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Bookshelf: By Hand

From the meat dress mentioned here to the sock monkey dress here, I’m going to keep the craft theme alive with a look at the new book By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art. In the catalogue for the UK Crafts Council’s 2004 exhibition Boys Who Sew, curator Janice Jeffries defines the term […]

byhand.jpgFrom the meat dress mentioned here to the sock monkey dress here, I’m going to keep the craft theme alive with a look at the new book By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art. In the catalogue for the UK Crafts Council’s 2004 exhibition Boys Who Sew, curator Janice Jeffries defines the term ” to craft”:

As a verb, though, “to craft” seemingly means to participate in some small-scale process. This implies several things. First, it affirms the results of involved work. This is not some kind of detached activity… To craft is to care… [It] implies working on a personal scale–acting locally in reaction to anonymous, globalized, industrial production…

Artists that come to mind immediately are Robert Gober, who hand-makes replicas of everything from a kitchen sink to tissue boxes, and Kiki Smith, who’s featured in By Hand. That book, inspired in party by Jeffries’ definition, features innovative and unexpected uses of craft in contemporary art, accompanied by first-person statements by each artist. One such artist is Rob Conger whose art–latch-hook rugs like the ones he made as a youth–focuses frequently on the mediated dreams of money: he’s done yarn homages to lottery lines, The Price is Right, and Alan Greenspan, to name a few. (“We confuse our desire for beauty with our desire for money,” he writes.)

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Rob Conger’s The Big Wheel, woven acrylic thread on quarter-inch mesh, 1999

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Rob Conger, Powerball Line, woven acrylic yarn on quarter-inch canvas mesh, 1998

Not unlike Kara Walker’s transformation of the stately craft of black-paper silhouettes into shocking exposes on race and gender, Kent Hendricksen takes found tapestries and embroiders in ropes and hoods “turning light-hearted

innocence into dark vignettes of sadism and emotional aggression.”

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Kent Henricksen, Lady Lovers (The Secret), embroidery thread on woven fabric mounted on wood, 2004

Robyn Love, whose guerrilla knitting projects have included a gravestone cozy, created a Memorials project, in which she knit what she felt were missing elements of objects and structures like a bus shelter and World War I statue. “My cozies were intended to obscure the thing that was already obscuring the original person or event.”

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Memorial: The Doughboy (installed in Doughboy Plaza, Woodside, NY), knit wool, 1999

  • MC Dildey says:

    The first instance I’d ever heard of using “craft” techniques in the fine art context was Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” which not only used different stichery methods (for the table runner at each place setting) and porcelain painting (for, obviously, the plates) but also used “crafters” themselves to do much of the stichery. It was a commentary on gender issues in fine art in an era consumed with, among other issues, gender equality.

  • dta says:

    Wow. Any idea as to where we can see some of Conger’s work in person?

  • Paul says:

    No idea, but I’ll dig around online.

  • Mixed Greens gallery in New York City represents Rob Conger’s work. You can either check it out on our website (www.mixedgreens.com), or stop by the gallery to see his work in person. 531 West 26th Street, 1st floor, NYC. Feel free to call or email with questions: info@mixedgreens.com 212.331.8888. Hope this was helpful!

  • melissa says:

    This is a perfect way of defacing racist personalities of colonial history who are remembered to this day as contributors to society. Thanks for the idea.

    cheers from Halifax, NS.