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No Boundaries: Contemporary Basketry
October 21 - December 18, 2004
Basketry is widely accepted as the oldest known form of craft. Since ancient times people have constructed baskets to fill specific needs: to collect, carry, display, or store. Through the centuries, the basket has remained an integral part of daily life in many cultures. Even in contemporary western society, awash in high-tech gadgetry, nothing has yet replaced the wastebasket, the picnic basket, and the shopping basket: low-tech but essential articles.
The work of some of the most innovative American basketry artists is on view in No Boundaries. The exhibition comprises approximately 30 works by 12 artists -- most from the United States and one from Japan.
Viewing their works evokes the history and provides a glimpse of the future of basketmaking. Historically, baskets have been woven for an amazing range of utilitarian needs as well as for decorative purposes, as ceremonial objects, or as works of art. The materials, shape, and form of baskets have had a direct relationship with nature. Basket forms can be found in a bird's nest, a spider's web, or a beaver's dam.
Basket makers have traditionally used materials from their environments: cane, bamboo, and palm leaves in warm climates; and willow bark, wood, roots, and grasses in cold climates. The basket makers in this exhibition have continued this tradition by incorporating materials from their surroundings, including electrical wire, handmade paper, copper, fine silver, or steel. For example, in Basket #67, composed of perforated steel strapping, electrical wire, an unidentified metal part, screws, and nuts, Rob Dobson works from the premise that "anything flexible becomes fair game." Dobson uses found, salvaged, and industrial materials to create a highly unusual and nontraditional basket. To augment the basket, the artist transforms these found objects into decorative materials, trusting a particular repetitive technique to give the piece rhythm and integrity.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, contemporary basket makers began to explore sculptural expression rather than domestic, farm, or industrial uses. Artists became more focused upon space, volume, surface, texture, line, or new materials. Hisako Sekijima's A Form Recovered perfectly expresses this idea. Sekijima is considered a quintessential basket maker and sculptor. Rather than making vessels to hold items or to serve as decorative objects, Sekijima is concerned with elements fundamental to an artist's work-mass, volume, shape, line, and negative and positive space. Using plants that are irregular and unpredictable (in this case linden, zelkova, and hackberry branches) she "either builds up or fractures volume" in her work.
Still other artists in the exhibition incorporate figurative or narrative themes in their artwork. All included in No Boundaries: Contemporary Basketry combine the rich history of basket making with a wide range of new materials and an abundance of imaginative ideas. These works go beyond the boundaries of conventional use and enthusiastically present basket making in a new artistic way.
The twelve artists in No Boundaries: Contemporary Basketry investigate a wide range of techniques, styles and inspirations. Six artists in the exhibition have been making baskets for over twenty years and have made significant contributions to the contemporary basketry community. Each of the established artists was asked to choose an artist from the next generation of basket makers who is exploring innovative and exciting directions in contemporary basket making. All the artists combine traditional weaving techniques with new methods of construction, often using highly unconventional materials to create thought-provoking objects and abstract sculptures. In the process, they transform the everyday into the exotic.
Beth Ann Gerstein
For the past quarter century, artists have been taking the simple basket form and pushing it to new and exciting directions. The artists in No Boundaries: Contemporary Basketry, opening October 21 and ending December 18, 2004, at the J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries have invented new methods of construction, often using highly unconventional materials, and have transformed the everyday into the exotic.
The 12 artists in No Boundaries have turned the familiar form of the basket into objects infused with content and meaning, creating both utilitarian and nonutilitarian vessels, even abstract sculptures. The exhibition includes 30 works that challenge the viewer to think about baskets not just as functional objects, but rather, as engaging works of art. For the past quarter century, contemporary artists have been taking the simple basket form and pushing it in new and exciting directions. No Boundaries features basketry fashioned from media as disparate as willow, electrical wire, grapefruit peel, and aluminum scrap metal.
No Boundaries: Contemporary Basketry is organized by The Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, the oldest nonprofit crafts organization in the country and a leader in the American crafts movement at the turn of the last century. The exhibition is toured under the auspices of ExhibitsUSA and curated by Beth Ann Gerstein, Executive Director, The Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Massachusetts.
ExhibitsUSA, Mid-America Arts Alliance's national museum service division, reaches more than one million visitors in more than 100 communities across the United States each year with a broad range of touring exhibitions. These exhibitions travel to museums, libraries, and galleries of all shapes and sizes throughout the country. ExhibitsUSA's mission is to create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities.
On February 6, 2004, No Boundaries: Contemporary Basketry, opened at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa, Calif. Upon closing in Napa on May 3, No Boundaries continued to travel across the country. A full schedule is provided below.
Editor's note: See the related ExhibitsUSA page for the exhibition checklist and a slideshow.
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