Sheila Hicks is in the news, this fall, showing work at the Whitney, at the Drawing Center, and with the reworking of her tapestries for the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation tapestries were designed in 1967 and consist of over 1000 honey colored medallions of yarn that had deteriorated over the years. The tapestries, which she agreed to reconstruct, were done in her Paris studio. Taking over a year to construct, the tapestries were unveiled in October of this year.
Happily there are some wonderful books that show the amazing extent of her work. There is the beautiful book designed by Irma Boom, Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor showing Hick’s miniature weavings done (over 50 years) on a homemade picture-frame loom. She constructed over a thousand of these weavings and 195 are reproduced in this book. This book is like visiting a small gallery that is held in the viewer’s hands. The essay “Frames of Reference” by Joan Simon explains how the frames for these pieces were constructed and the importance of the work over the years.
There is a wonderful little catalogue produced by the New York Drawing Center for the show “Thread Lines” which encompasses work by 16 contemporary textile artists; Sheila Hicks is one of them. Drawing Papers 118 has an essay by curator Joanna Kleinberg Romanow exploring the connection between textile artists and line.
The comprehensive monograph, Sheila Hicks: 50 Years, by Joan Simon and Susan C. Faxon, accompanies the first major retrospective of Hicks’s work, organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art. This book explores the full spectrum of the artist’s work. Particularly interesting is the book’s exploration of the cultural and historical origins of her weavings/sculptures. This book is lavishly illustrated with 174 color and 76 black-and-white illustrations.
One of the best new books is called The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth: Ancient Threads/New Directions by Elena Phipps.
This book, by the Fowler Museum, explores the history of this cloth showing plates of antique fragments. But the book also shows, in full-page plates, contemporary use of the technique by Sheila Hicks and James Bassler. Both Hicks and Bassler were greatly influenced by seeing historical examples of the Peruvian cloth. Hicks’s and Bassler’s work are stunning examples of the Andean weaving technique. While other books discuss the early travel and study done by Sheila Hicks, this book includes the influence of Andean textiles on James Bassler. More about Bassler’s work can be found in magazine articles and smaller catalogues. How could you not love an artist who creates a “Trader Joe’s Bag” (shown in this book) made out of twisted paper, silk, woven embroidered, all-selvaged? Hopefully there will be a book produced on his life and work. Another wonderful example of one of his tapestries is featured on the back of this important book.