Tag Archives: textiles

‘New Hanji’ joins modern craft with Korean tradition

“Paper changed everything,” notes Chelsea Holton, co-curator of New Hanji: A Korean Paper Tradition Re-Imagined,the latest exhibition at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum. The invention of paper around the year 100 A.D. in China opened a new world for documentation, as well as for art. 

Hanji art was originally developed in Korea, before spreading to other civilizations. The handmade hanji paper is produced from the inner bark of mulberry trees and is renowned for its durability. Hanji can be treated like regular drawing paper, but its versatility also allows for it to be used in the production of textiles and ornaments, molded as decorations for vessels or carved and attached to furniture.

Taking this ancient material as a starting point, five artists from Milwaukee and four from Korea incorporate it into contemporary art. Holton says hanji is enjoying something of a renaissance as it is adopted in the West and revived in its native land. 

One artist, co-curator Rina Yoon, is the origin point for New Hanji, Holton says. “(Yoon) had taken a couple of trips back to Korea in the last five years or so, and she took a group of students to Korea in 2012 along with all of the Milwaukee artists in the exhibition. They studied the techniques and all started to incorporate hanji. Rina organized an exhibition in 2013 that went really well — and this seemed like a valuable thing for Milwaukee.”

That prior showing of these pieces occurred in South Korea at the Jeonju Hanji Festival. At Villa Terrace, a historic venue with a similar attentiveness to both present and past, the show represents a melding of traditional and current artistic trends. 

The Milwaukee-based artists, to varying degrees, have used paper mediums previously in their work. They found that having learned of this material, they were each using it in new work. Viewers also will see that there are identifiable approaches that connect their past endeavors with this medium. 

Jessica Meuninck-Ganger has for a long time used a combination of drawing and video in her installations. In “Trace,” footage of Milwaukee neighborhoods passes by in ephemeral light behind small, sculptural buildings made of hanji. It is meant to evoke thoughts of the transitory nature of spaces. An adage about hanji proclaims that it lasts for 1,000 years. Could the same ever be said about today’s built environments? The sense of the present is simultaneously fragile and nostalgic.

Paper’s three-dimensional possibilities are explored by Christiane Grauert’s Block series. Tall and angular, her skyscraper-like forms are a translation of Hong Kong architecture. The carved spaces of the windows are done with a process learned from Haemija Kim, a master of the technique whose work is featured in the exhibition. 

Master Kim, as she is known, was drawn into the traditions of hanji through an interest in handmade paper objects such as sewing boxes. For her study of these and her endeavors in their recreation, she was given the Presidential Award of Excellence by the South Korean government in 2009. 

In the world of fashion, Korean artist Yang Bae Jeon has become interested in the study of traditional garments associated with funerary practices. In the interests of ecological and other concerns, Jeon’s work in the making of hanji burial shrouds has been influential and an example is on display here. 

Yoon also synthesizes the body and methods of artistic construction in her work. She uses jiseung, a process of paper coiling in large wall pieces that produce cloud-like forms in brilliant white. They originate as pieces molded from her body, transformed into dramatic billows of round and sharply pierced shapes in “Earth Between In and Yeon.”

One Buddhist concept Yoon frequently comes back to in her work is inyeon. She says, “The body returns to the earth and emerges from it. The earth and the body are separate and one at the same time.” 

In her capacity as an art historian and writer, Holton traveled to Korea with the artists as well as students in order to produce scholarly research for this project. One of the strengths of this exhibition is that curatorial approach, which introduces visitors to the context and process of this traditional craft. It wraps multifaceted artistic endeavors together, connected through knowledge of the past and the fibers of hanji which reach far beyond their point of cultural origin.

On Display

New Hanji: A Korean Paper Tradition Re-Imagined continues through Jan. 3 at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Ave. Visit
villaterracemuseum.org for more details.

‘Fear 12’ 

Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh St. 

Through Nov. 2 

Ever since its opening, Art Bar has held this yearly exhibition where artists present visual images of all things sinister and strange. This year’s display ranges from sci-fi fantasy digital art to prints, paintings and assemblages delving into the dark corners of the psyche.

2015 Dia de los Muertos Exhibition 

Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 

839 S. Fifth St.

Through Nov. 21 

For 23 years, WPCA has held an annual exhibition featuring the traditional ofrendas, or altars, which commemorate deceased loved ones at this time of year. The ofrendas are made by members and community groups, each a distinct portrait to honor and revive the memory of those who have passed on. 

Day of the Dead Ofrendas 

Latino Arts Gallery, 1028 S. Ninth St. 

Oct. 28 – Nov. 20

Located inside the United Community Center, the Latino Arts Gallery will host a display of ofrendas, honoring the traditions of the community. An opening reception will be held on Nov. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. 

Contemporary textiles illustrate the fabric of life

“Frosted Pink Lipstick Smeared All Over His Face” is an apt title for the huge installation opening the exhibition Material Fix. It is a cloud of bright, multicolored, printed fabric pieces rising weightlessly from the floor about 9 feet high. The giant assemblage, decorated by glitter, sequins and other shiny notions, is an explosion of floral patterns that draws back into the style of the 1960s or 1970s. It calls to mind the parlors and house dresses of older female relatives who, in their delight at young progeny in the house, are eager and cloying in their affections, reflected on years after childhood with sweet nostalgia.

