Pace Gallery presents a series of handwoven paintings by Brent Wadden

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Pace Gallery presents a series of handwoven paintings by Brent Wadden
Brent Wadden, Untitled, 2022, Hand woven fibers, wool, cotton and acrylic on canvas, image, 130 cm × 131 cm (51-3/16" × 51-9/16") © Brent Wadden.

SEOUL.- Pace Gallery is presenting the first exhibition of Brent Wadden in the Seoul gallery. The solo exhibition, titled Plecto, presents a series of handwoven paintings, all of which were completed this year.

Challenging the canonical concept of painting, Wadden’s woven geometric compositions revisit the spectrum of creative production that consists of overlapping categories of fine art, design, and folk art. While Wadden’s non-conformist attitude aligns his practice with the mid-20th century post-painterly abstractions, it also perpetuates a dialogue with contemporary concerns surrounding labour, consumerism, and capitalist culture.

The exhibition is titled Plecto, the Latin verb for ‘to weave’—but it also means to punish, beat or blame. It foregrounds the importance of the artist’s chosen methodology for his practice. Wadden’s practice can be described as self-reflexive research into medium and process. Describing his abstract woven works as paintings, this intentional use of language comments on the art historical canon and the value of folk traditions and practices in our culture—offering a critical perspective surrounding the economies of artistic productions.

Wadden began his artistic training in painting, nevertheless, he was introduced to weaving in Berlin in the early 2000s and found that adopting woven textile as a form offers a better translation of the aesthetic and conceptual content of his practice. Abstract Expressionism and Bauhaus textiles play an integral part in Wadden’s oeuvre. One may situate Wadden’s clearly defined compositional grids that contain the rhythmic and bold diagonals, at the intersection of the meditative, linear presentations of Agnes Martin and the flat, inviting yet impenetrable geometries of Frank Stella. The artist also attributes the influence of Ann Albers, along with the contributions of many unacknowledged women weavers, on his practice. Consequently, his works foregrounds the conversations on the perimeters of inclusivity imposed by contemporary art critics. Wadden stretches and frames his woven textiles over canvases as if they were paintings, which further complicates the preconceived hierarchies between different disciplines defined by media, functionality, and gendered association.

Wadden pursues a deliberate laborious process that distinguishes his works with layers of connotation, thus, interpretation. He incorporates painting, drawing and textile weaving as the basis of each work. The artist painstakingly sources second-hand fabrics and yarns, at times even unravels knitted blankets or clothing. He then organizes his acquisition per categories of hues and proceeds to make pencil sketches of his works based on the material findings. He expresses that found materials often assert an influence on his compositions: “Reusing materials offers something different – often the yarn tells me what to do with it”. In this sense, Wadden’s paintings are woven with fragments of both historical and anthropological anecdotes, thus, offering a poetic interpretation of their content. Moreover, the paintings are imbued with the sense of temporality due to their medium as well as the process through which they are conceived. The weaver’s process requires highly meticulous and repetitive movement that follows a stringent and linear progression. The textile can only be woven one line at a time, visually marking the passage of time. Such restrictions and self-imposed limitations by the artist implore the viewers of his works into seeing beyond the aesthetic framework presented to them. Delving deeper into the labour and process of production, the work invites discussions on the demands of rapid and mechanized production and the effects of consumer culture in an environment driven by capitalist ideals.

The linear development of each work is akin to that of writing a story, the complete picture is only available upon the completion of the work. Weaving a textile on a loom requires a series of predetermined and sequential movement to continuously roll the fabric around the loom as its being produced. This means the artist is only able to view a segment of the textile at a time – as opposed to the conventional painting process in which the artist has access to the entirety of the canvas at once. The progressional and sequential characteristics of Wadden’s practice underscores the capacity of each work to embody its own narrative and history. Wadden’s interest in storytelling is apparent in the deliberate inconsistencies found in his works. These intentional ‘mistakes’ reveal a tension between the highly regulated and mechanized weaving process and the spontaneity with which Wadden approaches it. Presenting a punctum in the near-perfect geometries of the Wadden’s compositions, these imperfection offers a point of departure for the viewers and a means for the artist to realize his authorial presence.

Wadden innovates the age old medium of weaving and presents a paradox as to what constitutes a painting. In doing so, the artist collapses the hierarchies and binary association revolving artistic mediums and categories. Although, his painterly tendencies are apparent in his lyrical compositions, Wadden’s unique approach to the medium engages the viewers into a dialogue that extends beyond the pictorial plane of the work.

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