Finding the Thread part three: Rachel Mica Weiss: Sagging Ellipse (After Richard Serra)

Crane Bulding Philly

Outside/Inside the Box, Crane Arts Building, Icebox Project Space, March 2 - April 15, 2012 1400 North American St, Philadelphia, PA 19122

 In the spring of 2012 I saw Rachel Mica Weiss’s “Sagging Ellipse” in "Inside/Outside the Box” an exhibition during Fiber Philadelphia, this piece made of manila rope and sisal is a suspended interlaced surface. I was excited by this piece and saw a direct through line from the work done in the 60s and 70s and was confidently 3 D.I wanted to know more about her work and conveniently she has received a fair amount of press in the last few years and there are several interviews with her on you tube. After some reading and watching I decided I would like to interview her for what i hope will be an ongoing series of interviews "Finding the Thread" in which I ask contemporary makers to relate their work with work from the middle decades of the 2oth Century. Since she had produced her own reference point in subtitling her piece “After Richard Serra", she had already provided an entrance point for the conversation.

 Rachel Mica Wiess Sagging Ellipse (after Sarra)
Rachel Mica Weiss Sagging Ellipse, (After Richard Serra) Details (2011) / 52" x 46" x 87"/ manila rope (aka sisal)

Joe Lewis: (J.L) While you sub titled your piece “After Richard Serra”.    Even if I hadn't listen to that short interview where you talk about the masculine and feminine, I would have made the connection between the sagging/ flexible rope in your piece Ellipse and Serra’s rather ridged metal works.  I am wondering if you could expand on that a bit.

Rachel Mica Weiss: (RMW) Sagging Ellipse (After Richard Serra) is a play on his Torqued Ellipses (housed at DIA: Beacon in Beacon, NY --image attached). My hope was to re-interpret this rigid and masculine form, which was manufactured by a steel mill per Serra's specifications, into something that was hand-made, yet just as tactile. Sagging Ellipse encloses the viewer in its texture (and smell!), simultaneously protecting and "imprisoning" the viewer. So it isn't simply about reinterpreting the masculinity of Serra, but it's also about re-affirming the artist's hand in the work, something that I think is more "impressive" because of the work's monumental scale.

 JL While he (Serra)  was in some of the early shows Lucy Lippard curated like  955,000  (January 13–February 8, 1970) and working with plywood or sending instructions to find and use a ridged materiel, artists like Magdalena Abakanowicz and other eastern European makers like Maria Łaszkiewicz (Poland), Peter and Ritzi Jacobi, (Romania) who came into prominence at the Lausanne Biennale then through American exhibitions like Wall Hangings (1969) and Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric (1972), not to mention Clair Zeisler and Shelia Hicks, were using rope. Are any of these makers are an influence?

RMW:  Yes, these makers certainly were influences. Abakanowicz in particular, whose structures also conflate the architecture and garment, has been an influence. While she is working particularly with the female body and its condition of being open or closed, my work deals with the condition of bodies in general. I'm less interested in the feminine, I think, and more interested in states of restriction/the limitations we place on ourselves. In terms of providing structure to the works themselves, hanging structures have been a natural place to go because the condition of being hung is one in which the hung form is powerless or restricted, which lends to the concepts underpinning the work. I am also influenced by some more contemporary makers like Anne Hamilton and the way her works and their performative qualities comment on the way cloth is produced. Labor is also an interest in mine --a lot of my works deal with re-affirming the hand and re-inscribing the body into the work.

JL: I suggest in my article that "Textiles at a basic level are a 3 dimensional constructed surface, they are architectural in nature and attempts to create sculptural work are often dependent on stitching pieces together and stuffing them or covering an armature or by suspending the finished piece, seldom are they self supporting and when they are it is by coiling or folding/ piling"

RMW:  Most of my work, if not hung from the ceiling, has used an armature of some kind; these armatures have become increasingly important parts of the work. 2012 pieces like "Breaching" and "Leaning Wood" place emphasis on the armature, or architectural element in the work. Like I said, I'm really interested in the places where clothing and architecture collide to enclose us in spaces or define the bodies which they house, so the technique of using and emphasizing reclaimed wood elements as I do in these two works, serves to underscore that relationship and literally build architecture into the work. These pieces in particular, as well as "Cloak Somewhat Soiled" are also using these specific "stiffening" strategies, as you call them, to harken back to the structure of the loom (see images of old back-strap looms) and the process of weaving/plain weave/the over-under and warp-weft structure. 

 Ultimately I'd say that the form of the work is driven more by concept than by practical concerns. In creating this most recent installation out of net, I had an image in mind and the final methods used were to achieve the vision for the work.


Links: 

Rachel Mica Weiss: http://www.rachelmicaweiss.com/Home_Page.html

Fiber Phildelpiha 2012 was the last event after a 20 year history. the website is still online and you cansee a slide show of the Outside/ Inside the Box exhibition. http://www.fiberphiladelphia.org/outside_inside-the-box

Crane Arts in Philladelphia  http://www.cranearts.com/