Alison Jacques opens 'Sheila Hicks: Infinite Potential'

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Alison Jacques opens 'Sheila Hicks: Infinite Potential'
In the six decades since that momentous class, Hicks has been a restless innovator, expanding fibre’s potential via what she describes as ‘different investigatory channels’: sculpture, commercial and architectural textile design and installations.

LONDON.- Alison Jacques is pleased to announce ‘Sheila Hicks: Infinite Potential’, the inaugural exhibition of Alison Jacques’ new Mayfair gallery at 22 Cork Street.

Sheila Hicks first exhibited in London in 1965 and had her first major UK survey show at the Hepworth Wakefield in 2022 curated by Andrew Bonacina. This exhibition is the artist’s fourth solo show with the gallery. ‘Infinite Potential’ follows Hicks’ recent critically celebrated exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou Malaga (2023) and Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (2023). The exhibition surveys both historical and new works whilst Hicks created a new site-specific installation that echoes earlier monumental environments at venues including the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018), 57th Venice Biennale (2017) and Glasgow International (2016). For the exhibition Hicks also made new lianes; vine-like sculptures that tumble down walls like psychedelic waterfalls, and new diaristic minimes, minimal works that have been a constant through her practice.

In 1962, Sheila Hicks was studying painting at Yale University. Attending class on pre-Columbian art taught by George Kubler, author of the influential The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (1962); Hicks recalls he ‘was flashing slides of incredible weavings up on the screen and what caught my interest was their colour, design and shape.’ The riches of language she discovered that day changed the course of her life: she began teaching herself how to weave. ‘My interest in textiles’, she said, ‘didn’t mean I stopped painting – I loved it – but my fascination with coloured lines and inventing pliable two and three–dimensional structures slowly overtook every other enthusiasm.’

In the six decades since that momentous class, Hicks has been a restless innovator, expanding fibre’s potential via what she describes as ‘different investigatory channels’: sculpture, commercial and architectural textile design and installations. Extensive travels through South America shaped her formative years. She taught Josef Albers’s Bauhaus course at a university in Chile, moved to Paris, founded textile workshops in countries including Mexico and South Africa, worked with weavers in Peru, Mexico, Morocco, India, Israel and Saudi Arabia and dreamed up tapestries and wall hangings for companies from Ford to Fuji.

Weaving, for Hicks, is a way of both remembering and recording. She makes everything by hand, observing that it ‘connects the eyes and the brain. Hands, eyes, brain: it’s the magic triangulation’. Since the 1950s, Hicks has woven more than one thousand diaristic minimes – a word which loosely translates from the French as ‘minimals’ or miniatures on a small, handmade loom: fibre sketches that evoke landscapes, states of minds or moods. She often introduces evocative found objects – corn husks and coiled copper, shoelaces and shirt collars, feathers, seashells, ribbons, grasses, bone, twigs, paper and razor clams – into the cotton, linen, silk and wool tendrils. Her titles are oblique entry points. They are ‘not descriptions’, she says. ‘Metaphors reign’. Examples include Fleeting (2022); The Wandering Lady (2016), Self-portrait on a Blue Day (1977); An Acre of Rain Forest (1989) and Twenty Years is Nothing (1958).

The minimes are just one of the textile forms that Hicks has returned to again and again. Another is the lianes or cordes enveloppées: vine-like sculptures. Hicks creates these vibrant vertical sculptures by wrapping thousands of variously coloured threads in yarn, a technique she first discovered during her travels throughout South and Central America. Like everything Hicks makes, the lianes have an extraordinary presence: hand-made, high key, suggestive, they’re at once a form of enquiry and an acknowledgement of mystery – a conversation not only with deep time but with the possibilities of the present.

Hicks has been the subject of many major solo museum exhibitions, most recently: Centre Pompidou Malaga (2023); Kunstmuseum St Gallen (2023); Hepworth Wakefield, UK (2022); MAK, Vienna (2020); The Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2019); Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2019); Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago (2019); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018), and Amparo Museum, Puebla (2018). In 2017, Hicks presented a new commission in the garden of the Palace of Versailles, Paris; and in 2016 she became the first artist to create a site-specific installation for Dan Graham’s pavilion at the Hayward Gallery, London.

Hicks’ work has been acquired by major museums worldwide including: Art Institute of Chicago; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery, Washington DC; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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