Entering Ani Afshar’s exhibition, “Woven Gardens, Shredded Shadows,” currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, it is impossible to escape an acknowledgement of the history of craft. The selection of weavings on view, ranging in date from the 1980s to the present, demonstrate a telescoped view of Afshar’s vocabulary developed in tandem to her commercial line of functional textile décor and jewelry work, though the works have remained off exhibition for the past three decades in a traditional gallery setting. With an aesthetic that adopts stylistic traits of traditional Western weavings, the various hand-woven cloths that compose Afshar’s earthen-toned landscapes, whose elements are stitched, sewn and beaded together on passages of mohair and silk, speak to invention rather than history.
Despite the prevalence of their artisanal semblance, domesticity is not a subject in the work, so much as a circumstance. Referring to the textiles as “blankets” rather than tapestries, the work is implicated with an idea of use, in addition to pure visual experience, though at times the installation of the work favors display. “The pressure of the professional market pushed me to develop a consistency among my work that I would have never thought of doing, in terms of pushing a ‘collection,’ and I don’t consider these in that way,” says Afshar. “They may be viewed as craft, but they are also considered for how they operate visually.”
Her most recent series, a collection of four tulle scrims titled “Captives,” resemble abstract montages, perhaps constructed out of the same surplus studio materials used to fabricate her earlier work. The pastel veiled supports are sparsely embroidered with geometric elements of sequins, wire and mesh. Hanging suspended from the wall, the pieces share a similar iridescent quality present in the thicker weavings, though more improvisational in terms of placement. Indicative of a system of image-making that is decisively different from the woven works, the surfaces are much less active in terms of composition—a quiet simplicity that can be appreciated in contrast to the rest of the varied, colorful and heavily handled pieces included in this exhibition. (Stephanie Cristello)
Through September 2 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell