The Fabric Workshop and Museum

Amanda and I stumbled upon The Fabric Workshop and Museum. It is situated opposite the Philadelphia Conference Center in the hub of the city. The window display of the museum’s ultra cool design store drew us in. I’m so glad it did! Our visit to the museum was an unexpected highlight.

The entrance to the Fabric Workshop and Museum

The building - it's quite tall. The pattern currently on the windows was designed by Nick Cave

The contemporary art exhibitions in the museum are fantastic. Large industrial spaces are transformed into clean and open spaces in which the artworks dominate. Here are the exhibitions currently on view:

Soft Village: Studio Makkink & Bey

Studio Makkink & Bey, Dust Cabinet, wood, sticker, wooden table, 210 x 100 x 75 cm, 2005. Courtesy of Studio Makkink & Bey BV, Rotterdam, Netherlands. Photographer: Bob Goedewaagen (Image from FWM site)

I love the whimsical problem solving of their designs.

“The exhibition Soft Village features recent, insightful projects by the Dutch design collaborative Studio Makkink & Bey, which is led by architect Rianne Makkink (b. 1964) and designer Jurgen Bey (b. 1965). Taking inspiration from the Museum’s mission and permanent collection, their FWM exhibition interweaves the soft, ever-changing features of textiles and fashion—as well as the industries that make them—within the often rigid look and function of today’s cities.” – from the FWM site.

Pae White: Summer XX

Pae White, digital rendering of Summer XX exhibition at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, 2012. Courtesy of the artist. (Image from FWM site)

Pae White’s intricate string installation was a personal faviourite. Upon entering the space the viewer is confronted with large letters looming overhead. The letters spell out “HASTA LA MUERTE” – meaning ‘until death’.

“Continuing White’s interest in text-based work and super-graphic interventions, she lifted the phrase “HASTA LA MUERTE” from the graffiti near her studio in East L.A. for her FWM project. The action of suturing and pulling this ephemeral text in the space serves to dimensionalize the recent passing of an art mentor.” – from the FWM site.

Mark Bradford and Carlos Avendaño: 2 Videos

Mark Bradford, Niagara (still, detail), 2005, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. (Image from FWM site)

When we visited the gallery we only saw Bradford’s video, Niagara (2005). It shows a basketball player walking with a distinctive gait away from the camera. The way that it is installed in the room creates the effect of the protagonist seemingly walking the distance of the long narrow room. The video is a reference to Marilyn Monroe long walk in the 1952 film ‘Niagara’ – apparently the longest walk in cinema history. By shooting his subject imitating Monroe’s gait in the location of the poor neighborhoods of Hollywood, Bradford creates an awareness of the other-side of the Hollywood glamour.

Jennifer Steinkamp: The Death of the Moth

Jennifer Steinkamp, Moth 5 (still, detail), 2012, digital projection, dimensions variable, courtesy of ACME, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York. (Image from FWM site)

The video installation by Steinkamp sheds new light on the materiality of fabric. A series of four animated video’s shows ripped cloth blowing in the wind. The video is entirely computer generated, and the way that the wind blows through the ripped cloth looks very natural. Quite an uncanny experience.

“The exhibition shares its title with the 1942 short essay by Virginia Woolf, which was published posthumously and displays her signature stream-of-consciousness style in a vignette documenting a moth’s final moments. Steinkamp (b. 1958, Denver, Colorado) is an insightful and incisive new media artist known for her time-based video projections of vividly colored trees, flowers, and fabric, which twist and vibrate as though propelled by an unseen force. Her installations explore the definitions of architectural space, motion, and perception with technological precision, while providing an immersive, contemplative experience for the viewer.” – from the FWM site.

More than a museum

The Fabric Workshop and Museum is not only provides exhibition space, but functions as a workshop for young artists to learn and produce silkscreen fabrics, and to assist with the creation of the large-scale art projects produced by the established artists in residence at the museum. One of the apprentices, Cary, was kind enough to take me on a tour of their workshops and studios. The facilities are fantastic. (My hands are itching to produce a series of silk-screen prints when I return home.)

The list of artists in residence are astounding, including established artists such as Louis Bourgeois, Chris Burden, Nick Cave, Tom Friedman, Cai Guo-Qiang, Anish Kapoor, Mike Kelly, Ed Ruscha, Racheal Whiteread and Kara Walker (see the full list here).

View of a corner of the studio space. I'd love to work here.

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