International Group of Contemporary Artists Explores Textiles as Medium in New Exhibition at CAC Cincinnati

(CINCINNATI, OH) – Unraveled: Textiles Reconsidered, a special exhibition of 22 works by artists using textile craft techniques and cloth materials as a primary medium, opens at the CAC on April 22, 2016.

Adrian Esparza. Cassiopeia, 2016. Unraveled sarape, nails, wood. Photo courtesy the artist.

Adrian Esparza. Cassiopeia, 2016. Unraveled sarape, nails, wood. Photo courtesy the artist.

The international roster includes Mexican-American artist Adrian Esparza, Icelandic artist Hildur Bjarnadottir, Norwegian artist Kari Steihaug, and Hong Kong native Ying Kit Chan. The exhibition features artists who deconstruct various forms of text and textiles to reinvent the ordinary. Everyday objects such as clothing, rugs, bed sheets, and blankets are taken apart, rebuilt, and re-imagined to create alternative readings and interpretations. The reconstruction employs processes traditionally associated with textiles-weaving, embroidering, printing, folding, stacking, unraveling, cutting, and sewing-to realize unexpected outcomes. The exhibition also includes work by Noel Anderson (based in Cincinnati), Lisa Anne Auerbach, Margarita Cabrera, Mark Richard Smith, and Marie Watt.

CAC Director and Chief Curator Raphaela Platow said, “The CAC consistently mounts thematic exhibitions of national and international importance showcasing work by both established and emerging artists from the region and from around the globe. The range of works on view in Unraveled: Textiles Reconsidered provides our visitors with a window onto the extraordinary variety of processes, materials, and works of art being produced today. Now that we are able to offer free admission to the galleries thanks to a generous gift from The Johnson Foundation and CAC’s The 50, we look forward to welcoming even more members of the community and visitors to the Contemporary Arts Center.”

Esparza is creating an artwork for the exhibition from a blue Mexican sarape (blanket) that references the Cincinnati Incline – an inclined railway in active use between 1872 and 1948. In another local nod, its title “Dawn” is borrowed from the name of the dishwashing soap made by Procter & Gamble, a company headquartered in Cincinnati. Esparza will put the finishing touches on “Dawn” during the opening reception so that visitors can bear witness to his process. It involves unwinding a common acrylic Mexican blanket into a single thread from which Esparza creates a hard-edged wall “drawing.”

Bjarnadottir presents her deceased grandmother’s trousers after she has unraveled them then rolled the thread into a single ball to create a poetic memorial. Chan constructs abstractions of Chinese characters from cut and torn bed sheets masked in black gesso.

Steihaug activates the soaring ceilings of the CAC’s 2nd floor gallery with a large hanging installation by unraveling existing garments and combining their thread into a singular vestment hovering high above. Watt, who is part Native American, creates a winding tower of blankets that evokes both the commercial heritage of these trading items and the deadly aspect of their role spreading disease to unsuspecting Native Americans. A new work by Watt refers to marker trees that were once created by Native Americans in Ohio. By bending saplings into unconventional shapes, the mature trees later served as directional markers or sign-posts for important places.

Kate Bonansinga, Director of the School of Art at the University of Cincinnati and curator of the exhibition, said, “The artists in Unraveled: Textiles Reconsidered repurpose cloth and transform its message. They instigate an object-oriented conversation between what their material once was and what it has become; their proactive role in that conversion means that action becomes authorship. The artists identify clothing, bed sheets, floor coverings, and/or popular phrases as worthy of notice, and then reinvent them without losing the essence of their source. Through this process they explore verbal and visual language to probe memory and the past, and to create new meaning.”

Public programs planned for the exhibition, feature a panel discussion moderated by Kate Bonansinga of artists from the exhibition including Esparza, Smith, Chan, Steihaug, and Watt at 7 pm on April 22. Kate Bonansinga will offer an exhibition tour on June 11, at 2 pm. A World Wide Knit-In will take place on June 18, directed by members of the Bombshells, a fiber artist collaborative whose members will teach knitting basics. Workshops led by artist and University of Cincinnati art professor, Jenny Ustick, will be held at 2 pm on July 8 and 16. Fiber-related activities for children will be offered as part of the CAC’s Thursday Art Play program. For more information on programs visit