The exhibition Texture: Hicks, Rydingsvard, Amaral, Hansen Oldham, currently on show at New York City’s Dickinson Roundell, brings together works by four artists, active from the late 1950s through the present day, and celebrates their diverse use of texture and fabric. Prayer Rug (1972) is the exhibition’s focal point. Woven by Sheila Hicks (b. 1934), it is one of a pair of wool prayer rugs woven by Hicks—one red, one parchment—that were part of a series of prayer rugs she made during the 1960s and 1970s. Prayer Rug is joined by work from Colombian textile artist Olga de Amaral (b. 1932) known for works that bring together diverse materials, such as gold and silver leaf, horsehair and linen, and work from sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard (b. 1942) who creates large-scale work from natural materials such as Book with no words II (2017) where carved cedar is united with a horsetail of linen bookmarks. Millennial Elsa Hansen Oldham (b. 1986) is represented by her cross stitch 8-bit avatars.
MoMA New York owns Hicks’ parchment-coloured Prayer Rug. They describe her influence for the work as ‘arch forms common to … Islamic architecture’. Architecture does influence Hicks, but her design more closely echoes a traditional Islamic prayer rug. A rectangular work with a shouldered mihrab niche, Hicks made the dozens of chunky tassels by cutting long weft floats and tightly wrapping each tassel at midpoint with shiny thread. The densely tasselled mihrab becomes a woven version of tessellation, and its dimensionality is deliberately contrasted with smooth weft faced weave around the niche. Hicks’ weaves are included in Centre Pompidou’s Elles font l’abstraction (until 23 August 2021); an overdue retrospective of women abstractionists.
Olga de Amaral can be likened to William Shakespeare’s line from Timon of Athens: ‘You are an Alchemist, make Gold of that.’ She does. Her feats of woven alchemy often feature gold and silver leaf as burnished weaves woven with references to various weaving cultures such as those of South American indigenous peoples. Not all her work appears like a precious metal discovery from Colombia’s mythical city of El Dorado. She is represented in Texture with 5 Grafitos (2013), a linen, gesso and acrylic work whose blackened and leather-like appearance makes it look like an artefact from an ancient bog burial. Her touring retrospective ‘To Weave a Rock’ is at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston until 19 September 2021.
Known for her monumental cedar sculptures, Ursula von Rydingsvard is represented in Texture by two works: Untitled (2012) and Untitled (2013), each a construction of threads and pigment on handmade linen paper. Similar to de Amaral’s 5 Grafitos, both Untitled works have an air of burial treasure; the shroud-like blackness and uneven edges are lifted by enigmatic translucency and script-like surfaces. The artist is the subject of the 2020 documentary ‘Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own’, described by a critic as a film that captures and evokes the sense of touch.
Texture is incidental rather than featured in the work of cross stitch artist Elsa Hansen Oldham. She acknowledges the source for her tiny 8-bit figures is cult British artist Craig Robinson’s itsy bitsy retro computer 8-bit character pixelated Minipop avatars he first created in the late 1990s. The appeal of 8-bit avatars is their limited capacity for detail and staggered outlines. 8-bit figures are players in the current Non Fungible Token (NFT) digital gold rush. Sotheby’s sold 8-bit Covid Alien in June 2021 for US$10M. Hansen Oldman’s tableaus, portraits and quilted works are peopled with 8-bit famous people organised in word play groups such as William of Orange + John Peel + Andy Warhol banana or Buffy Sainte Marie and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also creates larger homage groups such as one dedicated to notable Black Americans.
Texture is open at Dickinson Roundell in New York until 3 September 2021.