Archives for posts with tag: tapestry

Last week I attended really interesting lecture at the Bard Graduate Center by Tristan Weddigen. The talk was entitled “The Warp and Weft of History: Raphael and Le Brun Reflecting on the Textile Medium” and explored the ways tapestries from early modern Europe expressed and reflected the early modern artists intentions, in the same way that painting and sculpture did.

The starting point of the talk was the fact that tapestries were amongst the most expensive and valued works of art on Europe during Renaissance, but that importance isn’t reflected in art theory, either from that time or today. Several examples of tapestries with cartoons from Raphael and Charles LeBrun were discussed, highlighting how tapestries were start mimicking reality, in such a detailed way as paintings. The first examples of a tapestry depicting water reflections, and perspective, and facial expressions come from the 16th century and it is really mesmerizing to think how that result was achieved by weaving with colorful threads.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, part of the 10 tapestries series commissioned by     Leo X for the Sistine Chapel, cartoons by Raphael, 1519

However, what really got my attention was learning that it was around this time too that tapestries started depicting textiles, and clothing, and other tapestries in extreme detail. Take a look, for instance, in this tapestry commissioned by Louis XIV and made at Gobelins, following a cartoon of Charles LeBrun. This tapestry depicts Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins workshop in Paris, and you can see represented another tapestry in the background, draped brocade textiles and voluptuous clothing.

Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins Factory, cartoon by Charles LeBrun, 1673

Imagine the work involved on the creation of these tapestries and it’s not hard to understand why their were so valuable. Also, the fact that a tapestry workshop and the work-in-progress was represented in a tapestry (and the fact the Louis XIV commissioned this work and is represented in it) only reinforces how important tapestries were in the society.  Another good example are the early mentioned Sistine Chapel tapestries, commissioned by Leo X (with cartoons by Raphael), which costed at least 16,000 ducats, and that amount was around five times what Michelangelo was paid for the work in the ceiling. (More on the process of creating a tapestry from the cartoon in this video about the Raphael’s Sistine Tapestries)

What happened since then though? At what moment did we stop acknowledging the creativity, the mastership and all the work involved on the creation of fiber art? What made fiber art lose its status as art, and be sent to the complicated-to-define craft concept?

This lecture made me feel overwhelmed with knowledge (I didn’t even attempt to make a summary of it, knowing that I probably missed great part of the art theory discussion about tapestries and their role in the society and art at that time), but also made me feel that I need to study more, much more.

 

Today I am going to talk a little bit about these beautiful sculpture tapestries created by the genius El Anatsui. Every tapestry is made from tops of evaporated milk tins, rusty metal graters and old printing plates, liquor bottle caps, all gathered in and around Nsukka, Nigeria, where the artist has lived and worked for the last 28 years. All of the cutting, manipulating, and reattaching of these different metals culminate into stunning, visual feasts.  The tapestries’ aesthetics are inspired by traditions of Ghana and Nigeria.


Though his work is based in West African societies and practices the commentary of his work transcends to any society.   “Through their associations, his humble metal fragments provide a commentary on globalization, consumerism, waste and the transience of people’s lives in West Africa and beyond. Their re-creation as powerful and transcendent works of art–many of which recall traditional practices and art forms–suggests as well the power of human agency to alter such harmful patterns.” (from National Museum of African Art)

El Anatsui will be hosting a North American Tour beginning this October.  The show When I Last Wrote To You About Africa will consist of 60 El Anastui’s sculptures which were pulled from public and private collections, and will cover over 40 years of El Anastui’s work.

Tour Dates:

October 2, 2010 to January 2, 2011 – Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

Winter 2011 – Museum for African Art, in New York

November 12, 2011 – February 5, 2012 – The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor

March 8 – June 17, 2012 – The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

September 2 – December 1, 2012 – The Denver Art Museum