AYATEX

 

Rising, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (avocado pits, Aztec marigold, indigo) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
2 x 2 m (78” x 78”)
Photo by Ramiro Chaves

Reposado, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (pomegranate rinds, avocado pits & Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

The Kiss, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”

Victory, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (avocado pits, indigo, pomegranate rinds) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
2 x 2 m (78” x 78”)

Étant Donnés 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (avocado pits & indigo) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Torpedo Moon, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (Aztec marigold, avocado pits, indigo & Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

LoL 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (Aztec marigold, pomegranate rinds & Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Holy Smokes, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (avocado pits, Brazilwood, Aztec marigold) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Ionic, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (pomegranate rinds, avocado pits & Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Gelatinas, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (Aztec marigold, Brazilwood, pomegranate rinds) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Transfiguration, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (pomegranate rinds, avocado pits & indigo) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Vanishing Point, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (pomegranate rinds, avocado pits & indigo) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Pink Panther, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (pomegranate rinds, indigo & Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Choco-Concha, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (pomegranate rinds, Aztec marigold & Brazilwood) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Luperca, 2020
Naturally-dyed wool (avocado pits, cochineal, Brazilwood, oak galls & pomegranate rinds) latch-hooked and woven into agave fiber structure.
1 x 1 m (39” x 39”)

Exhibitions

 

 

 

 

TRANSFIGURATION @ Canada Gallery, New York
September 10 – October 16th, 2021

Press

TEXT

AURORA PELLIZZI’s TRANSFIGURATION
by Gini Alhadeff

Aurora Pellizzi’s object-images are the result of painstaking labor, composed of thousands of small repeated gestures, much like the precise pencil drawings by Vija Celmins representing waves, or the exacting renderings of lines and grids on canvas by Agnes Martin. Her subject, the female body, is always in the presence of another though hidden current which is patience itself—the patience to which a woman is bodily subjected, from procreation to birth and breast-feeding. This lends the images a masterfully contained and rechanneled force resembling rage that ripples through the surface of the square renderings.

As with most series by Agnes Martin, the format—39” x 39”—remains the same throughout. A woman’s body is seen in perspectives rarely seen in women’s magazines —two raised thighs with a black triangle between them; a single breast under a wavy cloud of smoke from a cigarette, then an all-too human looking series of four breasts or udders, as the woman’s body finds itself perhaps transfigured into a beast of burden. The colors are fuchsia, red, light and dark grey, white, orange, brown, black, lilac, pink, blue, yellow, green and beige obtained by infusions of brazilwood, cochineal, avocado pits, Aztec marigold, indigo, and their combinations.

The yarns used throughout are from Mexico and the works, devised by Pellizzi as to number and placement of stitches, colors, and base canvas, were then made with a cooperative of weavers in the State of Mexico in a series of collaborative sessions throughout the months of pandemic lockdown in Mexico. The techniques employed were developed with the weavers themselves—Ibeth Meliton, Margarita Librado, Valeriana Gutierrez, Maria de Los Angeles Gutierrez, and Jaquelin Hernandez—in a temporary workshop set up in one of their homes. The object-images were made of naturally dyed wool, volumetrically woven and latch-hooked onto a supportive web called ayate, a pre-Hispanic garment/accessory hand-woven on backstrap-looms out of handspun maguey or agave fibers. The most famous ayate was the cloak of a man later sainted on which the Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have miraculously appeared in 1531. To this day ayates are used to carry firewood, corn, and other agricultural products in the Mexican countryside. The ayate offers a loosely woven surface, and the thick yarns, after having been dyed with natural dyes, are pulled through, in a hand-felting technique, one by one from underneath with a needle. This produces a tactile relief effect on the surface of the images.

Tina Modotti showed in her 1971 portrait of Frida Kahlo that a woman can have hair on her upper lip, and unlike a more American feminine esthetic of hairless bodies, the close-ups of figures represented here do have hair in their armpits, and at the triangle that is the origin of the world. The triangle in Aurora Pellizzi’s hand-felted object-images is both sensual and rigorously geometric. It is this pairing in all the works that brings them to vivid attention. The use of embroidery, crochet, knitting and other “sissy” crafts, as the great artist-weaver Anni Albers once termed them before she saw that they could “rise to art,” in contemporary art evokes the work of Ghada Amer—her delicate fine-threaded embroideries of images taken from pornographic magazines—or Rosemary Trockel’s knitted works.

Born in Mexico, Aurora Pellizzi grew up between the states of Morelos and Chiapas, and in New York City.

