Installation view of Chuck Close's 2007 tapestry Kate, a portrait of Kate Moss. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery
The September issue of ARTnews includes "Looms with a View," a feature by contributing editor Hilarie Sheets spotlighting contemporary fine art tapestries, in which artists including Kiki Smith and Chuck Close discuss their woven editions.
For an artist like Chuck Close, writes Sheets, whose work has taken the grid as its point of departure for decades, tapestry is a natural extension of his process. The artist confirms this connection: It’s the ultimate grid, enthuses Close, just horizontal and vertical threads.
Chuck Close inspects experimental proofs of Lucas (2011) at the mill in Belgium, December, 2010. Photo by Donald Farnsworth.
Close goes on to explain what gives the medium its unique appeal: The black wool for the background absorbs so much light without reflecting any that it makes the tapestry almost like a holograph, he says. It pushes the image forward and makes it a kind of startling illusion. Then by combining three white threads for every grayer white thread, that puffs it up. Our brain reads a figure in deep space. It almost transcends the physical reality of what it is and makes it not just threads for me.
Installation view of Chuck Close's Phil - State II (2006) and Kiki (2006) tapestries, published by Magnolia Editions. Photo courtesy of Aperture Foundation
Sheets relates how Kiki Smith, also the subject of a Close tapestry, was approached at a Close opening by Donald Farnsworth of Magnolia Editions about making her own. Subsequently, Magnolia published not just one but a suite of three Smith tapestry editions titled Sky, Earth, and Underground. Intended to be displayed together, the works possess interrelated, animistic imagery: Each, writes Sheets, feature[s] a nude female figure floating in a decorative kaleidoscope of elements from nature.
I’m very attracted to serial narratives and symbolic representation, Smith tells ARTnews. I’m making something between spectacle and pageantry -- mixing the Middle Ages and Busby Berkeley and hippie art. Because tapestry is a matte surface, it absorbs light -- it really envelops you. That’s one of the primary things I find seductive about them. I like working in historical languages and trying to see where they hold a vitality for me.
Sheets's article concludes with Close echoing Smith's desire to find a bridge between one's contemporary practice and the methods of the past: Making things out of threads and big complicated things out of a lot of little things has real urgency for me, he explains. This old-time system has a history, and it’s not used up yet. It’s something to breathe new life into.
Read the full article "Looms with a View" at ARTnews
More tapestries and prints by Chuck Close at Magnolia Editions
More tapestries by Kiki Smith at Magnolia Editions