by Arwen O’Reilly
I first started noticing craft infiltrating the tony Chelsea galleries in NYC a few years ago (beautiful embroidered paintings by Ghada Amer, felted clothing by Andrea Zittel), but now I’m starting to think that the gallery scene is getting to be a craft destination! I stopped by some galleries on my way back from Eyebeam (a technology and art gallery we’ve worked with for MAKE, for those of you who don’t know it) and saw this amazing crocheted sculpture by Xenobia Bailey.
It’s the first piece you see (it almost yanked me in off the street) in a group show called “Six Degrees of Separation 2,” which is intended to explore “self-reflection, repetition, loss and the decay of cultural memory.” Xenobia Bailey’s crocheted tent, “Sistah Paradise Great Wall of Fire Revival Tent” from 1999, is astonishing: part Rasta hide-out, part bedouin tent, part revivalist sanctuary, it pushed all my buttons at once as well as just plain taking my breath away at the detailed craftsmanship. Definitely worth checking out. Bailey’s other work (not on display at the moment, but you can see it on the Stux Gallery’s webpage) is also crocheted, but they’re psychedelic wall hangings that remind me of African weavings, hippie mandalas and fractal geometry. The tent can be seen Tuesdays through Sundays until September 9th.
One block up, at the James Cohan Gallery on 26th St, Alison Elizabeth Taylor will be showing her amazing inlaid wood paintings from September 7-September 30. Inspired by the wood inlay in the Studiolo at the Metropolitan museum (also well worth seeing), Taylor has been reinterpreting this ancient medium, and instead of lutes, books, saints and statesmen, she shows the kind of people you or I might hang out with: a girl chatting on her cellphone outside a geodesic dome house, someone playing video games in their underwear, two kids hanging out by the side of the road with their car. I saw a piece of hers in a group show at James Cohen last month, and now she gets her own show! The colors are understandably fairly muddy and tending towards brown, but there’s a depth to the wood that is incredible, and the subject matter plays nicely with the weighty material she uses. (There’s an article on Taylor in the September Vogue if you want to find out more about her.)