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Maryland Institute College of Art opens Lenore Tawney H’92 exhibition

Submitted by on December 10, 2012 – 8:32 am

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) honors Lenore Tawney H’92 (1907-2007), a leading figure in the contemporary fiber arts movement, with an exhibition on view from Friday, Dec. 7 to Sunday, March 17, 2012.

Lenore Tawney with The Crossing, 1998, courtesy Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, photo: George Erml.

Lenore Tawney: Wholly Unlooked For. Coordinated in conjunction with the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, two art and design colleges will display complementary aspects of Tawney’s work this winter: MICA will present her line-based objects while University of the Arts in Philadelphia will highlight her paper-focused pieces.

The MICA exhibition, co-curated by fiber chair Piper Shepard and faculty member Susie Brandt, will feature approximately 30 drawings, weavings, sculptures and installations produced throughout Tawney’s career, while the University of the Arts exhibition will highlight Tawney’s collages, drawings, books and postcards. “By presenting parallel exhibitions at MICA and the University of the Arts, each with an emphasis on different aspects of Lenore Tawney’s work, we can focus on her expansive practice,” Shepard said.

MICA will exemplify the range of Tawney’s loom explorations through nine weavings. The earliest example, from the 1950s, followed traditional tapestry techniques. However, two weavings on display from later that decade reveal how her work shifted from densely woven works to light gossamer constructions, in which she began “drawing” with threads on the loom and moved away from figurative imagery to abstraction. In the 1960s, she began a groundbreaking body of work she called “woven forms,” which involved manipulating the loom as never seen before in the modern era and established her as a pioneer in exploring new approaches to fiber art.

Making its first public showing in more than 20 years, another exhibition highlight will be Tawney’s Scripture in Stone, installed in Brown Center’s Leidy Atrium. The use of black canvas and linen threads sets this 14-foot square piece apart from other works in Tawney’s Cloud Sculpture series of hanging works, each comprising thousands of individually knotted threads. With Scripture in Stone, Tawney plays on her favorite “circle in the square” theme, seen throughout the exhibition, on an architectural scale.

Tawney made discoveries through her work by engaging in immersive processes, such as weaving, writing, knotting and collaging. Her life and work involved acts of gathering, sorting, building up and paring down of materials. Lenore Tawney: Wholly Unlooked For will provide the first public showing of studio materials and personal belongings inspiring the artist. Both exhibition locations will offer a glimpse into the artist’s daily life and work by showcasing items, such as studio collections, handmade garments and photographs.

“To be an artist, you must be brave,” Tawney said at MICA’s 1992 Commencement ceremony during which she received an honorary degree. “You can’t let yourself be scared by a blank sheet of drawing paper or a white canvas. But what you put on that paper or canvas must come from your deepest self, from a place you do not even know.”

MICA’s long relationship with Tawney began when she received the honorary degree and presented a solo exhibition at the College, both in 1992. “During this relationship, we developed a great appreciation for her art, her spirit and her approach to artmaking,” MICA President Fred Lazarus IV said. “After her death, we have been delighted to continue working with the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation to not only carry on her legacy, but to inspire young fiber artists with her processes and perspectives as an artist. This exhibition is a key component of that partnership.” The Lenore G. Tawney Foundation created a scholarship for MICA fiber students in 2006.

Born in Ohio, Tawney was an American artist whose pioneering work revolutionized fiber arts and who became well known for her collage and assemblage work. Tawney attended the Institute of Design, Chicago, where she studied with Hungarian painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy and Ukrainian-American Cubist/constructivist sculptor Alexander Archipenko. She later studied tapestry with Finnish weaver Martta Taipale at Penland School of Crafts, N.C. In 1957, she moved to New York and established her first studio at Coenties Slip. The community of artists she was among there in her early years included Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin, Jack Youngerman and Ellsworth Kelly.

Tawney’s work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design, all in New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Montréal; the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.; and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, among other museums, universities and private collections.

For details about the University of the Arts exhibition and visitor information, visit uarts.edu

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