New York

Lenore Tawney

Willard Gallery

In general, one thinks of weaving in terms of craft and decoration. Lenore Tawney’s major contribution has been in making weaving viable as an art form. Her current works reflect back on her explorations of the early ’60s and her development of techniques to enable her to control the slitting and shaping of her pieces. For the most part, her hangings are holistic images, akin in many ways to the paintings of her friend Agnes Martin. Frequently Tawney’s forms result directly from the weaving process so that the open spaces as well as the threaded units become inseparable from the whole. In Red Sea, for example, the center circle shape is drawn by a series of vertical slits formed in the facture of the whole. The figure is, thus, interwoven with the whole; it cannot be detached without being destroyed. The braided and loose threads of the weft left exposed further stipulate the interlocking structure of the piece.

By hanging her weaving away from the wall, Tawney lets the light flicker through the open areas as one moves in front of them. The red color itself begins tochange in saturation, although it is only one’s body that is shifting its perspective. This effect is heightened by the irregular edges of the woven bands which hang more closely together at some points, and thus clump the color. The difference in thickness between warp and weft add further tactile unevenness to the color. Because, in Red Sea and other large works, Tawney lets the fabric hang freely from the top, the actual weight of the pieces as objects is emphasized. One has a strong sense of physical presence both through the pull of gravity and the tactile texture of the medium. This material thereness combines with the imposing scale to reinforce the oneness given in the interlocking process of the making.

Tawney’s smaller works are less effective. The addition of collage elements tends to negate the integral nature of weaving. The assemblage parts begin to trivialize the whole, which becomes just another surface for picture-making. Furthermore, one realizes how important size is in overcoming one’s focus on craft. Tawney’s large weavings envelop one’s vision, while still asserting their status as distinct objects. One is compelled to concentrate less on decoration and more on one’s experience in front of them.

Susan Heinemann