Even thread [has] a speech examines how contemporary artists working in fiber materials and processes have inherited and broadened Lenore Tawney’s (1907–2007) groundbreaking experiments in the field.

Featuring works by eight contemporary artists who extend weaving conceptually, this exhibition intersects with architecture, performance, sound, painting, and installation to expand traditional concepts of fiber art, weaving, and structure. The works incorporate approaches that deconstruct, perform, explode, or compress the qualities that informed Tawney's practice and underpin textile and weaving histories.

Even thread [has] a speech showcases new, site-specific installations commissioned by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as well as 2-D and 3-D artworks by Indira Allegra, Julia Bland, Jesse Harrod, kg, Judith Leemann, Anne Lindberg, Michael Milano, and Sheila Pepe. The exhibition is curated by Shannon R. Stratton.

Artists Julia Bland, Michael Milano, and kg are in close dialog with weaving as a format for picture making, coding, narrative, and symbolism. Each explores the discipline's structure and process through gestures that pull focus onto the structure of weaving as the grounds for conceptual, personal, and speculative content.

The open-weave structures of Julia Bland and kg’s large-scale weavings also take the woven form to its technical limits. Additionally, many of kg's small weavings echo Tawney’s in their use of found materials while Bland's embedded shapes alluding to archetypal symbols resonate with Tawney's. Milano’s drawings and works on cloth reference weave patterns and structure as a constraint for minimalism, bringing attention to the tension between both the limits and the expansive possibilities inherent to a binary system.

Judith Leemann's text-based work emerges from training and teaching in fiber studies. She distills textile's root in “text” into sound- and print-based work that uses the word as metaphorical warp-and-weft. Indira Allegra’s interdisciplinary practice, including video, assemblage, and performance. Her work investigates the warp and weft of the loom as the crossing of two competing forces under tension, building on this tension conceptually to explore social, political, and personal experiences of haunting and memorializing.

Artists Anne Lindberg, Jesse Harrod, and Sheila Pepe explore fiber's sculptural and architectural capacities. For Even thread [has] a speech, they created new site-specific installations that emphasize the material qualities of fiber as a means to produce work that is powerfully physical and affective. Elements of light, space, and color, exemplified in Tawney’s work, are foundational in the work of Anne Lindberg, whose site-responsive installations use thread pulled taut through space to create a luminescent color field. Pepe’s crocheted installations connect histories of craft and feminism to reimagine familiar spaces such as the church, the home, and the corporate lobby, while Harrod’s macramé sculptures act as large-scale support structures for queer-identifying bodies.

Even thread [has] a speech is one of four exhibitions in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s fall 2019 series, Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe. The series explores Lenore Tawney's life and impact, offering a personal and historical view into her entire body of work. Visit jmkac.org/LenoreTawney for more information about the series.

Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe is supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.