An Errant Line, On View for a Limited Time
Lawrence, KS, July 24, 2013 – This spring, the Spencer Museum of Art unveiled the commission of internationally recognized artists Ann Hamilton and Cynthia Schira. In a homecoming of sorts, the artists created large-scale installations inspired by objects in the Spencer Museum’s collection, transforming several of the Museum’s galleries with their vision. An Errant Line, which opened to the public on March 2, remains on view through August 11, 2013. A beautifully illustrated, 160-page catalogue thoroughly documenting the exhibition—with an essay by curator Susan Earle and an interview with the artists by Paris-based author Joan Simon—is forthcoming and expected to be available within a couple of weeks.
Hamilton and Schira’s shared history has shaped An Errant Line, for which the artists, guided by curator Susan Earle, responded to unique objects in the Museum’s collection and distinctive features of the Museum’s architecture. Drawn to legacies of the hand-made found in the Spencer Museum collections, the artists used digital tools to cast a new lens onto the works they photographed, scanned, enlarged, and fragmented. The images culled from these processes became the basis for new works of contemporary art.
The artists’ use of objects in the collection brings new life to historic collections in poetic and unexpected ways. Hamilton’s prints fill the Museum’s Central Court with the haunting presence of the Spencer’s rarely seen 18th-century Italian Presepio figures. Gigantic and at turns in-focus and out-of-focus, images of the figures’ body parts and garments seem to reach— gesturally— across the space, reflecting Hamilton’s interest in the relationship between the visual and the tactile. In the adjacent gallery, Schira’s installation addresses the distinct museum activities of making, preserving, and exhibiting; her labyrinth of monumental black-and-white textiles draws its abstracted imagery from textiles, paintings, and other objects in the Spencer’s collections. The result combines images abstracted from shoe buckles worn by the Presepio figures, hand-written documents, and woven fields of words.
Schira incorporates lines of writing into an enormous field of code on a large, computer-woven Jacquard tapestry. Hamilton uses large digital prints on Japanese Gampi paper and cloth to render miniature objects gigantic. Both artists preserve the tactile intimacy inherent to cloth while working on an architectural scale with the systems and tools of the digital world. Collaborating with current KU students, the artists also honored their former relationship as student and teacher at the University of Kansas, where Ann Hamilton studied fiber arts with Cynthia Schira in the late 1970s.
The Spencer's famed Bechstein piano, played by Franz Liszt in 1886, features prominently in the exhibition. Concealed behind shimmering pink fabric, the piano—when played—seems to serenade the figures in Hamilton’s prints, enlivening both the figures and the space they inhabit. When silent, the shrouded piano lends an eerie stillness to the space, rendering the ghostly figures motionless.
The public is invited to view An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton / Cynthia Schira through Sunday, August 11.
An Errant Line is supported by Art Works grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support comes from Emprise Financial Corporation, Linda Bailey, Dave & Gunda Hiebert, the Estate of Alice E. and Jim Gerstner, the Loomis family, the Kress Foundation Department of Art History, the KU Department of Visual Art, the KU Research Investment Council.
About Ann Hamilton
Ann Hamilton is widely recognized for large-scale, multi-media installations that respond directly to the sites they occupy. Her exhibitions fully immerse viewers in a poetic that is both visceral and literary. She has just completed a Park Avenue Armory installation, which became a cultural phenomenon in New York City, inspiring crowds of people to return daily to the site. She is currently a Distinguished Professor of Art at The Ohio State University. She received a BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University before going on to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, a United States Artists Fellowship, and the Heinz Award. She was chosen to represent the United States at the 1991 Sao Paulo Bienal and at the 1999 Venice Biennale. Her installations have appeared in major museums worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Liverpool in Liverpool, England, and the Contemporary Art Museum in Kumamoto, Japan.
About Cynthia Schira
Cynthia Schira is one of the contemporary textile world’s most influential figures. She was one of the first to fully utilize the potential of computerization for the textile artist. She earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from the University of Kansas, where she taught from 1976 to 1999. She is the recipient of two Craftsman Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2000 she was awarded a Gold Medal from the College of Fellows of the American Craft Council. Her work has been exhibited internationally for over forty years and is represented in major public collections. These include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, the de Young Museum, the Museum Bellerive in Zurich, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Art Institute of Chicago.