Monday, October 19, 2009

Looming Large: AWESOME Tapestries at AMOA

Last week, I finished my book on Thursday. I was both exhausted and relieved. I have been working more hours than I can count lately. Even though I had a pile of work that had backed up as I finished up my book, I wanted to take at least a few hours to give myself a break and treat myself to something nice. I knew there were several great art exhibitions in town, so my BF and I went museum hopping. Our first stop is the one I want to tell you about. We went to see the Chuck Close installation at the Austin Museum of Art, downtown at 8th and Congress. It's called A Couple of Ways of Doing Something.

Chuck Close is famous for his portraits-- especially the enormous, photo-realist paintings he's done. In 1988 a spinal artery collapse left him paralyzed from the neck down. This did not stop him, and he continued to paint using a brush strapped to his wrist.

For this latest body of work, he turns to photography-- both digital and daguerreotypes. The latter is a very old photo technique, developed in 1839, which captures direct positive images on metal plates. Very cool stuff. While the photos are in and of themselves utterly spectacular, here's the part I loved the most: several of Close's images were converted to tapestries using a Jacquard Loom. This loom uses about eighty bazillion strands of thread at once to recreate a tapestry image so detailed that it looks like a photograph. So if you go to the exhibit (and YOU SHOULD) you will see these absolutely gigantic tapestries which, if you stand across the room, will look like photos. But if you move in close, and look at the back (one is hung so you can see front and back) you will be startled to see just what a complicated weaving process was involved.

Also, do not miss the accompanying video, which is shown on a loop in the Community Room, to the left of the gallery. It explains how the Jacquard Loom works. Really, really amazing stuff. I'm not a weaver but I was still blown away and, even with the explanation offered in the short documentary, it all remained complicated enough that the results still feel magical.

I just can't recommend this exhibit highly enough. But note that it goes away on November 8th, so don't wait to go check it out. Click THIS LINK for basic info on the installation. Click THIS LINK for more detailed explanation of process.

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