In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney

October 6, 2019 — March 7, 2020
 

Lenore Tawney, untitled (detail), 1961; rayon and wool; 63 x 22 3/8 in. Courtesy of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski, courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

Lenore Tawney, Dove, 1974; linen; 118 x 108 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski.

Lenore Tawney, Lost and Proud (detail), 1957; linen, silk, and wool; 43 x 51 1/2 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski.

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

Lenore Tawney, Shield IV, 1966; linen, beads, and shells; 13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski.

Lenore Tawney, untitled (Lekythos), 1962; linen, silk, gold, and feathers; 46 1/2 x 29 1/4 in. Collection of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, New York. Photo: Rich Maciejewski.

Yousuf Karsh, untitled (portrait of Lenore Tawney with Shadow River), 1959; digital image from the negative; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh.

Lenore Tawney, Mother Goddess, 1970; mixed media; 4-1/2 × 1-3/4 ×1-3/4 in. John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection, gift of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation and Kohler Foundation Inc. Photo: Rich Maciejewski.

 

Lenore Tawney (1907–2007) ranks among the most influential, though under-recognized, artists of the postwar fiber movement.

Given her groundbreaking approach to open-warp weaving, her adaptation of ancient textile-making processes, and her multidisciplinary study of space, structure, and line, deep consideration of her work is essential to a complete understanding of twentieth-century art.

One of the largest retrospective exhibitions of Tawney’s oeuvre to date, In Poetry and Silence includes more than 120 works. They span from her earliest sculptures to her later assemblage, with a focus on the fiber-based sculptures for which Tawney is most well-known.

Augmenting these works is an unprecedented look at Tawney’s studio environment. Although she moved her studio several times, Tawney carefully thought out her surroundings and created a spiritual retreat from the bustle of New York City in each location. In the gallery, an evocation of Tawney’s studio space includes works by esteemed friends and objects acquired from her travels as well as hundreds of treasures such as eggs, feathers, shells, gold leaf, and artifacts that provided inspiration, some of which would find themselves incorporated into her weavings and assemblages.

The Arts Center recently acquired several key components from Tawney’s studio from the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation with assistance from Kohler Foundation, Inc. The inclusion of many of these objects in this installation demonstrates the Art Center’s ongoing commitment to the preservation and presentation of artist-built environments.

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.