The artist of this piece, Jesse Harrod, works with material gleaned from thrift stores, with an aim at integrating “layers of emotional history into the meaning of this work.” This combination of tactile quality, visual bedazzlement and the belief in the tangible to invest abstract memory into art underlies many of the complex installations in this exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. 

Sometimes the material that makes up the body of a work is indeed specific and personal. A delightfully stunning example is Susie Ganch’s monumental wall piece. At first it appears as a luscious white cloud, a woven meandering like a braided rug or sinuous bits of shell pasta following each other in formation. Ganch makes us see the world a little bit differently, perhaps with a bit of shock, as it is revealed that these are the plastic lids from coffee cups. 

The project, titled “Pile: Starbucks on Robinson, April – December 2012,” is the result of collecting the lids from regular beverage outings. There is a dangerous beauty at work. When put together in this form, we see the detritus of daily life in a gargantuan mass that often ends up in landfills or recycling bins. 

At times the sense of personal is rendered a little more obliquely, as in Josh Faught’s “It Takes A Lifetime To Get Exactly Where You Are.” Measuring about 20 feet across and 8 feet high, it is a woven work made from various types of material, including hemp, cotton, wool, plus toilet paper, paper towel, a silk handkerchief and more. The large sections of different materials are decorated in places. Some have text and others are adorned with buttons alluding to relationships and sexuality in empowered but elegiac fashion. One button reads, “Power is not Love,” and another, “I’ll fake an orgasm if you’ll fake a little foreplay.” 

The wall text notes that this piece reflects the AIDS crisis, that the endless processes of weaving, knitting, and crocheting are symbolic of the mourning process. It is ongoing, seemingly endless, and ebbs and flows in stages of grief, anger, affection and pained remembrance. 

These are a few of the 43 works in Material Fix, which come from artists around the country and offer insight into diverse practices in contemporary fabric arts. But this main exhibition is only one of six under the larger moniker, Toward Textiles, which embraces this group show along with a number of other exhibitions. 

Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez is stunning both for the artist’s work and its installation. Patterson, a native of Jamaica who also is based in Kentucky, explores notions of masculinity, dancehall culture, gender and sexuality in a series of intricate, reflective tapestries displayed on floor plinths. 

The gallery is dark except for spotlights above, which illuminate the details of glitter, fabrics, flowers and minuscule elements that suggest atmosphere and narrative. They are visually striking, as is the singular installation, “Six Degrees of Separate Nations,” that opens her exhibition. Not just dressed to the nines but beyond them, 10 mannequins are posed with nonchalant toughness. Decked out in prints and pinks, the sparkling nature of their costumes speaks of a confidence that embodies strength and identity through embellishment. 

Other solo exhibitions on view include Joan Livingstone: Oddiment[s], which addresses the reinvention of the banal as something of beauty. Based in Chicago, Livingstone adopts discarded street objects from her neighborhood and covers them in polite materials such as gold and fine paper. Rocks, dishes, metal implements and the like are removed from the gutter and transformed into tactile, glamorous objects in Eliza Doolittle fashion. 

Ann Hamilton gets down to basics in draw, a video projection that follows a line of red thread moving over, through and under white paper. The installation creates interest as it is presented by two projectors slowly rotating around the gallery, augmented by the sound of the thread drawing across the surface. It is quietly, captivatingly quixotic. 

Carole Frances Lung goes behind the scenes for social and politically charged commentary in her exhibition, Factory to Factory. As the 2014 arts/industry artist-in-residence, which partners contemporary artists with the Kohler Company, she brings her background working in the textile industry to the fore. Her woven and cast-iron pieces draw attention to the presence of workers in garment making and the disassociation that occurs in the space between mass production and the handcrafted. 

Perhaps most poignant and personal is the exhibition A Stitch in Time: Folk Textiles from the Collection. Tradition and historic narrative play a central role in pieces from Japan, South Asia and the Hmong cultures. 

A type of Bengalese embroidery known as kantha illustrates everyday activities, in addition to fantastical motifs of animals and figures, filled with expressive and imaginative vignettes. Japanese boro textiles appear in what we may regard as a modernist aesthetic, similar to the colorful geometric abstraction of the quilts of Gee’s Bend. The boro textiles are indigo-dyed cotton, but patched again and again, “often by several successive generations,” as noted by the gallery text. 

These were fabrics used by farmers, particularly between 1850 and 1950. In these utilitarian works, years of experience are contained. Hmong tapestries powerfully describe cultural traditions, as well as conflict and interventions of European culture during years of warfare in the 20th century. 

Toward Textiles, as a group of exhibitions, is uniquely woven. As our own wardrobe of clothing has fabrics that carry certain meanings or modes — formal and informal, refined or purely utilitarian — there are many distinct characteristics. The array of artists and works on view draw the familiarity of textiles into varied regions of metaphor and expression. 


Toward Textiles continues through Oct. 11 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 608 New York Avenue, Sheboygan. Visit jmkac.org for hours and more details.