FRAY: Art and Textile Politics
The University of Chicago Press
2018 Robert Motherwell Book Award Winner
Julia Bryan-Wilson has been awarded the 2018 Robert Motherwell Book Award for her book FRAY: Art and Textile Politics (The University of Chicago Press). The award carries a prize of $10,000.
The jury for the award was Susan Davidson (Robert Rauschenberg Foundation), James Leggio (Brooklyn Museum), and Katy Siegel (The Baltimore museum of Art/Stony Brook University).
Closely examining how amateurs and fine artists in the United States and Chile turned to sewing, braiding, knotting, and quilting amid the rise of global manufacturing, Julia Bryan-Wilson's FRAY: Art and Textile Politics argues that textiles unravel the high/low divide and urges us to think flexibly about what the politics of textiles might be. Her case studies from the 1970s through the 1990s—including the improvised costumes of the theater troupe the Cockettes, the braided rag rugs of US artist Harmony Hammond, the thread-based sculptures of Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, the small hand-sewn tapestries depicting Pinochet’s torture, and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt—are often taken as evidence of the inherently progressive nature of handcrafted textiles. Fray, however, shows that such methods are recruited to often ambivalent ends, leaving textiles very much “in the fray” of debates about feminized labor, protest cultures, and queer identities; the malleability of cloth and fiber means that textiles can be activated, or stretched, in many ideological directions. The first contemporary art history book to discuss both fine art and amateur registers of handmaking at such an expansive scale, Fray unveils crucial insights into how textiles inhabit the broad space between artistic and political poles—high and low, untrained and highly skilled, conformist and disobedient, craft and art.
Julia Bryan-Wilson is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of California, Berkeley; she is also the Director of the Berkeley Arts Research Center. She is the author of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (California, 2009); and Art in the Making: Artists and Their Materials from the Studio to Crowdsourcing (with Glenn Adamson, Thames & Hudson, 2016). With Andrea Andersson, she curated the exhibition Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen.