Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe to open at John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Lenore Tawney in her Chicago studio, 1957. Photo by Aaron Siskind.

A series of  four exhibitions explores Lenore Tawney’s life and impact, offering a personal and historical view into her entire body of work.

Lenore Tawney’s studio, 1985. Photo by Paul J. Smith.

In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney (October 6, 2019 – March 7, 2020) anchors the series with an evocation of Tawney’s studio underscoring the relationship of the artist’s space to her creative practice. This exhibition reunites over 120 key works—weavings, drawings, collages and assemblages—with art and artifacts from Tawney’s highly personalized studio environment, revealing her processes and inspirations, and dissolving boundaries between the material surroundings she constructed for herself and the work she produced.

Lenore Tawney, Windows, 1985.

Ephemeral and Eternal: The Archives of Lenore Tawney (September 15, 2019–February 16, 2020) explores correspondence, journals, artist books, photographs, audio interviews, and ephemera drawn from manuscript collections at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. Tawney’s papers do not merely reflect her artistic legacy; they reveal her complex—and at times contradictory—identities as an artist, friend, woman, reader, wife, thinker, collector, weaver, sculptor, traveler, and seeker.  More than a repository of materials documenting her life, Tawney’s archive is also a landscape she cultivated as a daily log of inspiration for her art. 

Even Thread Has a Speech, installation view.

Even Thread Has a Speech (September 1, 2019–February 2, 2020) is a group exhibition exploring Tawney’s lasting impact on eight contemporary fiber artists with new, site-specific installations commissioned by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center as well as two- and three-dimensional works. From crocheted installations to macramé sculptures, video, assemblage, and performance, the works echo Tawney’s visual language of abstraction and the desire to communicate without sending specific messages. Artists in the exhibition include Indira Allegra, Julia Bland, Jesse Harrod, Judith Leemann, Anne Lindberg, Michael Milano, and Sheila Pepe.

Lenore Tawney, Cloud Labyrinth, 1983.

Cloud Labyrinth (August 18, 2019–January 19, 2020 fills an entire gallery with a work originally created for the Lausanne International Tapestry Biennale in 1983.  This monumental piece exemplifies the evolution of Tawney’s practice while maintaining an unmistakable connection to weaving. Accompanying the installation will be an ongoing screening of the film Cloud Dance (1979) in which dancer and choreographer Andy De Groat improvises movement in response to Tawney’s Four-Armed Cloud at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.

Lenore Tawney: Mirror of the Universe is accompanied by a new 304-page monograph of the same name, co-published by The University of Chicago Press, which, through new scholarship, sheds light on Tawney’s enduring and multifaceted impact on contemporary art.