The front room of the Tony Wight Gallery is devoted to fabric-on-canvas work by Diana Guerrero-Maciá. Large in scale, these works use text, typography and pop music lyrics as their focus. What I found interesting and compelling about the work on view was the clear and seductive way that the artist was able to use fabric for her art, avoiding the pitfalls that could have easily made it passable.
"There's not enough textile art" is a complaint I have often heard from friends and acquaintances. Well I think there is, just a lot of it is not very good. To my mind, it's a tough medium to work in, different textures can battle each other, realism is often used but not to the best effect and the use of hand stitching and sewing can be unclear to the viewer. Enter the work of Guerrero-Maciá, which seems very clear on these frequent problems in textile works. Stitching is analogous in many instances to a line, realism is often avoided, and textures are carefully put together to excellent effect.
Allusions to art history are also helpful in buoying the work on display, giving it more historical weight. The concrete poetry and art of F.T. Marinetti is an obvious influence on the use of text and words to create an image. One work on display that I liked very much was The Bigger Picture (2008, seen inset above) that repeated the word "mountains" over and over to create a mountain like shape. Besides concrete poetry, it also reminded me of Ed Ruscha's mountain paintings in which, usually, he executes a photorealistic mountain summit often accompanied by enigmatic and vaguely threatening words like "blast curtain" or "level as a level" (one of Ruscha's many pallindromes).
However for all the art historical allusions, the most compelling aspect for this reviewer was that Guerrero-Maciá's work is quite attractive and seductive. Aesthetic beauty in postmodern (or whatever era we're currently in) art production is having a very difficult time, it is often a cause for skepticism and scorn rather than admiration and praise. People are wary of work that looks good being too easy. As I wrote at the outset, I think that textile work is extremely hard to successfully do, so the fact that it is attractive and coherent is an asset in this case. This especially struck me because two works on display I didn't care for at all, The Diplomat and Devoured by Symbols (both 2008), the former featuring a clown and the latter a white tiger. Both were on a black fabric rather than linen. These changes demonstrated to me the balance necessary for textile work.
Why is it that when Jeff Koons or Anish Kapoor creates a work that is seductive or attractive it's acceptable, but when it's done by anyone else it's too easy? Granted, Koons is trying to seduce the viewer with pleasing materials, but Kapoor? Maybe it's time that we became reconciled with the idea of the beautiful again.
Guerrero-Maciá's work indicated to me some of the best qualities of textile artwork and the fine line the artists trend when working in the medium. Be sure to see Alex Hubbard's video work in the back of the gallery, an excellent companion to Guerrero-Maciá's artwork.