Running through May 25, the exhibition brings together international figures such as Ferne Jacobs and still-emerging artists who mix materials such as shredded currency and pig intestines with more customary yarn and ripped fabric.
But the transgressive quality of the materials isn’t the point; the ideas behind the pieces are. Weaving, crocheting, embroidering and the other repetitive actions of fiber art are transmuted into intellectual metaphors.
Yet the effect is anything but abstractly intellectual. These are visceral pieces, varied in style but consistently emotionally involving, and not just because of the predominance of confrontational shades of red in so many of the pieces — by Amy Gross, Vadis Turner, Emily Barletta, Ruben Marroquin and James — and the intense blackness of Susan Cipcic’s spectacular wall hanging, “Flutter (corvine frippery).” Rather, the sense of pleasing unease derives from the unexpectedly lovely echoes of potentially disturbing imagery in abstracted forms that tug at the memory: blood cells (Barletta and James), undersea creatures (Gross derives her forms from biologist Ernst Haeckel) and Cipcic’s vegetal forms from the Southern swamp (though her title speaks more of the coruscation of flocks of crows).
The literally visceral materials of Karen Searle’s “Body Bag” series, as well as the odd marriage of conventional basketry and tightly knit horsehair with the hog gut that lines her vessels, further this sense of feeling slightly but delightedly off balance.
The gnarly texture of Kim Matthews’ wall piece “Relief 8” continues the motif of pleasing but unnerving physical surprises. Pat Hickman provides still more hog gut, alongside metal staples and birch bark, in a truly mixed-media method of evoking, in James’ words, “the unavoidability of disintegration, the inevitability of change, and the transformative power of attention and memory.”
Also mining the vein of unconventionally metaphoric materials, Katya Usvitsky turns women’s nylons into deliciously elusive nodes and matrices that combine attraction and repulsion in near-ideal balance.
James points out that a good many of these pieces are meditations on women’s roles. For example, Searle is inspired by “women’s lives and women’s bodies, and by the feminine impulse to nurture.”
But these are deeply metaphorical approaches to such subjects; there is no literal illustration of anything except a handful of traditional forms put to very untraditional uses. The works in “Repetition and Ritual” put innovation and beauty into the service of enormous issues.
On our home page: a detail from “Contagious” by Amy Gross.
For more photos from this show, click here.