The Fabric Workshop and Museum opens 'Hard/Cover'

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The Fabric Workshop and Museum opens 'Hard/Cover'
Installation view.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Fabric Workshop and Museum is presenting Hard/Cover, on view from April 9 to September 26, 2021. A collaboration with Philadelphia’s Clay Studio, the exhibition consists of works marking turning points in the respective creative processes of past and current FWM Artists-in-Residence: Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), Viola Frey (1933–2004), Toshiko Takaezu (1922–2011), Venturi, Scott Brown, & Associates (founded 1980), Betty Woodman (1930–2018), Woody De Othello (Oakland, CA), Jane Irish (Philadelphia, PA), Barrow Parke (Queens, NY), and Shino Takeda (Brooklyn, NY).

Hard/Cover looks closely at the relationship between time, process, and space in developing an interdisciplinary practice. Framed by celebrated works from past Artists-in-Residence working at FWM in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, as well as tableaus and scenes created by contemporary artists, the exhibition considers how changes in one’s creative practice can open up new pathways of conveying integral ideas. For Frey, Takaezu, and Woodman, their collective shift away from utilitarian function toward aesthetic and emotive properties illustrated tension in a world that did not easily make room for female artists with a material-focused practice. Now, more than three decades later, artists such as De Othello, Irish, Barrow Parke, and Takeda can employ interdisciplinary practices that move between function, pleasure, and critical discourse.

The opportunity to work with the professional artists at FWM can best be described as an invitation to collaborate and experiment, no matter the material or process. Over the past 40+ years, this invitation has materialized as new performances, material tests, community collaborations, sculptural works, and video pieces, to name a few. The premise of Hard/Cover stems from an investigation into some of the Workshop’s earliest residencies, where celebrated artists benefited from three-week opportunities to discover screenprinting that would later inform their burgeoning contemporary art practices. With the support and insight of three foundations, selected works by Frey, Takaezu, and Woodman from the FWM Collection are complemented by pieces loaned directly from the artists’ estates.

Working in collaboration with FWM, Viola Frey turned her hand to wallpaper with Artist’s Mind/Studio/World, creating dynamic backdrops for her large sculptures. Betty Woodman, an artist included in the Pattern and Decoration movement, framed her ceramics with heavily decorative fabric, often with titles like “Door” or “Window.” Employing both screenprinting and ceramics helped Woodman create the illusion of a space that suggests an architecture, but with elements which aren’t quite functional. Toshiko Takaezu experimented with surface by translating her signature ceramic sculptures—rounded, closed forms called Moons—into fabric-based, screenprinted soft sculptures. Using her signature circular elements, Takaezu also experimented with clothing and wearable designs.

Inspired to see how an invitation to screenprint might translate to artists today, FWM invited five artists (including one artist collaborative) to work in their world-renowned print studios and incorporate the fabric, as well as their own works, into new installations. Woody De Othello’s tableau of a living room features newly made curtains and ceramic works, and Jane Irish’s opulent scene is reminiscent of an Egyptian den with ceramic potpourri vessels and banners overhead. Barrow & Parke approached the concept of the vessel metaphorically with an eye towards design and repetition—providing the backdrop for Louise Bourgeois' Pregnant Woman, a 2002 felt piece from the FWM Collection—while Shino Takeda took the invitation as an opportunity to shift from functional ceramic works to playing with scale and suspending new sculptures from the ceiling.

Both Hard/Cover and Elisabeth Kley’s concurrent solo exhibition, Minutes of Sand, demonstrate FWM’s renewed commitment to selected residencies focused solely on screenprinting similar to those foundational to the Workshop. The program’s collaborative focus inspires the creation of new work, contributing to a permanent collection of some 5,000 artworks and an archive that preserves and illustrates the course of artistic production. Printmaking is integral to FWM’s history and remains a vital part of its mission, now being reignited with a short-term residency program for a new cadre of artists.

The subject matter of Woody De Othello (Oakland, CA) spans household objects, bodily features, and the natural world. Everyday artifacts of the domestic—tables, chairs, television remotes, telephone receivers, lamps, air purifiers, et cetera—are anthropomorphized in glazed ceramic, bronze, wood, and glass. Othello’s sense of humor manifests across his work in visual puns and cartoonish figuration. Recent exhibitions include Woody De Othello: Breathing Room, a solo exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, CA, and Living Room, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Jane Irish's (Philadelphia, PA) paintings create confrontations and coexistences between realms of history that rarely collide—such as ornamentation and political protest, art and warfare, poetry and architecture. Alongside her prolific painting practice, Irish creates ceramic vases that further explore questions of beauty and violence and the construction of historical meaning through decorative patterns and traditional forms. Irish has been the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and a Painting Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since beginning to work together in 2008, Barrow Parke (Queens, NY) have shared a practice fusing textile production, computer coding and modernist design. For their intricate textile-painting hybrids combining geometric abstractions in pastel hues on woven fabric, layered compositions are underpinned by scientific theories and conceptual ideas. Recent solo exhibitions include Future Homemakers of America at JDJ | The Ice House in Garrison, NY, and Analemma at Premio Matteo Olivero in Saluzzo, Italy.

Influenced by her upbringing in Japan and her current home in New York, Shino Takeda's (Brooklyn, NY) ceramics embody her sensory experience of sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Most of her pieces are hand built using the coil method and working with several different clay bodies. Takeda’s work is renowned in the design world; her 2019 exhibition, Diary, at JDJ | The Ice House marked her debut gallery exhibition. Her previous collaboration with Mark Barrow & Sarah Parke was also featured at NADA Miami 2019.

Both Hard/Cover and Elisabeth Kley: Minutes of Sand (March 5, 2021 – August 15, 2021) were made possible with generous support from The Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, Girlfriend Fund, Harry Hu, Rob Hayes, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Jessica Silverman Gallery, Maja Paumgarten and John Parker, The Woodman Family Foundation, Flavor Paper, and Canada Gallery.

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