I found myself traveling a lot this past autumn, mostly for fun, and a little bit for work. Every place I stopped, both here and abroad, I took in the art galleries, museums, and shops. Now, back in Wisconsin for the foreseeable future, I thought it would be cool to take a peek at some artists who have stopped through here to live and/or study while they developed their artistic styles and careers. Starting with my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I ran across the work of Gabriel Pionkowski, which caught my attention immediately for his bold palette and alternative use of canvas. He earned an MFA there in 2013.
One place I stopped during my travels this fall was the mountains of North Carolina, where folk art and craft is alive and well through a number of study and exhibition programs. Weaving is still a large part of the curriculum at places like the Penland School of Crafts or Haywood Community College, and exhibitions at the Folk Art Center in Asheville. Pionkowski currently has a piece in a group exhibition entitled Fiber Optic at Minus Space in Brooklyn through December 19. I was thrilled to see his work alongside weaving sketches by Anni Albers, who, speaking of the mountains of North Carolina, taught at the somewhat mythical Black Mountain College alongside her husband, Josef Albers, from 1933 until 1949. Her weaving has influenced generations of textile artists since, and it’s fascinating to see the strides it has taken, as her own work, modern in its own right, has influenced contemporary artists.
The practice of weaving has been associated with craft for centuries, even millennia. Pionkowski’s work takes the concept of weaving and the canvas and deconstructs them both, stretching the rules. The canvas, pulled apart to its simple fibers, is painted and manipulated, and woven back into a new composition. The canvas becomes more than a surface to be painted upon; it is built up, pulled apart, and rebuilt. The finished piece transcends the empty surface, the straightforward painting, and the woven textile, as it becomes an amalgamation of craft and contemporary art.
Please check out more of Gabriel Pionkowski’s work at gabrielpionkowski.com.