The project provided a secondary source of income for the weavers, creating a point for collective work and communion compatible with their daily chores and tasks of home-tending and mothering. Gatherings for the project also created opportunities for conversations and exchanges on the subjects of maternity, sexuality, and representations of the female body.

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INTERVIEW

 

Gini Alhadeff: When did you begin this series on the female figure? Can you remember what started it?

Aurora Pellizzi: I think the first piece would be the video I made of the moving green screen poncho. That’s when I started playing with this sort of abstraction and figuration. The gesture of the cut in the screen was already a garment, but it was also the female body.

GA: You made that at Cooper Union?

AP: In 2010. And from that gesture and that relationship between the garment and the body, and the symbol of the body, too, I went on to do pieces that were more abstract— triangles, woven, hand-dyed, and hand-woven on backstrap looms, creating canvases that had, again, abstract shapes—a slit, a diamond, or a triangle.

GA: Was it the first time you used the backstrap loom?

AP: Those pieces were the first I made on the backstrap loom.

GA: Which you knew how to use already?

AP: No, I didn’t weave when I made the green screen poncho at Cooper Union. I learned to weave after Cooper, and I learned to weave on a backstrap loom but also on a pedal loom.

GA: Which is what you have at home right now?

AP: Yes, but not what I have been using for the last two series of works, or maybe even three series of works.

GA: Those are done by hand and then by embroidery, right?

AP: The two most recent, done in the last two years are the felt pieces. The latest pieces, those that are in the Canada show, and the felt pieces were done starting with raw wool— virgin wool that I dye, but it isn’t felted, so it’s in its raw format. I needled the felt, using needles to felt it onto an industrial wool backing, so it’s much more like painting in a way, because you’re not using the grid of the loom and the grid of the weft on the warp. The wool became a kind of paint, like a sort of palette of paint. Then I could draw almost directly with the wool, and then I started exploring the volumetric aspect of the material, too, although in the series I made on the backstrap loom with threads woven into the weft, I was already playing with volume. With the felt pieces I developed that even more, really giving them relief surfaces.

GA: In Bogotá you did a series of drawings of like invented tropical flowers. That was after Cooper, so it wasn’t a linear progression, and then, in New Haven you were working on textiles—ready-found pieces of textile with polka dots, and you painted over them.

AP: Yes.

GA: So, using either weaving or anything to do with yarn is something that came later, right?

AP: After the poncho at Cooper, I made a series of drawings and photographs of fruit— invented fantastical fruits, but to me they were also sexualized: there was a fertility leitmotiv in the forms and shapes, and on the inside of the fruits and the seeds so there was a continuity. That was actually a much more literal exploration, after the poncho, of the actual genital, as a design, as a form, as a kind of pattern, too. I wasn’t representing the human body directly, but I was referencing the human body through the figuration of these fruits, and there was humor involved in all that to me, too. With the polka dot series, I was once again working with fabric, but, as you said, it was found fabric, and that fabric was a kind of field, like the green screen, with a grid created by the polka dots. I was intervening on the fabric, playing with pattern, and disrupting it, going from it being a surface to being an object, to being the subject, to being the background. I was doing that using white-washed gesso, and once again, as with the green screen poncho, playing with the question of what is the ground, and what is the subject, in this still very abstract space but with attention placed on the skin of the fabric—the fabric as an object. It was after those two series that I learned to weave.

GA: How did that happen?

AP: It really started at Cooper, with the support of a teacher of mine there, because the projects that I was drawing, and resolving in other mediums, already suggested that they could be woven. With that encouragement, when I graduated from Cooper and was in Connecticut, there happened to be a weaving studio in New Haven, and I went straight into learning the process while making the polka dot series. Then I sought out more weaving techniques in Mexico and learned to weave on backstrap looms there with different weavers, and different techniques in Oaxaca. That’s also where I learned to dye natural wools in Teotitlán del Valle. It was a training period for weaving and dyeing. Then when I moved to Italy I was using a backstrap loom to make work at home.

GA: You traveled with it?

AP: Yes, it was a portable way of weaving for me, and I was dyeing at home. Then I started working as an assistant teacher in a weaving class for US college students in Florence, and that’s how I mastered the floor loom.

GA: What is the “floor loom”?

AP: I differentiate it from the backstrap loom because it has pedals. There are table looms that have hand cranks instead of pedals, but the floor loom has pedals that you step on and press, which open different patterns in your work. It’s a more mechanical form of weaving: depending on how you thread the loom, you can create different patterns, and so you can have four, or eight, or more, different shafts to put your patterns through, and the more you have, the more complex the pattern you make. I was in charge of helping the teacher with the students, and I had to be able to resolve all of their technical issues. Also, the teacher had sick days, or took leave for a few weeks at a time, and I had to take over the class, so I had to be on my toes about what I knew, and that´s a very good way to learn on another level.

