Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe

Cloud Labyrinth

August 18, 2019 — January 19, 2020

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.

Accompanying Cloud Labyrinth will be an ongoing screening of Cloud Dance. The 1979 film documents an improvised movement piece made in a collaboration between Tawney and postmodern choreographer/dancer Andy De Groat. The dance was created in response to Four-Armed Cloud, another work in her Cloud Series. The film includes composer Michael Galasso’s Sun Music and a Christopher Knowles poem read by Arby Ovanessian, a pioneer of new directions in modern Iranian theater and film. It was co-directed by Robyn Brentano and Andrew Horn.

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. Funding was also provided by the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust, Sargento Foods, Inc. and the Herzfeld Foundation.