Museum Abteiberg

Textiles: Open Letter

22 Jun - 10 Nov 2013

22 June – 10 November 2013

Before the opening, at 6 pm – as part of Ensemblia 2013:
Morton Feldman, Crippled Symmetry (1982), concert in the exhibition, musikFabrik Köln

With works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Carl Andre, Leonor Antunes, Tonico Lemos Auad, Thomas Bayrle, Otti Berger, Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (Seth Siegelaub),Yael Davids, Sofie Dawo, Hans Finsler, Elsi Giauque, Sheela Gowda, Eva Hesse, Sheila Hicks, Johannes Itten, Elisabeth Kadow, Paul Klee, Heinrich Koch, Benita Koch-Otte, Beryl Korot, Agnes Martin, Katrin Mayer, Cildo Meireles, Nasreen Mohamedi, Blinky Palermo, Lygia Pape, Walter Peterhans, Josephine Pryde, Florian Pumhösl, Grete Reichardt, Elaine Reichek, Willem de Rooij, Fred Sandback, Desirée Scholten, Johannes Schweiger, Gunta Stölzl, Lenore Tawney, Rosemarie Trockel, and Vincent VulsmaCurated by Rike Frank and Grant Watson

As one of the oldest techniques in human culture, textiles store knowledge and labour and communicate via form. The woven structures are based on a system of intersecting threads leading via seriality and repetition to complexity and beauty. While textiles have been used extensively by artists as material, structure, texture and artefact to reflect on forms, processes and abstractions, they have been largely ignored by art history. And while there are many words for weaving, and the connection between textile and text is one of the oldest metaphors in architecture, philosophy and sociology, textiles, having been primarily viewed as a craft, have barely developed an impact within the art historical discourse on modernity, remaining little more than a footnote.

Based on the principle of woven structure and the thread as an organic line – as described, for example, by Paul Klee – ‘Textiles: Open Letter‘ creates a dialogue between historical works and those of a younger generation. The featured works reflect issues of abstraction and materiality and challenge preconceptions of weaving. Large-scale sculptures, wall hangings and reduced formations of lines push the limits of material and structure, improvisation and poetry. Especially since the Bauhaus, an influence has been exerted on textiles by material experiments and performative procedures from fine art and dance. During the 1970s, a number of women artists – including Leonor Tawney, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks – created the Fibre Art movement with the aim of establishing an independent status for textiles as part of a feminist praxis: in close contact with Minimalist artists including Agnes Martin, and in some cases on the basis of training in the Bauhaus tradition, they designed monumental structures that moved beyond the technical limitations of the loom. Today, artists like Beryl Korot, Nasreen Mohamedi and Florian Pumhösl pursue aspects of serial notation as suggested by textiles, while Lygia Pape and Thomas Bayrle use the metaphor of the city as a social fabric as a point of departure in their work.

The exhibition shows the many and varied ways in which the history of Minimal and Conceptual art, movements that shaped the Museum Abteiberg collection, was influenced by textiles, and the extent to which textiles have often been excluded from the canon on account of their position between applied and fine art and their perception as ‘feminine‘. In this sense, the title ‘Open Letter‘ – that refers to a work by Bauhaus artist Anni Albers from 1958 – is to be understood as an invitation to rethink the influence of textiles on art and vice versa, as well as the key role played by textiles in the development of an abstract visual language.

In cooperation with Allianz Kulturstiftung and funded by Kunststiftung NRW.

The exhibition is part of the project Textiles: Open Letter by Rike Frank (Berlin), Grant Watson (London), Sabeth Buchmann (Vienna) and Leire Vergara (Bilbao).

In 2014 ‘Textiles: Open Letter‘ will be on view at the Generali Foundation in Vienna.

Tags: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Carl Andre, Leonor Antunes, Tonico Lemos Auad, Thomas Bayrle, Yael Davids, Sheela Gowda, Eva Hesse, Sheila Hicks, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Beryl Korot, Agnes Martin, Cildo Meireles, Nasreen Mohamedi, Blinky Palermo, Lygia Pape, Josephine Pryde, Florian Pumhösl, Elaine Reichek, Willem de Rooij, Fred Sandback, Rosemarie Trockel