In the mid-twentieth century, abstract painters pushed back against the venerable tradition of easel painting, applying pigment to canvas sprawled directly on the studio floor. A generation of artists working in the late 1960s and 1970s went further, manipulating canvas or paper in ways that fabric is commonly handled: folding, scrunching or sewing. The Fabricators brings together the work of four abstract artists who treated traditional art supplies like one might treat cloth.

While best known for his painting-sculpture hybrids of canvases draped from gallery ceilings and walls, Sam Gilliam (born 1933) is also an accomplished printmaker. For his print Thursday, Gilliam paired a handmade sheet of paper with another covered in marks applied with a silkscreen. The artist stitched the two pieces together using a sewing machine. Craig Lucas (1941-2011) applied acrylic paint to the surface of paper collaged with tape, fabric and paperboard. For his large untitled work from 1973, Lucas folded the linen-back paper as he worked. Alan Shields (1944-2005) learned to sew while growing up on a farm in central Kansas. He used Rit, a common fabric dye, to add color to paper and canvas, and embellished the surfaces with beads and machine-stitched thread. Kenneth Showell (1939-1997) crumpled canvas into balls and showered them with tiny droplets of paint using a spray gun. After the canvas dried, he stretched it tightly across wooden bars.

The Fabricators is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and Rory and Dedee O'Neil.