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March 7th, 2012
Textiles Turn Philadelphia Museum of Art Gallery into Garden Oasis

Exhibition complements Van Gogh Up Close and events around Philadelphia.

Secret Garden
(Through July 2012)

Philadelphia, PA (March 2012)—A new exhibition in the Spain Gallery of the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building unites fabric sculptures and hand-printed textiles from the Museum’s collection. Secret Garden features three American artists whose works in fiber embrace the idea of a garden as a personal metaphor: for Ted Hallman the garden represents a spiritual quest; for Sheila Hicks it is an expression of discordance and unruliness; and for Jim Hodges the garden is about the power of memory. The show coincides with the still lifes and landscapes in the Museum’s own Van Gogh Up Close exhibition (on view through May 6), the Philadelphia International Flower Show (March 4-11), and FiberPhiladelphia (March – April).

Ted Hallman’s sculpture, The Inner Tree (1977), evokes the physical and spiritual world while addressing Hallman’s longstanding interest in healing and psychotherapy. A monumental knitted work, The Inner Tree is an experiment in textile structure, with knotted acrylic yarns over steel armatures. A graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Hallman (born 1933) is at the forefront of fiber art, woven textiles, and textile design and his long teaching career in Canada and the United States has influenced a generation of artists. He was head of textiles at Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University) in Toronto and at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia.

Sheila Hicks’ Wow Bush/Turmoil in Full Bloom (1977) is an installation piece constructed from nurses’ uniforms from the Cantonal Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, dyed in shades of lavender, yellow, and red. These garments have been torn into strips and knotted, meshed, and sewn together into a freestanding work that takes on any configuration and adapts to any space. Originally installed in 1977 at the Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne, Wow Bush is often considered a turning point in the evolution of the tapestry medium as Hicks’ techniques were outside of the woven tradition. Hicks (born 1934) is internationally known for her experimental works in fiber, from small weavings to architectural collaborations to industrial productions. She attended Yale University and was recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania.

In Jim Hodges’ Every Touch (1995), thousands of artificial flowers were disassembled and reassembled in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia to create a dramatic lacelike curtain of cascading petals. The work’s title addresses the labor-intensive process of its shared construction and is also a meditation on the elusiveness of beauty. Although trained as a painter, Jim Hodges (born 1957) is best known for transforming ordinary materials, such as paper napkins and light bulbs, into intimate and poetic works that speak to feelings of love and loss. Hodges studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

The three artists’ works are complemented by hand screenprints produced in the same period by textile designers Elenhank (Eleanor and Henry Kluck), June Groff, Jack Lenor Larsen, and D. D. and Leslie Tillett. Elenhank’s Forest (1977), Terra Vista (1978) and Water’s Edge (1978) illustrate their passion for nature, especially the scenic hills, woodlands, small lakes, and streams of northern Indiana. June Groff’s 1947 print was acquired by Jack Lenor Larsen, Inc. and in 1954 was launched as Spice Garden, the company’s first printed textile. Inspired by a visit to Afghanistan, Jack Lenor Larsen’s Bellflower (1973–81) is a large floral pattern of coral bells that complemented the woven and printed textiles based on printed woven fabric and rugs featured in his 1973 Afghan collection. The vibrant floral pattern of D.D. (Doris) and Leslie Tillett Queen Anne’s Lace (c. 1950–c. 1983) found its inspiration in a wide range of sources, from pre-Columbian art to medieval tapestries to nature and the Tilletts’ hand-printed textiles were employed by some of America’s most prominent decorators.

Notes Dilys Blum, the Museum’s Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles, “the galleries in the Perelman Building give us the opportunity to show more of the Museum's collection of contemporary printed textiles and fiber art and to present them in new and provocative ways. Secret Garden is an exhilarating visual mix of two and three dimensional works that span the vast array of styles, materials, and subjects addressed by these artists.”

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