Hanging by a Thread at The Moore Space

By Jose Diaz

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Hanging by a Thread features over 25 established, mid-career, and emerging artists devoted to the use of stitch and craft in contemporary art. This exhibition pays tribute to the 1998 exhibition Loose Threads, curated by Lisa Corrin at the Serpentine Gallery in London. The Miami curators draw parallels to Corrin’s exhibition by including artists from the Loose Threads roster such as Tracey Emin and Ghada Amer, and they take their thesis further a field by linking their works to a new generation of young artists born in the 70s and 80s who actively embrace craft techniques. Hanging by a Thread investigates the continuing development of the hand-stitched in contemporary art. 

Corrin selected artists for Loose Threads who have used thread to collapse boundaries between painting, sculpture and drawing, word and image, computer-generated and handmade, masculine and feminine, high art and craft.? Hanging by a Thread is a group show featuring works by artists who further evolve and elaborate the boundaries mentioned by Corrin. They utilize all possible fiber media, from fabric, yarn, felt, papier maché, collage, and quilting, to tapestry, sculpture, stitch paintings and drawings, knitted works and several site-specific installations. Many of the artworks fulfill traditional prerequisites of craft: to be three-dimensional, tactile, handmade, and functional, while others are outright craft objects of luxury, non-functional objects with a purely aesthetic motivation.

Hanging by a Thread explores the current status of craft processes in use by artists today by bringing them to the forefront, and making a case for craft’s revisited importance in contemporary art. 

The diverse works in Hanging by a Thread are varied and eccentric, but united by a common impulse. The art in this exhibition is not hermetically sealed in theory; instead it uses the language of lived experience to communicate, to inform, to tell stories, to create scenarios, and conjure imagined worlds. This exhibition seizes the opportunity to assess the myriad of creative appropriations of manual skill and handcraft, which have appeared on the scene since 1998. 

While Corrin focused on the fundamental facts of thread, referring to an unraveling of the conventional canvas, justifying the existence of thread-based art in 1998, the artists in Hanging by a Thread have gleefully assimilated all manner of stitchery, with patent disregard for an art historical canon. The abject and the debased co-exist with the child-like and the frivolous. References abound to toiles and tapestry as well as to the lowly stuffed animal. The subversion that Corrin put her finger on six years ago has germinated and sprouted at a rapid pace. Earlier works which relied on feminist theory or anti-Greenbergian notions to bolster them critically, are replaced by works in which pure beauty, nostalgia for counter-culture fashion and agitated decoration speak to an art audience obsessed with camp, the mock-naïve, and soft-porn. 

Corrin very presciently drew a parallel between the world-wide-web and the art of weaving, explicitly matching the network of data that is the internet with the warp and weft of a weaver’s loom. Thread is no less meaningful than the paintbrush, (think how loaded are the expressionist drip, the handprint, the artist’s mark), but as a tactile and a textual element in its own right, invested with its own dense meaning.

In this age of digital and cyber-technology, the allure of the hand-made is even more radical for a second generation of crafters.  As multi-national retail chains brainwash consumers who idolize and covet the uniformity of recognizable brands, young artists have revived the cult of personality. The customization of the 60s counter culture movement embroidered, patched, frayed, dyed and otherwise converted over the counter garments into the florid tribal costume of the day.  Every radical movement needs a flag, a banner constructed of cloth and thread, which symbolizes the new order. 

With Loose Threads, Corrin identified pioneers who took the first steps away from postmodernist art traditions. Hanging by a Thread continues this exploration with artists who have taken craft further a field: obliterating boundaries, dropping stitches, threatening to fall completely off the matrix, off the web, off the loom.

From Sept 8th through  Oct 22nd, 2005

The Moore Space
4040 NE 2nd Ave, 2nd floor, Miami Design District
305-438-1163
www.themoorespace.org

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