In This Issue: Material Experience

By Rodenbeck, Judith F. | Art Journal, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

In This Issue: Material Experience


Rodenbeck, Judith F., Art Journal


The haptic, the critic Laura U. Marks has suggested, forms "an underground visual tradition," often overlooked or bypassed. This issue of Art Journal concerns itself with aspects of this underground tradition, with modes of art-making in which the experience of the work is radically invested in its materiality and fabrication: "minor" mediums such as textiles and prints, "alternative" materials like bottle caps and human hair.

Shinique Smith's work deftly combines formal complexity and urban vernacular. With the art historian Kymberly Pinder, she discusses the "frenetic meditation" of her practice in a conversation that ranges from Japanese calligraphy to the globalized circulation of used clothing. Complex textuality is also the subject of Elaine Reichek's remediation of the traditional sampler. As Paula Birnbaum's essay demonstrates, Reichek embroiders on the twinned and gendered histories of weaving and the computer. The art historian T'ai Smith presents a finely detailed analysis of the Bauhaus weaver Otti Berger's struggles with autonomy, recognition, authorship, and patent law in the context of the Dessau school's inconsistently deployed ethos of anonymous design. Our cover artist, El Anatsui, like Berger, is best known for a "textile" production that uses industrial materials. Quite unlike Berger, though, Anatsui's brilliant tapestries are singular projects constructed from the cast-off detritus of mass consumption in a process that he discusses in depth with Laura James. …

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