Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rachel Hayes @ OUTLET, Brooklyn, NY

OUTLET, Brooklyn, NY

A brief history
(the Amazigh word for “I weave”) places the unique weaving traditions of Moroccan artisans in conversation with works of contemporary art by four artists working in various ways with textile. Differing from the more popularly seen patterns of Persian rugs, Moroccan rugs are noted for their more abstract characteristics with occasional asymmetric styling and colors. Yet, these tribal rugs have long had a voice in the history of modern and contemporary art, with some of the first being the Beni Ouarain rugs used by the architect Le Corbusier (1887 – 1965) in his highly modern interiors. While, there are many different weave styles and patterns of rugs which vary depending on their intended use and tribe, the more contemporary Boucherouite rugs made of recycled materials have recently risen to prominence in the West because of their abstract, post-modern, and painterly qualities. Yet, at their root, Moroccan rugs, past and present, are objects of utility with weave and style depending on their function. From the tight flat weaves of the Sahara to the large pile weave of the much colder Atlas Mountains, these rugs are important objects for use in the home and serve as markers of historic and cultural identity.
In this way they pair perfectly with the works of Brece Honeycutt, whose own research-based work is an investigation into forgotten histories. Her most recent work is a series of unfolded eco-prints made from repurposed cast-off textiles dyed naturally from plants gathered from the land around her studio in Western Massachusetts. While dying these textiles she folds leaves and other materials to create natural prints. Much as many of the patterns used by Amazigh weavers have specific referents to the locations and histories of the peoples that made them, Honeycutt’s works spark a conversation about the history of the textile object and the living present of the environment around her.
Similarly, media installation artist Robin Kang’s work investigates the coded structure of society and the visual language of textiles. Robin’s work functions as an abstract weaving of memories involving sociopolitical systems, in particular the mechanization of craft and culture. Her work references the relationships between ancient processes like textile creation and present ones like manufacturing electronics, while questioning the process of making and the materiality of experience. This focus makes Kang’s work particularly relevant given increasing demands for Amazigh weavers to adopt “Western” lives and livelihoods and the messy relationships of power between nations that have led to the creation of rugs like Boucherouites that are crafted from castoff material.
Samantha Bittman’s paintings also draw on the ancient process of weaving. Her optical symmetries and mathematical patterns harken more to the flat weaves of the Sahara. However, she uses weaving as a starting point, or even a subject, to make paintings about merging the image, materiality, topography, and the painting support itself. Often acrylic on hand-woven textile, her works seem to vibrate and move with an underlying invented logic. More interested in the patterns that arise from inherent mathematics of weaving, she builds upon her base layers in ways that both accentuate and obscure the weave as a visual component of work.
In the objects that Rachel Hayes creates, she seeks to find a natural balance between fragility and power. Her meticulously composed constructions of multicolored materials like glass, fabric, plastic, paint, wire, and light gels, often invade space with a distinctly architectural sensibility. Drawing on their environments, these patchwork constructions breathe new life into both the
repurposed materials of their composition and the settings they illuminate. Hayes’s bright colors and free flowing forms suggest a visual relationship to contemporary Moroccan styling while the works’ construction from many pieced together elements also evoke the kind of visual texture found in Boucherites. With Hayes, scale and color consume the space, and yet there is an equilibrium to be found in the delicately sewn stitches and understated shadows, often as much a part of her work as the objects themselves.
Kantara is a design business specializing in hand-woven rugs and home furnishings, directly sourced from women’s weaving cooperatives in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Kantara grew out of our love for the art and design of Moroccan textiles. We were inspired by the tenacity of the women weavers in rural Morocco and their commitment to preserving an art form that goes back generations. However, while Morocco is known for being a liberal Muslim country with tourist-friendly cities, such as Marrakech and Fez, in the countryside women weavers have little contact with those who ultimately buy their products. Because of the women’s lack of mobility and access to the business world, urban middlemen have come to control the demand of carpets, obtaining the pieces for a fraction of what their market value should be, only to resell them at high-priced urban markets. With the prices offered by these middlemen, the artisans are barely able to pay for their materials, let alone receive compensation for their time and creativity. This market dynamic affects not only the women but also their families as it perpetuates the cycle of poverty and child labor in rural Morocco.
JOHN SILVIS is a Brooklyn-based artist and curator. He received his MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna and has received numerous grants and awards, including a commission for the Essl Collection in Vienna. Silvis’ recent art research has taken him to Beijing, Berlin and Zurich. Some recent exhibitions include “Crashcourse IV,” Norte Maar, “What I Know,” NYCAMS, New York (2012), “Crashcourse III,” Olson Gallery, Bethel University, MN (2012), and “Goodbye Space Shuttle,” Active Space, Brooklyn (2011). His recent curatorial projects include “New. New York,” Essl Museum, Vienna (2012), “1000 Rainbows,” Lia Chavez, First Things Gallery, New York (2012), and “Life Drawing,” Joshua Cave, First Things Gallery, New York (2013) and a forthcoming exhibition “With Love from Brooklyn” at the FADA Gallery at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa (2014). 

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