Thursday, January 03, 2008

Pricked, deeply...

Through the eye of the needle a thread flows. It dips and flutters, Ginger to the needle's Fred. In this packed exhibit the needlework arts are exploded. From Emily Hermant's lying booth --embroidered fabrications, delicately impaled on the curved walls (construct your [virtual] own inside)-- to Andrea Dezsö's comically stiched exhortations (courtesy of a superstitious Transylvanian mother), there is crispness, lyricism, pathos, and mirth. In "Afro Abe II" Sonya Clark pimps a real five-dollar bill, endowing Lincoln with a gargantuan 'fro. The french-knotted yarn extendes above and beyond the note. Dig. Actually, Clark is examining identity, as hair contains DNA. Uh, you don't need to know that to appreciate the work. The image can be enough, and I think it should be on a t-shirt.
Another play on the familiar are the worked panels of Marcia Docter. "Well Behaved Girls" codas with "Rarely Make History": Marilyn's skirt is abreeze, the icon wears Liberty's crown. "Don't Fuck With Me" shows a feisty Liberty (popular gal), one sleeve rolled up, and the threat "I have PMS and I'm armed" sewn at the bottom. A needle and thread are stuck into the margin of the piece. Sharp and knowing but no Steinway grand; more design than art (sniff sniff). (Um, what's the name of this museum again?)
No embroidery exhibit is complete without something by Angelo Filomeno. When this Dante of the zigzag hits his machine, collectors swoon. His work is instantly identifiable and never disappoints. What the hell this guy is on, I don't know (Albrecht Dürer, for starters), but his imagery is simultaneously flamboyant and macabre: in "Death of Blinded Philoslopher," a talon pierces a scull's eye socket, out of this vacancy spews a veritable aria of red swirls, tendrils, beetles, flowers, all hushed by red dragonflies. All sewn on iridescent-silver silk shantung. Is it over the top? Define "top"...
Another artist who draws with thread is Shizuko Kimura. Working from live models, she captures the sitter with minute, spare stitches, but the defining curve of thread isn't anchored. This gives the work an uncanny quality, quiet yet somehow amazing;the result lies somewhere between the Renaissance and Alexander Calder. She really deserves to be showing at the Drawing Center.
Taking the stain to a higher place: pinpoint it and embroider it, embellish the splaccident in screaming colors, give it a posterized feel. "Imagery of contamination" becomes the center of attention and another in the dept. of why didn't I think of of that? Thank you, Nava Lubelski, for mainlining humor into the lower level of this show, and allowing this viewer to exit with a face contorted from supressed guffaws (that's why writers carry notebooks).

Pricked: Extreme Embroidery, at the Museum of Arts and Design
40 W. 53 st.
through March 9

images, from top:
Sonya Clark, American, born 1967
Afro Abe II, 2007
Hand-embroidered, French knotted thread on five dollar bill
Overall: 3 1/4 x 6 1/4 in. (8.3 x 15.9 cm)
Collection of the artist

Angelo Filomeno, Italian, born 1963
Death of Blinded Philosopher, 2006
Embroidery on silk shantung, linen, crystals
42 x 122 in. (106.7 x 309.9 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York
Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Shizuko Kimura, Japanese, born 1936
Models in New York (detail), 2006
Hand-embroidered cotton, silk and synthetic thread on muslin
Overall: 8 ft. 2 3/8 in. x 43 5/16 in. (2.49 m x 110 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Snyderman Works Galleries, Philadelphia

Nava Lubelski, American, born 1968
Side Dish, 2004
Hand-embroidered thread on ink-stained cotton canvas
Overall: 12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm)
Collection of the Art Bar Project, Ithica, NY