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Louise Nevelson & Archie Brennan: From Collage to Tapestry

Saturday, August 6, 2011, 10:00 am, Santa Barbara Fiber Arts Guild, Santa Barbara, California.

Nevelson - Dusk in the Desert collage

Nevelson - Maquette for "Dusk in the Desert" tapestry, 1976, mixed media collage, approx. 13" x 11", collection not located, (c) Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Louise Nevelson, the well-known American sculptor (1899-1988), created a little-known series of collages, which served as models for a suite of modern tapestries. Gloria Ross, a New York tapestry éditeur acting as project director, engaged Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, Scotland, to weave the wall hangings. Master weaver Archie Brennan directed the production by Dovecot’s expert weavers. The tapestry “Sky Cathedral” was produced after an original lead-intaglio collage in 1972. “Sky Cathedral II” followed, woven in a traditional edition of seven in 1974-1977. Thereafter Nevelson wished to produce only tapestries that were “uniques” as she called them. Between 1979 and 1997 seven singular textiles resulted from torn paper collages—most named evocatively for landscapes—“Desert” (MFA-Boston) “Dusk in the Desert,” “Landscape,” “Mirror Desert,” “Night Mountain,” “Reflection,” and “The Late, Late Moon.” Each tapestry became a textural and layered tour de force in wool, cotton, linen, mylar, and metallic threads. The exquisite imagery and complex structures reflect both the artist’s and weavers’ histories, moderated by views from Gloria Ross and Pace Gallery where Nevelson showed her work in Manhattan.

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Nevelson - Dusk in the Desert tapestry

Nevelson - "Dusk in the Desert," 1977, woven by Dovecot Studios, 84" x 58", (c) Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Ann Hedlund’s richly illustrated presentation explores how these major artworks came about, paying close attention to the voices of artist, organizer, weavers, galleries, museums, critics, and collectors. After providing an overview of the work, she discusses artistic identity as played out in collaborative art-textile projects. Hedlund often writes and speaks about weavers and their sources of inspiration–from historic roots to the most modern influences. She is curator of ethnology at Arizona State Museum, professor of anthropology at University of Arizona, and director of the Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Center in Tucson. In addition her newest book, Gloria F. Ross & Modern Tapestry (Yale University Press, 2010), she wrote Navajo Weaving in the Late Twentieth Century (U of Arizona Press, 2004),  edited Joe Ben Wheat’s award-winning Blanket Weaving in the Southwest (U of Arizona Press 2003), and has curated numerous exhibitions that explore the rich connections between culture, craft and art.

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