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An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton / Cynthia Schira”

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The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has commissioned internationally recognized artists Ann Hamilton and Cynthia Schira to create large-scale installations in several of the Museum’s galleries. A homecoming of sorts, the artists are returning to Lawrence, Kansas, to realize a collaborative exhibition, An Errant Line, open to the public March 2 to August 11, 2013.

The title of the exhibition refers to a weaving technique in which the thread that has been winding over and under taut fibers is suddenly pulled free, allowed to float on the surface of the textile; there, on the surface, it makes an independent line or pattern, which is tied to but not dependent upon the woven structure from which it has emerged. This state of interwoven independence might also describe the relationship between the new work created for this exhibition and the Spencer Museum objects that served as inspiration. Each artist followed a thread, winding through the Museum’s encyclopedic holdings and emerging with a new work. The projects are different from and dependent upon one another, as well as the works that inspired them.

Hamilton and Schira’s decades-long conversation and shared textile history have shaped An Errant Line, in which the artists, guided by curator Susan Earle, respond to unique objects in the Museum’s collection and distinctive features of the Museum’s architecture. Drawn to legacies of the “hand-made” found in the Spencer Museum collections, including the recently integrated ethnographic collections from Spooner Hall, the artists used digital tools to cast a new lens onto the works they photographed, scanned, enlarged, and fragmented. The images culled from these processes became the basis for making new works. Schira, who is interested in notation systems, incorporates lines of writing into an enormous field of code on a large, computer-woven Jacquard cloth. Hamilton uses large digital prints on Japanese Gompi paper and cloth to render miniature objects gigantic. The materials both Schira and Hamilton employ contain the tactile intimacy inherent to cloth while working on an architectural scale that responds to the building’s capacity to both reveal and conceal. Collaborating with current KU students, the artists also honor their former relationship as student and teacher at the University of Kansas, where Hamilton studied fiber arts in the late 1970’s under Schira.

The artists’ use of objects in the collection brings new life to the objects in poetic and unexpected ways. Hamilton’s prints fill the Museum’s Central Court with the haunting presence of the Spencer’s rarely seen 18th-century Italian Presepio figures. Gigantic and at turns in-focus and out-of-focus, images of body parts and garments seem to reach— gesturally— across the space, reflecting Hamilton’s ongoing interest in the relationship between the visual and the tactile. In the adjacent gallery, Schira has organized the space to address the museum activities of making, preserving, and exhibiting. Her labyrinth of monumental black-and-white textiles draws its abstracted imagery from textiles and paintings in the Spencer’s collections. The result combines shoe buckles from the Presepio figures, hand-written documents, and woven fields of words.

The Spencer's famed Bechstein piano, played by Franz Lizst in 1886, will feature prominently in the unfolding exhibition, as will found texts about cloth and clothing. Live performances will interact with the artists’ vision throughout the life of the exhibition; the complete calendar of events will be updated online at spencerart.ku.edu.

The public is invited to join the artists for a conversation and opening reception for An Errant Line: Ann Hamilton / Cynthia Schira on Saturday, March 2, 6-8 PM. The artists will speak in conversation with visiting lecturer Joan Simon from 6-6:45 PM; a reception will follow.

Event details:

  • Ongoing until Saturday, August 31, 2013
  • Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Miss., KU campus, Lawrence

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