Critics’ Picks

Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel, Gibbon, 2011, wool, acrylic, 98 1/2 x 33 3/4".

Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel, Gibbon, 2011, wool, acrylic, 98 1/2 x 33 3/4".

Paris

“Decorum: Tapis et tapisseries d’artistes”

Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris
11 avenue du Président Wilson
October 11, 2013–February 9, 2014

The largest-ever textiles exhibition at Paris’s Musée d’Art Moderne brings together over one hundred woven works in the form of wall hangings, floor coverings, and freestanding sculptures from the Middle Ages to the present day. Rife with surprising anachronistic comparisons, the exhibition’s thematically organized sections point to the recent resurgence of weaving among contemporary artists while underscoring the historic importance of tapestry.

In the section titled “The Painterly,” two tapestries designed by Pablo Picasso are hung in the company of a sixteenth-century Flemish tapestry. Picasso collaborated with the same weaving workshop (Paris’s Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins) as such Renaissance masters as Charles Le Brun and Nicolas Poussin, and the Cubist is here aptly positioned as part of a legacy of famous painters who also designed carpets. Unexpected aesthetic comparisons in the “Primitivisms” section include an achromatic woolen rug by Brassaï (Graffiti, 1969–70) and a richly hued Coptic weaving from eighth-century Egypt. The influence of nineteenth- and twentieth-century artistic movements—Arts and Crafts, Wiener Secession, and Bauhaus—are present in the “Decorative” section, which features tapestries by the likes of Giacomo Balla, Fernand Léger, Francis Bacon, and Anni Albers.

The bulk of the show is dedicated to contemporary artworks. Weavings by well-known and emerging artists celebrate the current neo-craft trend and range from handmade woolen sculptures to industrially produced carpets. In the “Sculptural” section, Caroline Achaintre’s hand-tufted Moustache-Eagle, 2008, and France-based duo Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel’s Gibbon, 2011, relate wool’s material qualities to soft and fuzzy subject matters. Meanwhile, Pae White’s monumental tapestry depicting billowing smoke, Berlin B, 2012 (included in the “Orientalisms” section), imbues an ancient tradition with digital technology. An appropriate denouement, a loom custom designed and built by Michael Beutler, Weaving Workshop, 2009–13, is stationed near the show’s exit, exemplifying the craft technique that knits together this wide-ranging exhibition.