art and rearrangements can be poetic or brutal; seductive or stark, but all of it is influenced by the callings of my heritage rooted in the African American experience where the djembe drum is alive and there is the sound of gospel – where I receive echoes from my past which “inform” my soul. Read about Barry’s photography and paintings and see his work here.

The Triennial: A snapshot of what’s now and what’s new in contemporary art

The Triennial will become a regular part of the ArtsWestchester exhibition programming. This 1st exhibition coincides with the 20thanniversary celebration of ArtsWestchester at it’s White Plains location. They say the Triennial showcases the vanguard of the region’s arts community and offers a snapshot of what’s now and what’s new in contemporary visual art. Read more here.

There are always people to thank for such an impressive show, including the two curators: Marc Straus, Marc Straus Gallery, NYC  and Paola Morsiani, Brodsky Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

Special thanks to Janet Langham, CEO, ArtsWestchester and the gallery staff, Kathleen Reckling, Gallery Director, Logan Hanley, Gallery Manager and Kimberly McKoy, Programs Associate.

Your comments are welcome. Try to visit before the exhibition closes July 28th, and let me know what you think. Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments.

Advertisements

 

The Woven Image at MoMA

I hope you’ve visited the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and seen Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 15 – August 13, 2017). This show is important. I include links (below) to reviews with excellent images and comments about why this show is important.

Yayoi Kunama, No.F oil on canvas

I’ve seen this exhibition 3 times. My art practice is contemporary geometric abstraction and it was important to me to see how the curators selected the art and artists. I recognized the stars – Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), Agnes Martin (American, born Canada, 1912-2004), Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine, 1899-1988), Louise Bourgeois (American born France, 1911-2010) (and others). The image here is by Yayoi Kusama. It’s titled No.F and is dated 1959. Media is oil on canvas, size is 41.5″x52″. This Kusama painting is in the permanent collection at MoMA.  Kusama is an international art star. I kept looking at it, trying to get as close as I could, to see the incredible texture of the white on white oil paint. It looked like eyelet fabric to me but was a painting.

I went to see Making Space a second time to really appreciate the extraordinary abstract paintings and sculpture by the Latin American superstars Carmen Herrera (Cuban, born 1915), Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920-1988) and Lygia Pape (Brazilian, 1927-2004). These three have also had recent solo retrospectives at NYC museums. I especially love the hard-edge geometric abstraction in paintings and sculpture by Carmen Herrera who is still at work at age 102. She is finally getting the recognition she deserves. See her black and white abstract painting below.

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

 

My third visit to Making Space was different. I wanted to see all the works that are woven because I have a new fascination with weaving and textiles, and the exhibition showcases this media in the context of great art.

 

Making Space at MoMA includes ninety-four works by fifty-three international artists. Every work but one has been in storage at the Museum. The exhibition was co-curated by Starr Figura and Sarah Meister with help from Hillary Reder. The Curator’s Say: Making Space shines a spotlight on the stunning achievements of women artists between the end of World War II (1945) and the start of the Feminist movement (around 1968). In the postwar era, societal shifts made it possible for larger numbers of women to work professionally as artists, yet their work was often dismissed in the male dominated art world, and few support networks existed for them. Abstraction dominated.

 

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Yellow Abakan

 

This work, titled Yellow Abakan, by Magdalena Abakamowicz (Polish, 1930-2017) fuses weaving with sculptural installation. It’s coarsely woven sisal, 124”x120”x60”

I read that Abakanowicz deliberately tried to blur the distinctions between art and craft. She chose to explore the structural (sculptural) qualities of fiber.

 

 

 

 

Sheila Hicks, Prayer Rug

 

The work seen here is by Sheila Hicks (American, born 1934) and is titled Prayer Rug. It’s made with hand-spun wool (87”x43”). Hicks wrote she was inspired by Morocco and prayer rugs and architecture with arches. To create this work, she went off loom, working like a ceramicist works, with the material in her hands.

 

The next work (below) is by Anni Albers (American, born Germany, 1899-1994) and is titled Free-Hanging Room Divider, 1949. Anni Albers was a protean force in textile innovation and design. The work here is made with cotton, cellophane, and braided horsehair, 87”x32.5.” Albers was focused on creating translucent space, thinking about how the weaving functioned in an architectural setting as a space divider.

 

See Peter Schjeldal’s review: THE XX FACTOR Women and Abstract Art (the New Yorker magazine, April 24, 2017).