GA: Would you say that the collection of Chiapas fabrics that your father [Francesco Pellizzi; the collection is on view at the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya A.C.] assembled, was something you felt, growing up, as an influence, or do you remember even the first time you saw it? Or was it always around you?

AP: It was always around really. What I do remember even more abstractly, and probably even earlier to any actual memory of place or time, is a sensorial relationship to fabric, which is really what has been behind all this material experience where it isn’t just an object or a utilitarian thing, it’s really… How to describe it? It´s like an extra-body experience almost, where the fabric becomes a sensorial surface outside the body, so that it extends like an extra-skin. I had a very early relationship to fabric in that way. And then, more related to Chiapas, I do have very early memories of sitting with families that were dressed head-to-toe in completely hand-woven fabrics of many kinds and complexities. And that experience of the exquisiteness of those fabrics on the human body is a very early memory for me. The pieces themselves, in terms of the information within the fabric, the complexity of the designs emerging from the fabric, rather than placed on it, is what happens with these huipiles from Chiapas. The brocade made there is part of the structure of the design, not an embroidery.

GA: It’s also something that you saw even more close up. Just as in India, women who might have been wearing slacks because they were modern in many different ways, but knew about fabric and weaving, went back to wearing handloomed sarees with Gandhi’s encouragement. In that same way with huipiles, readopting something ancient in a modern setting, you grew up seeing these fabrics really worn, by your mother [Professor Gobi Stromberg].

AP: Yes, it’s true, because I remember that the physical contact with my mother, when I hugged her, was mediated by this chamula wool, which is a very rough, very scratchy wool that smells strongly of sheep … And that was definitely a very early material contact.

GA: In view of all the weaving you’ve been doing, when you started pulling threads out of the canvas, and hand felting, how did that begin?

AP: It’s another technique, it’s the most primitive way of making fabric, because wool has that capacity because of the strands: the fiber has little teeth to it naturally, so if there’s friction involved, those teeth come together and they bind to form a surface. I made the first felt pieces in Bogotá using a water felting technique, involving friction—with hot water and soap you create more friction, because you really have to bind the fibers together and keep them moving until they do. I made two large-scale pieces that way.

GA: Was it during your first stay in Bogotá or the second?

AP: No, the second, after Florence.

AP: That process was very exciting to me because I could still apply what I was doing with the dyeing and I was managing to make reliefs with it–– and they were surfaces that didn’t require the Cartesian design I was always trying to break free from through dyeing or by the way I wove three-dimensionally. With felt I no longer had that restriction, though I didn’t have very much control over the finished design, because of the friction necessary to create the surface. So those pieces were very exciting to me, but still did not result in a technique, because I knew that I couldn’t just continue making them exactly the same way. Still, there was something there for me to explore further, and actually… when I was pregnant with Lucio and had so little energy and head space, I could really only work for about five minutes at a time, then I had to sleep beneath the table at the studio, after which I could work for another forty… I had to sleep two hours to work forty minutes and I would do three rounds like that, so I would get about an hour and a half of work a day, something ridiculous like that… I made some pieces that I haven’t shown and that were much faster and freer to do. It was something I didn’t need to spend a lot of time preparing—the way that you have to do when dyeing wool or setting up a loom—and that I could just enjoy more and see a result more quickly. For those I used jerga fabrics, which are used in Mexico to mop floors—they don’t use mops there. This jerga is cut in the middle, and they put it over the stick on the broom, then they use that to wash the floor. And it’s a very simple kind of tulle-weave fabric that always has a kind of striped design, then they play a lot with the color combinations. This is a very Mexican trait: even when objects are industrially produced, Mexicans take the opportunity to not make them all the same; they make color variations and that’s something that is appreciated culturally. So, people get the lime color or the bugambilia color in jergas to wash their floors… I started collecting those, and began to use them as surfaces to make masks: there are facial features and they’re kind of carnivalesque, and there are objects sewn onto the jergas collected also from the same area in Mexico City where they sell all the cleaning products for the house, or buttons, or stationery, again, in the greatest variety of colors and possibilities, and so these make up, the eyes, the mouth, some still natural products that they use, too, things made from maguey fiber, or shells, or that sort of thing.

GA: You’re in your studio, right?

