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Magdalena Abakanowicz (b. 1930)


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Fibre art

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A broad term that covers various types of modern work that are made with fibre but which are distinct from traditional categories such as tapestry. Experimental work with fibre goes back at least as far as the 1920s, when Gunta Stölzl (see Bauhaus) created abstract tapestries in which variations of texture are an important part of the design; slightly later, Anni Albers, too, created textiles that do not merely reproduce a design made in another medium, but depend for their effect on the distinct physical properties of the fibre. However, it was not until the 1960s that there was anything like a movement in fibre art (Magdalena Abakanowicz was the best-known pioneer). The term itself was coined in the 1970s, when the breaking down of distinctions between ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’ was a significant strand in feminist art because it was considered to challenge the way in which conventional art history valued certain processes and materials over others allegedly in the interests of devaluing female creativity. Most of the leading exponents of Fibre art are women, including the Americans Sheila Hicks (1934– ), whose work includes floor pieces, Faith Ringgold, well known for her ‘story-quilts’, and Claire Zeisler (1903–91), whose work included cascading pieces.

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