Spin A Yarn
November 10, 2023 – March 12, 2024
Claudia Alarcón, Olga de Amaral, Tony Bechara, Chonon Bensho, Feliciano Centurión, DETEXT, Jorge Eielson, Mónica Giron, Sonia Gomes, Sheila Hicks, Jessie Homer French, Huari Culture, Randolpho Lamonier, Julio Le Parc, Dubreus Lherisson, Mónica Millán, Manfred Mohr, Sandra Monterroso, Mulyana, Anna Perach, Rakhi Peswani, Alejandro Puente, Ronny Quevedo, Societé Réaliste, Elena del Rivero, Susan Spangenberg, Pedro Tineo, Georges Valris, Cecilia Vicuña, Yvonne Wells
ANOTHER SPACE is pleased to present Spin A Yarn, a group exhibition exploring the relationship between language and textiles as vehicles for communication. Derived from the Latin word texere, meaning to weave, both text and textiles share a common etymology and function in their ability to convey narratives and preserve knowledge. While Western cultures have historically prioritized the written word, many societies, particularly those in Latin America, have rich traditions of using threads, knots, and woven materials as markers of identity and as a means of passing information from one generation to another. Featuring a selection of mainly fiber artwork by over 25 artists from different regions and periods, spanning ancient Andean civilization to the present, Spin A Yarn examines the critical significance of pre-Hispanic textiles as powerful means of storytelling and cultural expression.
With weavings, embroideries, quilts, Vodou flags, and fiber-based works, the exhibition considers how modern and contemporary artists have drawn upon indigenous textile techniques to reflect on environmental, political or social issues. Whereas some artists, such as Alejandro Puente and Sheila Hicks reference the feather works and weavings of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures to express a newly imagined Modernist language of abstraction, many employ techniques from their ancestors and communities. Argentine artist Mónica Millán, working with Guaraní communities in the Paraguayan town of Yataity del Guairá, advocates for the preservation of Ao Po’i textile traditions, while Chonon Bensho uses Kené, a traditional geometric pattern of the Shipibo-Konibo community in the Peruvian Amazon advocating for the protection of the Amazonian ecosystem.
Artists including Jessie Homer French and Mónica Giron, bring further attention to the environmental crisis, using embroidery and knitting techniques that address climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Giron’s Ajuar para un conquistador (1993-2023), a series of knitwear for endangered birds in Patagonia, acts as a prescient warning against ecological destruction. California-based artist Jessie Homer French and Indonesian artist Mulyana underscore a similarly cautionary perspective reflecting on the effects of global warming and pollution on the west coast of the United States and Indian Ocean respectively. Cecilia Vicuña warns us of the devastating effects of droughts as she brings further attention to ancient Mayan creation myths. As the artist explained, Caracol Azul (Blue Snail) symbolizes the belief that Pawahtun, the god of scripture emerged from a snail, whose light-reflecting secretions were believed to be the first instance of writing.
Many other artists represented use textiles as tools to underscore issues ranging from gender discrimination and racial injustice to gun violence. An openly gay man in an ultra-conservative Paraguayan society, Feliciano Centurión began producing delicately embroidered and crocheted works on humble household fabrics, often-referencing illness, sexuality and death – and especially the toll of his own AIDS in his community. The seemingly playful plastic toy dinosaurs refer to the homosexual community similarly on the verge of extinction. Referencing quilt-making traditions including the 1985 AIDS Memorial quilt that served as a memorial to the lives of people who died of AIDS-related causes, Randolpho Lamonier’s quilts reimagine radical futures in response to Brazil’s right-wing shift and its discriminatory policies towards the country’s queer community.
Social justice is similarly the subject of Yvonne Wells’ monumental quilt A Shadow Over Justice (2004). Both a utilitarian object and a means of memory keeping, the quilt confronts bias in America’s criminal justice system. DETEXT’s Widowmaker (2020-2022), a woven rug made with nearly 30,000 bullet casings, can also be considered a critical commentary on America’s gun industry and policing approaches.
Whereas textiles are finally being recognized institutionally, many artists, particularly those across Latin America, have explored the influence of ancient textiles on modern art for decades. Conceived as an exhibition within the exhibition, the ground floor gallery delves specifically into the relationships between geometric abstraction, early computer-generated art and notions of serial repetition, pattern making and coding intrinsic to weaving.
The same way weavers operate with predetermined patterns and threads, Julio Le Parc and Tony Bechara explore serial repetition of limited sets of colors to create patterns and grids reminiscent of woven surfaces and pixelated screens. Similarly, artists Alejandro Puente and Jorge Eielson investigate the possibilities of knots and cords of different colors as signifiers and forms embedded with information, a direct allusion to ancient quipus, a record-keeping system based on dyed threads devised by the pre-Hispanic Incas of Peru. Quipus are also an important influence on the work of North American artist Sheila Hicks, a central figure in the Fiber Art movement of the 1960s, known for her monumental textile sculptures and large-scale installations. The small, intimate works displayed here, however, offer a glimpse into her engagement with textile practices across Latin America and her interest, as she has repeatedly said, in how “the pre-Incas structured thought with threads, with lines.”
Echoing this notion of encoded information, Manfred Mohr’s P 159B from 1979, presents a sequence of delicately stitched geometric forms reminiscent of an unknown arcane language, generated by algorithms. A leader in the concept of rational aesthetics, Mohr underscores the ancient relationship between textiles and mathematical computer programming.
Although seemingly disparate, computers and textiles share a number of traits in the ways that information is stored and encoded. In fact, looms are precursors to modern computers. Most specifically, the punch cards used in some looms to control the weaving process are the basis of computers’ binary logic. On the other hand, today’s most advanced quantum computers base their processing power on the correlation and entanglements formed by atoms and subatomic particles in ways similar to the strings and knots in ancient quipus. By studying these intersections between textiles, programming and storytelling, Spin A Yarn aims to highlight the significance of textiles in the modernist canon and the profound impact of indigenous and pre-Hispanic textiles on the evolution of modern and contemporary art.
ANOTHER SPACE is a not-for-profit program established by the Daniel and Estrellita B. Brodsky Family Foundation. Founded by art historian and collector Estrellita B. Brodsky, the program is dedicated to building recognition and international awareness of artists from Latin America and its diaspora within a global context.