AP: Yes… These are natural brushes…and this is a luffa… That was the series I made and then put away because Lucio was born and my time was taken up by moves, and also natural disasters, and Lucio being born, so that ended. Then, when Lucio was about two months old, I began making… I really only had like fifteen minutes, he was constantly breast feeding, really! I couldn’t put him down longer than fifteen minutes at a time, so that’s when I began making these drawings. Here’s what I would do: I knew I had very little time so I would take a normal sheet of paper and draw little squares onto it, about this big, then I drew into the squares. At the time I was reading Lucy Lippard’s book about Eva Hesse and it really moved me how she was producing her works serially, because it meant that she was completely involved in the process that she was undertaking, and that it had very much to do with whatever materials she was exploring, as well as forms. And she would take it as far as she could, and stick to that restriction. I was reading that book, and thinking about this serial idea, which was something I was already interested in. I was also frustrated by the recent pieces I had made that had been so consuming in themselves but that I hadn’t been able to take all the way. So, I was making drawings in a square format, and very simple in detail, because of the size and shape in which I was drawing, and I was still thinking about the felt pieces. Then, somehow, it came together that I would explore making these drawings in felt but in a way that I could maintain the speed of the drawing I had on paper using the materials I’d been exploring.

GA: You were trying to find some way to duplicate the fastness of drawing with fabric?

AP: Yes, the fastness of drawing with fabric, which is basically what happened with that technique, and the reason I wanted to do that was I wanted to not be so invested in one finished piece, but to create, not so much a narrative, with a beginning and an end, but to be able to look at something from many different angles, something I could keep turning around and working with for a while.

GA: The fact of making a series, with many different pieces, means you can have a range of moods: you have seriousness, you have humor and everything in between.

AP: Yes, there’s a playfulness that comes of making a series, a more spontaneous relationship, because the processes that I use are very time consuming, slow and laborious, somehow taking air away from the creative process of experimenting. As when you have more friends at a party, they talk to each other… If you’re working on just one piece that’s taking so much time, it can also slow down the process to a point where life events get in the way and then it becomes difficult to keep threading it along. The time constraints with pregnancy and maternity were very important: I had to think much more practically about time and about these processes that are about time, but also about how to engage with them and make them work for me at a rhythm that I felt truly allowed me to explore them as much as I could, and wanted, and not let myself be limited by them.

GA: You made a series of felt pieces and before the pandemic hit those were going to be your show at Canada—you had even shipped the pieces to New York City. Then because of the pandemic another year went by.

AP: The show was supposed to be in March 2020, and I had about fifteen pieces ready, which weren’t all going to fit in the show, but I had those done, and I had already made one in the new format of the next series, and begun another. At that point I had more felt pieces to make, because I continued making them, but I was ready to start exploring a new format and a new medium, and a new technique with the same drawings.

GA: The drawings of this current series were already present then?

AP: Some of them, not all … The first piece I made in the new technique was a drawing from the felt series. I translated that drawing into the new format, new technique, and materials, with a different effect: it’s a different scale and texture.

GA: Did you actually make the prototype yourself?

AP: Yes, it was done in the studio. I don’t know if it’s embroidery or weaving or what it is, it’s woven into a netted structure, so it’s between the two, but it’s not done on a loom, it’s done on a found object, the ayate. It came from research I was doing while making the felt pieces, in the same place where I collected things from the jerga series. Ayates are sold by the same providers, and the jarcería also sell other woven goods. These materials were used for the masks series, as objects too, and then I found some very fine ayates which are woven much more finely than usual—the thread is done really beautifully.

GA: You were collecting pieces of fabric.

AP: I have been collecting these materials since before Lucio was born, objects that are pre-woven, made with different kinds of fibers—henequen fibers, maguey fibers or agave fibers—and I was thinking of ways to draw into, and to work with, a pre-woven support, and that was the material I had in the studio. I had to work it out with the wool providers. The wool that I use comes from Hidalgo, just north of Mexico City, and it’s pretty rough wool, it’s not very finely manufactured, and they only make certain kinds of densities, and the densest one that they do is the ten ply wool, which was really wonderful to me because it acted as a step between being threaded and not threaded, because it’s so dense in the fiber and has very little twist. So, the fiber still acts almost as a kind of raw material, and it was the combination of that wool with the ayate… Actually the first ayate I bought was at the market in Cuernavaca, where I was scouting for materials… I began embroidering or weaving the wool into the surface of the ayate to try to get the wool to act as a kind of volume above the surface, rather than as an embroidery that is woven and flattened onto the surface.  This came out of what I was doing before, when I was weaving, where there was a relief, in the brocade —when you have a thread going into the weft but that’s making a particular drawing, separate from the grid. The structure of ayate, the rigidity of it and the open weave of it, the fact that it was just the right size to receive this wool and that it would get compressed by the wool in such a way as to make a structure that could bear a lot of weight and volume, that was the starting point. I saw that that structure could work to do things similar to what I was doing with the felting process—translating my drawings into volumetric surfaces— and that I could do just that with this new technique and materials, and still use my found material and format, while exploring all the possible variations within those limitations.

