By A Thread
February 6 – May 15, 2010
An exhibition of artwork by emerging and mid-career Bay Area artists who create unexpectedly nostalgic and poetic works using thread as their primary medium.
By A Thread continues the ICA’s ongoing exploration of contemporary artists who are using unconventional materials and techniques to create their work. The exhibition includes sixteen emerging and mid-career artists who are creating unexpectedly nostalgic, poetic and provocative works using thread as their primary medium. From large-scale, site-specific installations to intricately detailed miniscule illustration, traditional notions of threadwork are replaced with innovative methods and techniques that truly bend the dynamics of the medium. While the use of thread in art is not a new phenomenon, it is one that, until recently, has been marginalized and specifically labeled “craft” to deliberately distinguish it from “fine art.”
From the 1970s through the mid-1990s, digital and conceptual art-making seemed to reign supreme. However, toward the end of the 20th century and throughout the first decade of the 21st century, there has been a resurgence of materials and techniques most readily identified with craft traditions. The artists in By A Thread represent but a handful of contemporary artists throughout the world who are working with methods and materials that have been labeled as craft. However, this is not an exhibition about precise or technically proficient sewing, embroidery or any other form of traditional needlework. Rather, it is an exhibition featuring contemporary artists who use thread instead of paint, clay, graphite or film to communicate their ideas, visions, and conceptual explorations. In many cases, the artists included in the exhibition have found that the ubiquitous and centuries-old process of stitching can be used in innovative ways to create something new and unique.
Katie Lewis, Ali Naschke-Messing, and Nicola Vruwink draw directly on the wall with thread. They rely on the nature of the medium, the armature of their multiple pins and the subtleness of the shadows to create their images. Beili Liu takes the thread off the wall and extends it through space to create her poignant portrait of two connected souls. Emil Lukas’s conceptually beautiful thread paintings reference the art of weaving on a loom. Likewise, Hadi Tabatabai’s subtle monochromatic constructions are created with a precision that would seemingly only be possible with a machine. Lauren DiCioccio, Lisa Solomon and Allison Watkins pay homage to the traditional use of thread in art, creating detailed replicas of everyday objects and scenes. While many of the artists in the exhibition explore the inherent identity and personality of thread, others use humor by stitching together materials that would normally never be bound with thread. All these artists have determined that for these particular works thread was the most appropriate medium by which to communicate their ideas. Ultimately, the exhibition provides a fresh consideration of the value and function of art that is made with unconventional materials.