Two site-specific, large-scale fabric installations by artist Todd Knopke will be adorning the walls of the Atrium of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The collages will be on display March 28-July 20. The exhibition opens with an event featuring a conversation between the artist and the curator on March 28 at 5:30 pm.
The works are monumental, each measuring twenty-six feet tall. “I am most interested in making very large pieces that can transform a space and transport a viewer,” says Knopke. “Floor-to-ceiling, wall-sized pieces remind me of old tapestries that covered brick walls and kept the insides of castles or houses warm.” Although Knopke has created large fabric collages previously, this project is his largest to date.
Deluge, the work commissioned by the Art Center, depicts water -- a soaring waterfall on one wall and, on the opposite wall, a canopy of foliage that hovers over colorful, ribboned posts wading in water. Rendered in hundreds of strips of sewn blue fabric, water is everywhere, giving one the sense of standing just below a spraying waterfall.
“In the Hudson Valley, the actual waterfall that comes to mind is Kaaterskill Falls, which has been painted numerous times by so many of the Hudson River School artists whose paintings hang in the nearby galleries,” notes Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and Assistant Director for Strategic Planning at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. “Yet the materiality and the experience of Knopke’s work shares very little with the quiet, contemplative paintings of the 19th century.”
Knopke acknowledges this. “The nature of the material I use is loose and malleable, blows in the wind, and crumples into a pile. The contrast between this soft flexibility and its grand scale creates a flicker between what is huge and what isn’t,” he explains. “Something this monumental can be very lightweight, sitting flat on a wall or draped across space. It can be as opaque as a wall or glow from within like supple stained glass.”
Knopke begins with his sewing machine and a pile of old clothes, sheets, towels and blankets from friends and family. From these meager raw materials, he creates enormous collaged scenes that are rich with texture, history and meaning, drawing from the American tradition of quilting and the European tradition of tapestry making. Using remnant material allows the artist to perform a perceptual shift from a collage of real objects with their own histories to a representation of something completely new. “Knopke has a talent for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary,” says Lombino.
At the Art Center, viewers are invited to step behind Knopke’s enormous waterfall tapestry to view the back from within a small area between the cloth and the wall. “The light from the Atrium windows trickles through the translucent fabric revealing the exposed stitching and raw edges of the cloth pieces while at the same time, creating an intimate experience for the viewer,” says Lombino.
The experience is rich with intimacy for the creator, too. Describing his process, the artist explains, “Cutting into a pair of cords my brother wore at age 10 that still has a note in the pocket, or my sister’s 11th-grade prom dress that literally smells of 1988, folds time and enriches the work. I’ve even taken a shirt off my back because it was the right green to make a grassy patch.”
Knopke holds an MFA from Yale University School of Art and has exhibited widely as both a solo artist and in group shows at galleries such as Sikkema Jenkins, New York; Derek Eller Gallery, New York; Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam NL; TSA Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York; and recently a solo show at Feature Inc, New York. Knopke’s work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, NY Arts Magazine, The Village Voice, Vision Magazine, and Columbia Art Journal. His work is in many private collections and the collection of the Santa Barbara Art Museum. Born in Los Angeles, CA, Knopke currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Exhibition Opening Event
Friday March 28, 2014
5:30pm Art Center Atrium
Conversation with artist Todd Knopke and curator Mary-Kay Lombino.
6:30pm Reception, Art Center Galleries
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.