Cloud Labyrinth

August 18, 2019 — January 19, 2020
 

Paul J. Smith, Lenore Tawney's 20th Street Studio, 1985; digital file from the negative; dimensions variable. Courtesy of Paul J. Smith.

Lenore Tawney, Written in Water, 1979; canvas, linen, and acrylic; 120 x 120 x 120 in. Courtesy of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York.

 Lenore Tawney, Written in Water (detail), 1979; canvas, linen, and acrylic; 120 x 120 x 120 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski.

 

The Arts Center gives an entire gallery over to the presentation of the monumental Cloud Labyrinth, as part of a series of exhibitions dedicated to artist Lenore Tawney (1907–2007). Not shown since 1999, Cloud Labyrinth is part of Tawney’s Cloud Series, which she began in the 1970s and included several public commissions. The work exemplifies the evolution of Tawney’s practice into the complete dissolution of the loom while maintaining an unmistakable connection to weaving.

Cloud Labyrinth was created in 1983 for the Lausanne International Tapestry Biennial in Switzerland. It is a study in contrasts. Despite being made of thousands of individual, tiny threads suspended from a fabric panel or “ceiling,” the piece is large in scale, occupying a space that is sixteen feet high and twenty-four by eighteen feet wide. Although composed in a strict square grid, the diaphanous work is yielding, responding to any atmospheric movement with a slight swaying. Despite Tawney’s declining eyesight at the time of Cloud Labyrinth’s creation, she meticulously and painstakingly knotted each strand, carefully applying gesso to various threads to add to the piece’s delicate materiality.

The presentation of Cloud Labyrinth, isolated and with ample room for contemplation, allows full appreciation of the work as an apotheosis of Tawney’s decades-long career.

This exhibition is supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.