Since its explosion in the late 1990s, it’s hard to ignore the increasing visibility of craft in contemporary art. In her new anthology Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, Maria Elena Buszerk collects 14 essays and one interview to discuss the role of craft in today’s art world. The book is divided into four sections: Redefining Craft: New Theory; Craft Show: In The Realm of “Fine Art”; Craftivism; and New Functions, New Frontiers. To me the title doesn’t quite describe the contents. I might have subtitled this book something like Contemporary Craft as Fine Art, which is really what each discussion drills down to.
In what is probably my favorite essay, “Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches, Writing a Craftivist History,” Kirsty Robertson talks about the use of craft in contemporary protest, specifically knitting. “Radical knitters and Stitch and Bitchers,” people who have a “sophisticated understanding that the making of any textile is connected to the capitalist system,” are the focus of much of her discussion. In her examples, she cites artists who employ the knitting as both an act of protest and fine art. The cover of Extra/Ordinary shows Pink M.24 by Marianne Jorgensen with the Cast Off Knitters. In this collaborative work, the knitters created a giant tea cozy fit to a tank. The image of the cold, hard, masculine tank of war wrapped in the warm, soft, feminine pink of the cozy is startling and effective.
Extra/Ordinary concludes with an interview of Margaret Wertheim, the founder of the Institute for Figuring, which (among other things) teaches about the intersections of art, science, nature, and craft. You might know her work with her sister Christine from The Crochet the Reef Project. Exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2007, The Crochet the Reef project asked artists and crafters to demonstrate hyperbolic space through crocheting of sea forms and coral. Before reading this book, I thought of Wertheim only as a scientist. Okay maybe a scientist, who likes to crochet, still I did not have an image of her as an artist or craftsperson. The interview changed my ideas about her work and the relationship between art and science.
Certainly this book will appeal to those who work seriously in craft, and perhaps fiber artists in general as this is the focus of most of the writers. But the surprise in Extra/Ordinary is the stitching together of what had seemed to be disparate ideas: contemporary art, craft, womenâ€™s work, capitalism, protest, and gender. Ultimately all of the essays discuss these ideas. I recommend this book. Itâ€™s nicely illustrated as well.
Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art
Edited by Maria Elena Bruszek
Duke University Press 2011, 24.95 paperback
…To Start Off The New Year!
Hey everyone! Hope ya’ll had a good hooliday! And now we stride fourth, from the ‘Ots to the Onezies, with many a show to look forward too. This weekend (especially Friday) is particularly ripe for new year pickings, so in celebration of all that, I give you…
THE FIRST 10 OF THE NEW YEAR!
(In not much of a particular order)
Happy ‘Effen 2010!
1. In Stereo at Rotofugi
I feel like I should hate this work for being hip and trite, but it just makes me think of Rosler’s 60-era “Bringing the War Home” too much for me to hate it. Make your own decision.
Reception Friday from 7-10pm. Rotofugi is located at 1953 W. Chicago Ave.
2. 3-for-1: Queen of Heaven, R&R (…&R), and Up Is Down at the Chicago Cultural Center
I am generally in favor of 3-for-1 shows, especially when there are actually three big shows in one place, something few other places do as well as the Cultural Center. On top of that the work looks worth seeing, to boot. Sheesley presents nearly photo-real paintings of puddles, Faier forces confrontation with death (or our refusal to confront it) with his images of mausoleums and their waiting rooms, and Slavick explores carnage in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon through over painted photographs.
Reception Friday from 6-8pm. The Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington St.
Hey ya’ll. There are quite a few shows I’m interested in the weekend, not all of which are getting dropped into the Top 5, but which still bear a mention: Bob Jones at 65 Grand, Ann and Maria Ponce at Packer Schopf, Joe Hardesty at Western Exhibitions, Creator/Curator at HungryMAN Gallery, and New Blood 3 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to everything, but you’ll be happy with any of the above mentioned selections along side any or all the shows listed in the Top 5 (which, by the way, are listed in no particular order). That’s it for now, get your ass out there and see some art!
Top 5 for 11/20-11/22:
1. Technically, It’s Art at Abryant Gallery
Abryant Gallery, run by Angela Bryant, is one of those spaces that Chicago is so good at producing, a space run by people just out of school, showing people just out of school, but actually doing it relatively well. For this round, Bryant is featuring the work of Eric Ashcraft, Madeleine Bailey, Mark Beasley, Rebecca Berman, GROUP CABIN, Andy Cahill, Lauren Gregory, Maxon Higbee, Aaron Hoffman, Nadia Hotait, Mik Kastner, Lisa MAjer, Gary Pennock, Sarah Perez, Micah Schippa, Briana Schweizer, Alan Strathmann and Synica Whitney in Technically, It’s Art.
Opening Reception: Friday 7-10pm. Abryant Gallery is located at 1842 N. Damen Ave., 4th Fl.
2. IN(DI)VISIBLE at Noble & Superior Projects
For their second exhibition, Noble & Superior Projects, a new apartment gallery space, is putting up the work of TW Li’ and Whitney Faile called IN(DI)VISIBLE. I am really impressed by N&S P, the couple who run it are damn professional, and though the work isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen in Chicago (a bit of a tall order), they show some goos stuff for an apartment gallery. I am particularly interested int TW Li’s work (have a look at his website), but I’m a fan of their paring strategy, so I bet the dialog between Li and Faile’s work will be worth seeing.
Opening Reception: Friday 6-10pm. Noble & Superior Projects is located at 1418 W Superior St. #2R