Wall to Wall: Carpets by Artists

Organized by MOCA Cleveland | Curated by Dr. Cornelia Lauf, independent curator

September 23, 2016December 31, 2016

Wall to Wall: Carpets by Artists studies some of the best contemporary art through the lens of craft: the woven carpet. Featuring 30 artists from across the globe, the exhibition shows this object to be a powerful locus of meaning today, one that cuts across issues of design, art, décor, production, and geopolitics.

The “artist carpet” is a form that bears a long and distinguished historical pedigree, from Raphael and Peter Paul Rubens, to Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, and Joan Mirò. Yet, Wall to Wall takes as its point of departure a history of art rather than history of medium, focusing on the ways in which these objects advance relevant ideas and practices today. Unlike exhibitions that examine artist carpets through an ethnographic lens detached from the world of art, Wall to Wall proposes that these carpets function in a continuum of modern art history as a critical form that is accelerating in use and application. The exhibition asks the simple question: Why?

Wall to Wall is structured by five basic categories for comparative analysis: “Eastern,” Geometry, Icon, Text, and Materiality. Starting with progenitor Alighiero Boetti, one of the first contemporary artists to employ craft traditions in foreign ethnic contexts as a form of readymade, Wall to Wall explores artists whose work in carpets taps into, and bridges, traditional and histories from East to West, such as Faig Ahmed and Ken Lum. Pierre Bismuth, whose works draws upon mathematical and architectural traditions, is considered alongside Daniel Buren, whose signature stripes, applied to a carpet, reference form as well as frame. Artists like Joseph Kosuth apply their ongoing critical exploration of language and relationships to the carpet, while others like Polly Apfelbaum emphasize the carpet’s common function as something to walk on. Some, like Christian Jankowski, realize gestural practices like drawing and mapping in carpet-form, while others like Alexandra Kehayoglou transform the carpet into a lush fiber landscape. Franz West’s floral motif is featured, literally, wall-to-wall in the exhibition, while Maurizio Cattalan’s quirky, digitally-printed carpets are presented on the spine of the Museum’s externally-visible Donna + Stewart Kohl Atrium. 

The role of production and delegation is tended to as well in Wall to Wall. Carpets demonstrate the process spectrum, from the handmade to the industrially manufactured. The featured carpets represent diverse approaches to collaboration as well: artist and weaver, artist and designer, artist and producer, artist and commercial business. These relationships reveal the blurring of traditional domains between art, craft, and design, and emphasize shifts in artisanal traditions and weaving centers across the globe. Wall to Wall raises questions about the geopolitics of production and the art market as expressed in the carpet, and the ways in which both respond to and express the significance of the artist in creating value and demand.

The artist carpet models the interwoven nature of art, design, craft, industry, and sociocultural politics today. With range and depth, Wall to Wall reveals how and why artists are advancing contemporary art practice through this ancient yet persistent medium.

Artists: Faig Ahmed, Polly Apfelbaum, Stefano Arienti, Alan Belcher, Guillaume Bijl, Pierre Bismuth, Alighiero Boetti, Mircea Cantor, Flavio Favelli, Liam Gillick, Christian Jankowski, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Alexandra Kehayoglou, Joseph Kosuth, Ken Lum, Marilyn Minter, Jonathan Monk, Sarah Morris, Paulina Olowska, Jorge Pardo, Richard Prince, Julião Sarmento, Nedko Solakov, Rosemarie Trockel, Franz West, Christopher Wool, Heimo Zobernig.

Cornelia Lauf received her PhD in art history from Columbia University and began her career at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Lauf is the founder of Camera Oscura, an alternative space devoted to craft, art, and agriculture in Tuscany. She has organized exhibitions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art; Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Casa di Goethe, Rome; and Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome. Lauf was a founding partner of Three Star Books, Paris, a publishing house devoted to artist’s books. She co-founded the curatorial agency Golden Ruler in Rome and continues to act as its artistic director. She lives and works in Rome

Major support for Wall to Wall: Carpets by Artists is provided by Westlake Reed Leskosky. Generous support is also provided by Bello Design and Mannington Commercial. Community support is provided by InterContinental Hotel Cleveland.

All 2016-2017 exhibitions are funded by Leadership Circle gifts from an anonymous donor, Yuval Brisker, Joanne Cohen and Morris Wheeler, Margaret Cohen and Kevin Rahilly, Becky Dunn, Harriet Goldberg, Agnes Gund, Michelle Jeschelnig-Shan and Richard Jeschelnig, Donna and Stewart Kohl, Toby Devan Lewis, and Scott Mueller. 

All MOCA Cleveland exhibitions are supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the continuing support of the Museum's Board of Directors, patrons and members. 

Opening night celebration supported by BakerHostetler.