A means of artistic production that has fallen by the wayside because of cost and conservationist concerns, tapestry is a historical medium that yields rich results. Every now and then, someone invests the time and money to commission artists to reinvent this age-old art form, but few have approached it on the ambitious scale of Banners of Persuasion, a London-based art organization that recently charged 15 contemporary artists with turning their best imagery into woven works of art. Previously previewed in London and Miami, a selection of these exquisite editions is now on view at James Cohan Gallery in New York.
Large in scale and varying in complexity, the works in Demons, Yarns & Tales: Tapestries by Contemporary Artists express a wide range of themes. The international art collective assume vivid astro focus collages colorful imagery to create a freeform hanging of people and patterns; British bad boy Gavin Turk montages big-brand logos to construct a map of the world that simulates an Alighiero Boetti embroidery; and Peter Blake, best known for his album cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, designs a stylish alphabet of 26 letters that dynamically fits 25 squares.
Other highlights include Gary Hume’s scratchy portrait of his wife, artist Georgie Hopton, engulfed in a rambunctious display of orchids; Fred Tomaselli’s bejeweled birds floating in a psychedelic field; Julie Verhoeven’s magical mix of distressed damsels, doves, and unicorns; Kara Walker’s remembrance of “rioters burning a colored orphan asylum” in the summer of 1863; and Jaime Gili’s intersecting, abstract shards of contrasting colors.
Beautifully crafted, these works offer a unique look at the abilities of artists who had never previously explored tapestry, but found that the medium still possesses a potency to express contemporary concepts.