May 22 – June 28, 2015
The Parlour Bushwick presents Neo-Craftivism, co-organized by Rachael Gorchov, Roxanne Jackson and Robin Kang. Featuring the work of Sarah Bednarek, Rachael Gorchov, Roxanne Jackson, Robin Kang, Katerina Lanfranco, Heidi Lau, Rebecca Morgan, Courtney Puckett and Nichole Van Beek.
Contemporary crafter and activist, Betsy Greer, coined the term Craftivism, in 2003. A single word designed to merge craft and social activism, identifying a movement that, in line with the Third-wave feminist movement, utilized craft as subversive. Through showcasing artists working with traditional craft media in current and contemporary ways, we have assembled new voices in visual art who are engaging in this conversation.
Drawing from a scope of ideas, ranging from the banal beauty of contemporary landscape and culture, the absurdity of pop culture, digital-age iconography, horror film and sci-fi imagery, the artists in this show blend and appropriate these images to create something uncommon, fresh, and contradictory. Speaking with a language of materials that carry weighted associations, such as ceramics, papier-mache and yarn, these artists push beyond and subvert the notions traditionally associated with this media and femininity to create works that are current, evocative and sublime.
Through sculpture, Sarah Bednarek’s work speaks about the value of real, created, human objects versus theoretical things. Thus, there is a tension between her schlubby, imperfect, and intensely handmade sculptures and their suggestion of abstract archetypes which can only be thought about. It is almost as if there is a completely different cosmos where these ideals dwell, to which the language of geometry and mathematics approach but can never reach on account of their human origin.
The entry point to Rachael Gorchov’s work is the landscape of suburban, semi-public spaces: lawns, ponds, skies and flora, planned and invasive, that surround office and industrial complexes. She paints these elements with varying degrees of specificity, allowing image to collide, dissolve into and be convoluted by painterly gestural abstraction. The paint inhabits three-dimensional forms made of paper mache that hang on the wall. The elements work in concert to defamiliarize omnipresent, ordinary environments. If you choose to spend time with these works, they will ask you to explore by walking, ducking and tilting your head.
Roxanne Jackson appropriates imagery from myth and horror films, particularly the moment of transformation when a human becomes a beast. Utilizing ‘crafty’ media, her work is also inspired by feminine retro-beasts such as Harpies, Medusa and Sirens; her new work draws from obsolete Mermaid folklore and the subculture of circus sideshows of the mid 1800’s, where fiji mermaids were a prominent fixture—her ceramic version of these monstrous figures appropriates this Folk Art tradition and recreates this profound myth.
The history of connections between the industries of textiles and electronics provides inspiration, for the work of Robin Kang. Utilizing a digitally operated Jacquard hand loom, the contemporary version of the first binary operated machine and argued precursor to the first computer, Robin hand weaves tapestries that combine ethnographic symbolism, computer related imagery, and digital mark making. The juxtaposition of textiles with technology opens an interesting conversation regarding the relationship between textiles, symbols, and language.
Katerina Lanfranco’s Wildflowers, inspired by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka’s glass flowers at the The Harvard Museum of Natural History, employ flameworked glass, delicately stitched fabric and beadwork. Reminiscent of a Victorian cabinet of curiosities, these works frame nature where romanticism, science and craft collide.
Much of Heidi Lau’s work draws inspiration from memories of walking through now demolished gardens while growing up on the island nation of Macau, a colony of Portugal on the brink of dissolution. In building towers and vessels out of clay reminiscent of archaic architecture, fossils and artifacts, Lau contemplates the anomic nature of history and cultural migration and nostalgia for collective memories.
Rebecca Morgan finds inspiration from the Northern Renaissance artists who were “celebrating aspects of everyday life, commemorating the bourgeoisie and honoring the low and rural grit.” She also draws from outsider and American folk art, especially with her ceramic jug-head vessels. These works demonstrate her appreciation for the grotesque, Robert Crumb and the “low art” of MAD Magazine. These influences add layers of humor, perversion and sophistication to her work.
Courtney Puckett’s work seeks to reconcile the perceived inferiority of fiber and craft materials with the assumed superiority of paint, concrete, steel and the still hyper-masculine disciplines of painting and sculpture. What began as an intuitive gravitation away from painting and toward ‘non-traditional’ soft-materials has become a determined attempt to disrupt hierarchical and categorical divisions within art. Weaving, wrapping, knotting, braiding, and sewing are processes for creating detailed, painterly surfaces that transform the mundane, cast-off bric a brac she collects from her Brooklyn neighborhood.
The dyed canvas that serves as the base for Nichole van Beek’s paintings reference patterns found in common fabrics, albeit in a loose and non-specific way. The compositions are derived from letter forms that have been abstracted, duplicated, and/or dimensionalized to the point of being no longer recognizable, allowing for a reading of the space as possible landscapes or still-life objects. In the final works, spatial logic is called into question as the thickest layers, painted last, often represent the background of the image.