Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Frank Connet: The Topography of Tension
at the Chicago Cultural Center

Untitled #41
Copper, encaustic 2013
15" x 13" x 12"
Electroformed shibori sculpture

I had the pleasure of discovering the work of Frank Connet during my recent visit to Chicago. 
The show is on view at the Chicago Cultural Center, in the 1st floor Michigan Avenue Galleries, through January 4, 2015.

Here's the write up from the Cultural Center's brochure for the show:
This recent body of textile and sculptures continues Connet's twenty year fascination with the process of the dye-resist technique of mokume shibori. Connet's new wall pieces approach a level of cartographic exploration, reassembling the compositions into abrupt transitions between pattern and deep indigo fields. 
[Photos of work by Guy Nicol. Installation shots by Lynette Haggard.]


Binnie Birstein and Pamela W. Wallace enjoying the work.

Connet's sculptures are motivated by the three-dimensional potential of the tension, density and compression inherent in the shibori process. Copper fabric is stitched and pulled into billowing volumes that are then electroplated, accumulating surface deposit and structural rigidity on the exposed edges. The sculptures exploit extremes—translucency and solidity, movement and stasis.

Untitled #46
Copper, encaustic 2013
16" x 11" x 8"
Electroformed shibori sculpture

Here is a description from Frank Connet:
My interest in natural phenomena—the action of wind on sand, the slow accretion of minerals, appearance of growth and decay—mirror my thinking around the work. The processes of indigo dying and the electroplating of copper, although very different, utilize a gradual, repetitive and time consuming deposition of material onto a substrate. 
I use the specific technique of "mokume" shibori for both the textiles and sculptures (not arashi). Mokume is the Japanese term for woodgrain. It consists of parallel lines of stitches. When dyed and the stitches removed, it produces the linear pattern you see on my textile work. 
The sculptures utilize the same stitch, same technique, only done with a copper wire instead of thread and using a very fine copper mesh instead of fabric. After the piece is sewn, and the stitches pulled, it is electroplated, often for several days, it becomes rigid, solid, in a sense fossilizing the movement of fabric. It is not dyed. 
Both processes can be difficult to control and often produce unexpected results. This collaboration with the process is important to the rhythm of the work, responding to the unexpected; editing, and influencing the next decision.
Untitled #50
Copper, encaustic
13.5 x 13.5 x 9
Electroformed shibori sculpture


Untitled #61
Copper, encaustic
12” x 13” x 10
Electroformed shibori sculpture



Installation view: 
Untitled #52, 10” x 8.5” x 5”, 2013
Untitled #57, 15” x 14” x 4.5”, 2014
Untitled #23, 9” x 7.5” x 2”, 2011

Untitled #41
Copper, encaustic
15” 
x 14” x 11”
Electroformed shibori sculpture

All of the textile pieces (below) are indigo and walnut dyes on wool, using Japanese shaped resist dyeing. (To learn more about Shibori, click HERE). The fabric is then cut and pieced and mounted on stretchers.

3rd Quarter Pearl
40” x 50"



Untitled #132
47” x 31"



Untitled #134
 48.5” x 45"


So both bodies of work start in a similar way, to very different ends. I've been working with Shibori and indigo for many years, but the sculptures come from meeting a California artist, June Schwarcz, who pioneered the use of electroplating in her enamel work. I met June about 3+ years ago, she is 96. She is an amazing artist, and generous and kind person. Here's a video interview with her.
You can read more about the Shibori Technique here. The metal pieces are all electroplated copper—both bodies of work utilize the shibori technique.

Thank you, Frank Connet for informing us about your process and work.