Violent, grotesque, and abrasive imagery isn't usually the subject of textile art, but the focus of a new group show in LA is quite the opposite of its title—SOFT. Opening October 8th at Superchief Gallery, the show features an unyielding display of 30 talents from across the globe, all curated by visual artists Sean Morris and Michael Hsiung. The machine-woven wall hangings offer a juxtaposition between material and imagery, at an impressive scale.
To create the exhibition, the curatorial duo divided and hand-selected the list, Morris completing much of the logistics from his studio in Melbourne, with Hsiung holding down the details in Los Angeles. Collecting the work from a wide variety of artists, the travel, production, shipping, and installation was no small task. For Morris and Hsiung, however, it was all guided by their devotion to the outcome. “I had wanted to make woven versions of my own art for awhile, and Mike has a house full of rad old tapestries, so we'd talked about that idea before,” Morris explains to The Creators Project. An illustrator himself, Morris’ work is included in the exhibition, his line-work enlarged to an impressive 6’ pliable surface. “We wanted to do a group show where everything was large scale," he says, "but also to share our excitement (about getting weavings done) around to a group of other artists.”
The cotton weavings in the show are naturally fluid and soft, but Morris and Hsiung selected artists that all had an underlying theme of their work—one that wasn’t necessarily easy on the eyes. “We wanted the show to lean in kind of a dark direction thematically. Weird/brutal blankets. But I don't really like when group shows put constraints on subject matter, so we picked artists who are already making work of that nature,” Morris explains. “I love that fuzzy area where the grotesque/beautiful or dark/sweet cross over— sometimes it's harmonious but unsettling, and sometimes it's totally jarring. I guess in a way this show was an extension of that idea: this old beautiful medium meeting new weird art.”
The roster of artists includes a varying and diverse breadth of contemporaries, all of whom are currently active. Participants include Skinner, Mike Giant, Georgia Hill, Bonethrower, and French, to name a few. Morris tells us, “Both Mike and I have a few long-term friends in there, but there are also a lot of artists on the list who we had never met before... we were stoked that almost everyone we asked got on board, I think everybody had the same curiosity as us about making this woven transformation.”
“Everyone approached the show in different ways," he continues. "We ended up with so much work that I could never have imagined seeing on a blanket. It's been really nice seeing it come together.”
Morris also co-runs Black Canyon, a curatorial project in Melbourne. “We've done a few big shows there over the last couple of years," he explains. "We did a 60-artist group show in 2015 along with Kingbrown Magazine. They're exhausting to pull together, but always super fun.” Following the SOFT exhibition, Morris will be headed back to Melbourne for some mural projects, and then starting work on a solo exhibition for 2017.