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Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction at LACMA


When we speak about abstraction, we often think about paintings that rejected the formalism, figuration, and representation of their forebearers to pursue bold new nonrepresentational forms on canvas. Less talked about are the parallel lineages that have influenced abstraction’s history (no art genre is an island!). LACMA’s woven history does just that, charting a course through fiber’s long history and drawing parallels to abstraction’s progressions. Yet, the exhibition also insists on fiber art as a key medium of artistic exploration, spanning works from 1913 to 2023, charting not just a connection to abstraction but also a kind of interlaced history of fiber artists that is very much alive and well today. 

Historic artists like Anni Albers and Rosemarie Trockel bookend the show with contemporary fiber artists like Diedrick Brackens and Jeffrey Gibson. And, while the show largely focuses on American artists, there is an international scope and a handful of lovely discoveries (like Igshaan Adams, a contemporary South African artist who mixes strands of beads into his colorful weavings. 

The exhibition feels aligned with trends toward craft and fibers in the art market. However, exhibitions like this one — that trace the histories and influence of recent market-friendly mediums like fibers — create invaluable context for the long arc of the medium (which predates its current market ascendance).

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Photo: Installation photo of the exhibition Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sep 17, 2023 – Jan 21, 2024, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA