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Art_TextilesBristow, Maxine; University of Chester (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, United Kingdom, 2015-10-10)'Barrier, ref: 9774-14', is a series of 10 modular sculptural components, 5 of which were exhibited as part of the international 'Art_Textiles' exhibition at The Whitworth Gallery, Manchester 10 October 2015-31 January 2016. Occupying four main galleries, 'Art_Textiles' brought together works dating from the 1960s to the present day by 27 artists from around the world who use textiles as a powerful tool for expressing ideas about the social, political and artistic. The exhibition included iconic feminist pieces from the 1970s by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Faith Wilding, Miriam Shapiro, Elaine Reichek as well as contemporary works by artists such as Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin and Lubana Himid. A 96 page catalogue with a forward by the Whitworth's director Maria Balshaw, introductory essay by deputy director and curator of the exhibition Jennifer Harris and further essays by Pennina Barnett and Julia Bryon-Wilson accompanied the exhibition. Designed so that they could be variably (re)configured according to the exhibition and installational context, the modular sculptural components take the form of temporary barriers or handrails which play between a work of art and functional object. As a free standing form, the handrail directs us through space, but it also operates as a barrier which divides space, defines boundaries and alternately either denies or allows access. Articulating space in a physical way, the work also addresses the broader metaphorical connotations of borders and boundaries and their implications in terms of traditional discourses of power. Whilst the work creates a boundary that dictates the movement of the viewer and affords significance to the space that it delineates, the boundary is clearly arbitrary and open to revision. Consciously referencing seminal hard-edged minimalist modular configurations such as Donald Judd’s floor-based open frame-like structures, these works are upholstered and intricately embroidered through the labour intensive process of darning. However, rather than take centre stage, they might easily be mistaken for institutional furniture, where the self-effacing labour intensity of their production could go unnoticed. For the 'Art_Textiles' exhibition they formed a barrier around the artist Susan Collis's work which similarly involves an enormous amount of hidden labour and plays with our perceptions of everyday objects, whereas in previous configurations they have quietly protected the more spectacular work of Grayson Perry.