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Kiki Smith's Massive, Electronically-Woven Tapestries Touch Down in Santa Fe

A classic craft gets a digitally-enabled update in Kiki Smith's towering tapestries.

by Nathaniel Ainley
04 June 2016, 11:40am

Kiki Smith, Spinners, 2014, cotton jacquard tapestry, 113 x 75 inches, edition of 10, images courtesy Peters Projects

"Textile art" conjures up images of royal Ottoman tents, or the excessive reign of Louis XIV, but the world of tapestries still thrives today. Over the last five years, renowned visual artist Kiki Smith has designed a collection of 11, ten-foot high, electronically woven tapestries for a solo exhibition, Woven Tales. Smith begins this process by constructing massive handmade paper collages, pulling material from drawn cut-outs and photo lithographs. These collages are then sent to the Oakland-based fine arts studio, Magnolia Editions, where they are photographed, printed to scale, and sent back to Smith for further adjustments. This process is repeated several times over the course of a few months until the collage is ready to be converted into a digital weave file. Smith’s final design is run through Magnolia’s computerized, "double-headed Jacquard loom," a modernized weaver “that blends both old-world weaving processes with the newest digital possibilities,” according to Magnolia Editions. The studio claims their computerized renderings pick out every minute detail, seeing that the final product is a truly authentic reflection of the artist’s vision.

Kiki Smith, Guide, 2012, cotton jacquard tapestry, 113 x 75 inches, edition of 10

Smith builds these collages in scale with the tapestry, meaning the images she works with haven’t been enlarged or digitally morphed to fit her ten-foot canvases. Smith tells essayist Nick Stone that she takes this approach in order “‘to emphasize the holiness of it.’” It only takes a short glance at the pieces in Woven Tales to fully understand their weight. There’s something about their flat, primal style that takes you back as far as cave paintings and Medieval castles. They blend the rough and grainy textures of history with the unwavering detail of modern tech. Check out a few more Woven Tales below:

Kiki Smith, Congregation, 2014, cotton jacquard tapestry, 113 x 75 inches, edition of 10

Kiki Smith, Harbor, 2015, cotton jacquard tapestry, 113 x 75 inches, edition of 10

Kiki Smith, Sky, 2011, cotton jacquard tapestry, 119 x 76 ½ inches, edition of 10

For more on Woven Tales, check out a talk Peters Projects hosted with Kiki Smith:

The entire Woven Tales collection is on view at Peters Projects through July 30, 2016. For more information, click here.

Related:

These Tapestry-Like Pieces are Actually Woven from Paper

Two Sides of a Tapestry, Two Sides of Yourself

Erotic Tapestries Put a New Spin on Nude Self-Shots

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