Poetry demands to be read aloud, to be experienced as a multi-sensory form. The visual and material poetry of Cecilia Vicuña and Dianna Frid, currently on view in the Poetry Foundation’s modest sunlit vestibule, weaves together text, touch and fabric to create a richly tactile yet distinctly visual experience. Chilean artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña’s central installation “The Origin of Weaving” unites a script written on the wall in earthy chalk with organic fiber forms including soft-spun wool, thinly draped terracotta gauze and a taut bundle of wheat. A suspended palette of materials, Vicuña’s approach calls to mind the poetic assemblages of Richard Tuttle.
In turn, the work of Chicago-based artist Dianna Frid is weightier in nature, suggesting the artist’s rumination over every mark. Frid presents two artist books and a handful of textile pieces, including one applied directly to the wall. The handmade book “Reversal” is presented as an upright, unfolded accordion, allowing viewers to move around and experience both the front and exposed verso of its stitches, which spell out “river” in blue, wavy fabrics. A second artist book, “Against the Dying of the Light,” lies flat in its case. Frid’s books are soft, dimensional objects meant to be held and experienced, so their lives feel limited by the vitrine. The books are weighty, material things, yet their edges are frayed and their stitches exposed, creating a friction between the detailed making and vulnerable handiwork.
In contemporary art, language is notably employed as a conceptual tool to distill ideas from art objects. Vicuña’s and Frid’s use is the opposite: language is material, physical, soft, earthy, hand-crafted and calling to be touched. A suture of text and textile, their work folds the timeless and ancestral into a contemporary breakdown of material. One of Frid’s pieces states “We have no words in English for this.” Both Vicuña and Frid combine text, textile and weaving to evoke poetic feeling, in the way that good poetry can stir the soul. (Anastasia Karpova Tinari)
Through November 27 at the Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior.
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.