Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today

PathmakersImage courtesy of Gabriel A. Maher

Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today

Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today considers the important contributions of women to modernism in postwar visual culture. In the 1950s and 60s, an era when painting, sculpture, and architecture were dominated by men, women had considerable impact in alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics, and metals.

Pathmakers Courtesy of Vivian Beer and Wexler Gallery. Photo courtesy of Wexler Gallery

Largely unexamined in major art historical surveys, either due to their gender or choice of materials, these pioneering women achieved success and international recognition, laying the ground for the feminist movement that followed. Featuring more than 100 works, Pathmakers focuses on a core cadre of women—including Ruth Asawa, Edith Heath, Sheila Hicks, Karen Karnes, Dorothy Liebes, Alice Kagawa Parrott, Toshiko Takaezu, Lenore Tawney, and Eva Zeisel — who had impact and influence as designers, artists, and teachers, using materials such as clay, fiber, and metals in innovative ways.

Pathmakers Mariska Karasz, Transcendence, 1958. Photo courtesy of Eva Heyd

Significantly, the group came to maturity along with the Museum of Arts and Design itself, which was founded in 1956 as the center of the emerging American modern craft movement. The exhibition also highlights contributions of European émigrés, including Anni Albers and Maija Grotell, who brought with them a conviction that craft could serve as a pathway to modernist innovation. Parallels between women creating work in Scandinavia and the United States are emphasized by the inclusion of important Scandinavian designers such as Rut Bryk, Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe.

Polly Apfelbaum, Handweavers Pattern Book, 2014. (Installation). Photo courtesy of Andres Ramirez

The legacy of these women is conveyed through a section of the exhibition that presents works by contemporary female artists and designers that reflect and expand upon the work of the earlier generation. International and United States-based artists and designers featured in this section include Polly Apfelbaum, Vivian Beer, Front Design, Christine McHorse, Michelle Grabner, Hella Jongerius, Gabriel A. Maher, Magdalene Odundo, and Anne Wilson.

Museum of Arts and Design, New York
April 28, 2015 to September 27, 2015


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