The Embroidered Image
May 29 – August 15 2014
The photograph today is increasingly distanced from the handmade. With the proliferation of digitalization, seamless Photoshop retouching, and quick laser printing, pictures now more than ever are a product of the mind and the machine. In tandem, the photograph has become eminently reproducible. Yellowing silver prints and one-shot polaroids, once keepsakes saved in shoe boxes or pinned on walls, have been all but negated by online photo streams and jpegs from our iPhones.
Yet a group of intrepid artists are working to reclaim the photograph as a unique and handmade object, through an entirely unexpected medium: embroidery. Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to present our summer show, The Embroidered Image, curated by Orly Cogan and featuring the work of Pinky/MM Bass, Matthew Cox, Orly Cogan, Jane Waggoner Deschner, Flore Gardner, Diane Meyer, Jose Romussi, Hinke Schreuders, Hagar Vardimon, Jessica Wohl, and Melissa Zexter. Utilizing in their own ways the tactility, intricacy, and powerful domestic history of needle and thread, the artists transform photographs into singular mementos both nostalgic and unequivocally current.
For Melissa Zexter and Flore Gardner, embroidery serves as an extension of the imagination. Tinted and black-and-white photographs receive overlays of color and pattern, revealing a nun’s contemplation in pink crosses and bringing a red cardinal to commune with a daydreaming woman. For others, it’s architectural—Diane Meyer’s thick needlepoint panels mimic pixellation in her images of the stark Berlin cityscape, blurring the built environment to comment on fading memories of its history, while Hagar Vardimon’s colored threads pull at the rafters of tiny houses like geometric spiderwebs and form mysterious icons in suburban yards.
Embroidery, as a somewhat non-traditional fine art medium, also lends itself to humor and whimsy. Matthew Cox threads the faces of cartoon characters and pop culture icons onto x-rays, playing on the notion of ‘stitching’ with a dark panache. Yet Jane Waggoner Deschner’s photo-collages riff perhaps most clearly on the concept of the photographic keepsake. Family snapshots sewn together and topped with exuberant embroidered doodles and messages, they celebrate the medium’s home-spun beginnings while poignantly pushing us to look more deeply at the artifacts of our own lives.
Orly Cogan, whose embroidery work focuses upon themes of feminism and covert domesticity, was born in Jaffa, Israel in 1971 and studied at Cooper Union and The Maryland Institute College of Art.