criticismExhibitions
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

In Stitches at Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery


November 12 to December19
39 East 78th Street, Third Floor, at Madison Avenue
New York City, 212 249 7695

Ghada Amer, Painting to Trini’s 2006. Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 78 x 63 inches. Private collection, New York

Ghada Amer, Painting to Trini’s 2006. Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 78 x 63 inches. Private collection, New York

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hair Suit 2009. Lamb skin, dyed human hair weave, thread, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery, New York

Pooneh Maghazehe, Hair Suit 2009. Lamb skin, dyed human hair weave, thread, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery, New York

In Stitches, the ambitious group exhibition at the Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery, is open until December 19. We need all the time we can get to grasp its many facets.This survey includes artists from very different geographic and professional backgrounds, united by the medium of stitching, broadly defined.

Ghada Amer’s Painting to Trini’s (2006) is one of most poignant pieces in the show. The artist’s use of thread is visually abstracted yet somehow anthropomorphic through the engagement of simple colors and forms: the painting has a weight that seems to be gravitating from the ceiling towards the floor, reminiscent of a hunched person. The three-dimensionality of the threads strips the painting of any remnants of pictorial illusion, interacting instead with the viewer’s space. The assumed fragility and the disconnectedness of the threads transform this relatively large painting into a precious, private object.

Pooneh Maghazehe’s sculpture, Hair Suit (2009), is positioned on the floor in a way that accentuates its intimacy. The use of threads and the half-exposed wire mannequin seem to belong to someone whose space has just been invaded, lending the piece a voyeuristic pleasure. There is a  disturbing element in this object that looks as if caught in arrested transformation. The sculpture reveals itself slowly but with increasing punch; the vibrantly colored yarn, projecting into the viewer’s space, seems at first ominous yet reveals itself to be innocuous, an engaging contradiction.

Tracey Emin, 4 x OH 2005. Embroidery on fabric, 10-3/4 x 13 inches, framed.  Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

Tracey Emin, 4 x OH 2005. Embroidery on fabric, 10-3/4 x 13 inches, framed. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

Tracey Emin’s 4 x OH and She Did What is a much more conceptual take on the medium of stitching. Emin created pieces of fabric that are scarcely decorated, reminiscent of the artist’s smaller drawings. Emin appropriates the craft of stitching, most commonly associated with women, and subverts the medium to challenge notions of femininity and social constructs of gender. The rudimentary skill level of her stitching arguably furthers Emin’s critique of delineated gender roles.

Andy Warhol’s Outdoor Bench (1976-86) is loosely connected to the rest of the show and – Warhol being Warhol – it is impossible to disregard the implications of having this piece next to the other artists. The four silver-gelatin prints, stitched to each other by thread, is a deviation from the mass-produced methods that Warhol usually employed. The punctures on the gelatin silver prints turn these photographs into worthless objects or reproductions that Warhol haphazardly puts together. The domestic implications of the stitching transform this relatively small Warhol piece into more of a private object, involving the artist and his hand in a way that seems to contradict Warholian principles.

The dense hang of this exhibition style is determined by limitations of a small gallery space housing so many pieces and yet one feels the organizers could have taken fuller advantage of the creative license of a salon hang. The over-saturated space is somehow not full enough and the arrangement of the pieces is not exactly eloquent. Although there are definitely metaphorical as well as formal threads in the show, none of these threads are pushed to their ultimate limits. The show, including works from over fifty artists, is not dissimilar to a game of hopscotch, skipping around without ever getting to  homebase.


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