Anni Albers, Wall Hanging

 

Schjeldal writes: The show’s inclusion of fabric and decorative art marks an insurgent appreciation, taking hold in the sixties, of formerly patronized modes of “women’s work.” He references Magdalena Abakanowicz “Yellow Abakan” (1967-68). He says it “… invites a fighting comparison with some far more well-known minimalist works in felt, from the same time, by Robert Morris.

This wall hanging by Anni Albers as tall as a tall adult and was installed so you walked by and saw it up close. It is transparent. You can see the floor behind the weaving in this image. I love the vertical stripes and the cellophane in the weaving.

 

 

 

Here is an image of me standing in front of a framed black and white weaving by Anni Albers. The work is exquisite in design and detail. I was visiting the exhibition at MoMA for the 2nd time and invited. Peggi Pugh to join me so we could compare notes on what works we liked best. She took the photo. In this gallery, every work  was a weaving or an image (a drawing or print) that looked like a weaving. We walked around the gallery slowly to be able to absorb all the different works.

 

woodcut by Lygia Pape
drawing by Yayoi Kusama

 

Here are two images that look like weaving but are not. The top image by Lygia Pape is untitled, from her series Weavings (Tecelares). It’s a woodcut print (dated 1959). The bottom image by Yayoi Kusama is titled Infinity Nets. It’s ink on paper (dated 1951). I thought it was interesting that the curators placed these two works in tandem, one on top of the other. I thought they were textiles from a distance, because the Anni Albers framed textile (above) was in the same gallery space. I was wrong – but they look exactly like textiles.

 

 

 

 

Lenore Tawney, Little River

 

 

Here is a view of a wall hanging by Lenore Tawney (American 1907-2007), titled Little River (1968). Photo credit: Nicole Craine. In his New York Times review, At MoMA, Women at Play in the Fields of Abstraction (April 13, 2017) Holland Cotter tells us: In the 1950s, Ms. Tawney lived in Lower Manhattan, where she counted Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana and Agnes Martin (who is also in the MoMA show) as neighbors. Living in an old shipping loft, she made the most radical work of any of them: towering open-warp fiber pieces that stretched from floor to ceiling and across the loft’s wide space. Yet, in 1990, when she finally had a retrospective, it took place not at MoMA, but at the American Craft Museum, which was then across the street.

 

 

 

Ruth Asawa, hanging mesh sculpture

 

I photographed this gallery installation. I was fascinated with the shadows cast on the floor beneath the mesh wire sculpture by Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013). The work was installed from the ceiling in the center of the gallery. Hanging from the ceiling was totally a unique concept. As was woven sculpture in mesh wire. On a wall across the room, you see Lenore Tawney’s Little River weaving (notice the cast shadows there on the wall behind the work). On another wall to the left, you see a small view of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s very large sisal Yellow Abakan. The installation was inviting and intriguing. People lingered and looked.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Anne Ryan, collage 353

 

The image here is a collage by Anne Ryan (American 1889-1954) titled #353 dated 1949. I’m a collage artist and know Ryan was highly respected for her practice. Ryan worked with exquisite papers and also fabric and thread. Her works are small and delicate and deliberate. The Museum has four collages by this artist in the permanent collection, and the curators installed four Anne Ryan collages in the exhibition. At least two or three reviews, including ones by Peter Schjedahl and Holland Cotter and the Huffington Post start with this image. When I looked at this collage, I saw the threads and the thin papers. It’s a woven image also.

 

 

See the Artsy review by Abigail Cain (April 17, 2017), titled New MoMA Show Unearths Female Abstractionists That Have Languished in Storage.

Cain writes about gender inequality at the Museum. She also mentions the philanthropist Sarah Peter who can help remedy the imbalance. Sarah Peter launched the Modern Women’s Fund at MoMA in 2005 to target works by women artists for acquisition and to support major solo exhibitions by women. That’s a good start to bring about change.

Holland Cotter also writes about the gender inequality issue in his review of Making Space at MoMA and says: “This exhibition is a start, but ultimately to make changes and show women artists the respect they deserve, the MoMA should also reorganize the permanent-collection galleries that draw the largest crowds…Put Anne Ryan next to Kurt Schwitters and Jackson Pollock to see how that shakes out, historically and atmospherically… Put Ruth Asawa’s wire sculptures up against Richard Serra’s fortresslike walls. “

I hope the MoMA and other museums make these changes. Please send me your comments.