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Contemporary fiber art from 36 artists featured in new exhibition
Aune Taamal (b. Estonia, active Tallinn, Estonia), The Language of Light (detail), 2008. Cotsen Collection, T-3100a. Photo by Bruce M. White. © Lloyd Cotsen, 2016.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Contemporary fiber artworks commissioned through a challenge to artists by Los Angeles collector Lloyd Cotsen are being showcased in “The Box Project: Uncommon Threads” at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. The exhibition is on view Sept. 30 through January 29, 2018.

“The Box Project” features pieces by 36 acclaimed international artists, including Richard Tuttle, Cynthia Schira, Gerhardt Knodel, Helena Hernmarck, James Bassler and Gyöngy Laky, among others. The exhibition showcases a diverse collection of works that reflect the artists’ creative and ingenious use of fiber to create new works of art.

Mr. Cotsen, the former CEO of Neutrogena, was a passionate art collector and philanthropist. The project originated in the early 2000s when Mr. Cotsen and his then curator, Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, who died in 2011, invited the artists to respond to a challenge. Would the artists – most of whom generally create two-dimensional fiber works – attempt a three-dimensional piece that could fit into a small, shallow box?

Each artist interpreted the challenge in his or her own way, with widely divergent results. Most of the pieces in the show are presented in their boxes that measure 23 inches by 14 inches or 14 inches by 14 inches. Additional examples that are more typical of the artists’ work are also being featured to provide context on how they were challenged by the project.

“‘The Box Project’ encouraged artists to think outside the box by forcing them to work within it,” said Camille Ann Brewer, curator of contemporary art at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. “The variety of solutions that resulted and the range of materials and techniques used by the artists demonstrate the project’s success.”

Many of the artists push the boundaries of fiber. The creations use plastic tubing, copper wire, paper, wood, zippers, buttons, beads, magnets, reflective tape, sponges and spools of thread to great effect. The themes and appearances of the artworks themselves are as diverse as the materials they employ.

For example, Virginia Davis’ submission conjures the vastness of the night sky, and Ai Kijima’s quilted collage employs the pop culture imagery of children’s cartoons. Mr. Knodel and Mr. Bassler both invoke game boards in unique ways. Some works fit neatly in their boxes while others, such as Aune Taamal’s delicate weaving can be stored in their boxes but overflow their confines when unfolded for display.

The small scale of the works in “The Box Project” offers viewers an intimate experience with the commissioned art. Other elements on display include borrowed works for comparison, video interviews, material samples and concept sketches to provide background on the artists and their processes.

“The Box Project” was organized by the Cotsen Foundation for Academic Research with the Racine Art Museum and curated by Lyssa C. Stapleton and Bruce W. Pepich. The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum will host public programs throughout the duration of the exhibition, including programs presented by Ms. Hernmarck, Mr. Tuttle, and Kyoko Nitta, and a free family day Oct. 21 with demonstrations by Ms. Kijima, hands-on art activities and performances.

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