Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Beyond Punch Cards" at Santa Fe's Form & Concept gallery

We've all heard, probably more than once, that the punch cards that programmed the first computers were based on the punch cards used to create intricate weaving structures on the original Jacquard looms.  Both technologies, weaving and computing, rely on binary systems.  Recently I visited an exhibit at Form & Concept Gallery in Santa Fe that explores this connection more deeply, showing "innovative ways old and new technologies interlace each other."  Curators Renata Gaui and Francesca Rodriguez Sawaya selected works from around the world that investigate how both technologies might "converge and evolve to resist obsolescence."  Though the show has closed, you can read about it and see the work here.  Click on each work for artists' statements and more.

For me, the piece below stole the show.  At the top, a beautifully woven image that showcases what Jacquard weaving can do slowly disintegrates toward the bottom of the piece, reflecting the disintegration of the neglected loom on which it was woven.   I'm including a photo of the full label text as it is so pertinent to the state of textiles and weaving instruction in higher art education today.

Gabrielle Dugan, Weaving2018

detail, Gabrielle Dugan, Weaving2018.  The woven text reads "I am past and future." 

I acquired my own floor loom when a university art department sold all the looms in the fiber area, on the assumption that weaving had been superseded by a focus on surface design and mixed media.

Another piece was striking in its merging of technology and weaving.   For this work, viewers are invited to use a tablet to activate the piece.  Code embedded in the weaving creates prismatic shapes on the screen of the tablet when the tablet is held in front of the panel.

C. Alex Clark, Aliased Quarry/Diffraction Query

detail, C. Alex Clark, Aliased Quarry/Diffraction Query

detail, C. Alex Clark, Aliased Quarry/Diffraction Query
"Gee whiz" is my response here.  The piece does go far "beyond punch cards" to illustrate the interlacement of weaving concepts with the mechanics of light and computing, reminding us perhaps that art and science are not as distinct as we may think.  For a full explanation of how this works, go here.

For me the following piece packed a more emotional punch.  What appears at first glance to be a traditional overshot coverlet is revealed, upon reading the label, to contain Kevlar, the bulletproof fiber.  The piece is part of a projected collection of "bulletproof home goods," inspired by the 2016 mass murder at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the resulting, unsurprising fact that many gay people report feeling safer at home than in public.  The artist says she wove the piece specifically to raise awareness about safety issues for LGBTQ people.

Erika Diamond, Overshot Safety Blanket (lapghan) from the Imminent Peril-Queer Collection

Finally, this piece made a trenchant point despite its small size (11" x 8.5").

Askanksha Aggarwal, Fragment-From the Women who Did Not Make History series.  

detail, Askanksha Aggarwal, Fragment-From the Women who Did Not Make History series.  Phrases alluding to the "hidden narratives" of the artist's female relatives are partially discernible in the laser-etched woven paper strips.

This is a show whose appeal is conceptual as well as optical. Every piece requires the viewer to read the label to fully appreciate what is going on.  Artists do not rely on vibrant color or traditional technical prowess to wow the viewer; the punch, as in much contemporary art, is in the concept.  It is the mission of Form & Concept gallery to blur and break down the false distinctions and outdated hierarchies that still separate art, craft, and design, and I can only applaud this. From the gallery's mission statement:  "We dispute the historic use of these terms to divide artists and rank material culture."  I look forward to more exhibits that show what is possible in media formerly known as "craft." 


Marilyn said...

What an intriguing show. Thanks for posting this.

Renata said...

Hi Molly, it's great to hear your impressions on the show! Thank you for coming by and happy you enjoyed it. All the best, Renata and Francesca