Critics’ Picks

View of “Anne Wilson: Rewinds,” 2011.

View of “Anne Wilson: Rewinds,” 2011.

Chicago

Anne Wilson

Rhona Hoffman Gallery
1711 West Chicago Avenue
January 14–February 19, 2011

In her latest exhibition, Anne Wilson successfully weaves a dense discursive fabric out of the translucent materiality of glass. The artist is known for large-scale projects that use fibers, loom work, and collaborative practices to situate traditional handcrafted object making within an abstract topography of global postindustrial production. Wilson’s interest in the fibrous qualities of molten glass was piqued during her residencies at the Pilchuck Glass School in Tacoma, Washington, where she worked with gaffers and studio assistants to create “rewinds”—clear glass spindles, nestled in threadlike coils of tinted glass, that evoke the bobbins and spools employed by tailors, couturiers, and garment industry workers alike. In the show’s most powerful piece, hundreds of these delicate glass objects have been loosely sorted into shallow piles across a large white platform, itself glass. The presentation is patently museological and overtly fetishistic: The gallery walls are painted gray, the objects strategically lit, and even the platform appears weightless, as if it were floating several inches above the floor.

Elsewhere, smaller groupings of glass knitting needles lie in vitrines that enable close scrutiny while prohibiting handling. Indeed, the sheer fragility of Wilson’s instruments stands in poignant contrast to the use-value implied by their forms. Their transparent rendering in glass also offers a poetic corollary to the countless invisible hands that have utilized such tools over time and across cultures. So too do Wilson’s rewinds hint at the slippage between handcraft and piecework, and artisanal and factory labor, that has always bedeviled the garment and textile industries—contradictions that this eloquent and haunting exhibition seeks not to resolve but to nimbly hold in tension.