Discover the beauty of stretching, wounding and arranging one of the most versatile art mediums.
You might be more familiar with embroidery, crochet or even wounding threads around a specifically arranged set of nails to form certain shapes or abstract geometric patterns. Despite some overlaps in technique, string as an art medium has a wide range of applications with decades of iconic historical highlights – from Marcel Duchamp’s surrealistic installation, “Sixteen Miles of String”, where he covered the exhibition space with miles of yarn, to the controversial David Wojnarowicz who sewed his mouth shut in the painful performance video titled “A Fire in My Belly”.
Contemporary artists continue to feel inspired by the versatile and strong quality of various strings and use different ways to convey their ideas and imaginations. For example, Japanese artist Akiko Ikeuchi favors silk threads to create delicate hanging sculptures, while Brian Wills presents rayon threads in linear strokes to build geometric compositions that can pass as paintings at a glance.
Gabriel Dawe combines color combination with spatial experiences, ensuring that different angles offer different visual perspectives of his work. His “Plexus” series are site-specific installations which give the illusion of transparent hues, when in reality they are thin threads that have been meticulously arranged. They explore the connection between fashion and architecture and how they relate to the human need for shelter in all its shapes and forms. His work is centered on the exploration of textiles, aiming to examine the complicated construction of gender and identity in his native Mexico while subverting the notions of masculinity and machismo that are still prevalent in the present day. When dismantled, the threads are collected and put into a Plexiglas box, giving them a second life in an art series called “Relics”.
Another artist inspired by his Mexican roots is Adrian Esparza, who unweaves parts of handmade serapes, traditional Mexican blankets or capes, and both literally and figuratively connects them to wall installations of colorful geometric patterns made by the very same threads. The artist’s own history and cultural anchor in the form of the serape become the starting point for a new kind of aesthetic: the everyday object, also regarded as a visitor’s souvenir, stakes a claim as an aesthetic, conceptual work of art. The artist himself describes the works as “translations of travel”. In a different place, the woven threads are re-woven; not only into a new object but into an abstract, geometric pattern.
Gabriel Dawe, Daniel Azoulay Photography courtesy of Pérez Art Museum Miami