GA: Exploring in terms of the design?

AP: In terms of everything, because what I can do technically also affects what the drawing will be and what occurs to me as a figure, and thinking about how I would make it, and the other way around. Interestingly, as with the felt pieces, I was much more timid at the beginning as to how much volume I could put into them, and it was really over time that the pieces kept gaining more and more volume and relief.

GA: At what point did you start thinking that you wanted to make more of these, and perhaps more quickly, so that you went about finding weavers or embroiderers to help you?

AP: Having done two pieces and finding that each took about a month’s work just in the making, without the dyeing process which is also time-consuming, I realized that it was going to slow down the process too much if each piece became so precious in itself and that it wouldn’t necessarily act in relationship to the others, and the ideas I had about what could be done. I realized then that between my assistant and I we didn’t have enough hands to really use this technique in a way that could make us be engaged with it. It would mean dyeing a little bit, then working for many months, then dyeing again… That became an obvious constraint, both physically and timewise. My assistant at the studio had told me about some women she worked with for another company she did dyeing for: they employed a cooperative of women embroiderers, and a friend of hers was their agent in Mexico City, so I asked her if they could do something like this, and… it’s so different from what they normally do, because these women work with fashion labels, doing special edition pieces, but actually embellishing clothing with traditional embroidery techniques, very masterfully—they’re very talented.

GA: How was your first encounter? What was their reaction when they saw your work?

AP: We went to Temoaya with five ayates, and the wool for the five drawings—there were already five ideas outlined into the ayate, and there was the pre-dyed wool and the two pieces that were already made as a sample, and we set up a workshop. We were in the pandemic by then, so we all had facemasks and we put tables outside in one of the weavers’ homes, and we gave a kind of workshop, showing the different techniques we had developed in the studio—the different ways of threading the ayate—one is the threading through and the other is called the Turkish knot, or the Giordes knot, which uses a special kind of tool to knot the fabric to get a raised pile surface … Those were the two main techniques and two main surfaces. Then we talked a little bit about how to create the volume, and how much to raise the wool, and keep it raised to create more volume, and how to contour shapes so that they would start lower and fill out. The women were completely immersed in the process we worked on, trying the wool and the needles and they just really dove right in, and seemed really curious about learning it and trying it. And there were quite a few women…

GA: How many?

AP: There were more at the beginning, I think there were about eight of them, then they decided who would work on what.

GA: But they all live near one another?

AP: Yes, actually I realized later that very many of them are related to each other, so, yes… They have their cooperative already set up and they have one leader—she’s actually one of the youngest in the group and she is also their organizer. They divide the work among themselves, and support each other… As they worked on the different pieces, they would get in touch with me with some doubts, WhatsApping pictures with questions, and I would try to respond by looking at the pictures, but when I went to see what they had done, the finished pieces were really very beautiful, but the techniques were completely different one from the other, one weaver from the next. And, the thing that took the most time to develop was the idea of volume and of the raised surface, because that was what they were least used to making, since the embroidery that they do is usually very flat. We redid parts of some, others we redid in the studio, and some we redid there. For some we switched embroiderers, and then we started seeing who had mastered what technique, or who had one style of weaving and who had another… In this town of Temoaya they traditionally make carpets, Persian style carpets—someone had come and trained them, and it was something that the town had been producing though now they almost no longer do. But at that first meeting we found that one of the women had for many years woven these Persian, or Turkish-knotted carpets, and it’s the same technique of piling the wool. She recognized that right away and started working on that technique, and it turned out that she really was the most capable—not everybody was able to do that particular work—so in the end it was she and another woman, who became the ones who could do that kind of piling, whereas the leader was the one who ended up understanding the volume—no one else really did in the end.

GA: Do you mean the organizer?

AP: She was able to understand the three-dimensionality, after a lot of weaving and unweaving, I mean, she had to unweave entire ayates, like two of them, and redo them, but she really was able to master the idea of creating different lengths of thread in order to create a volume that has a shape, a three-dimensional shape, and so it was really just her…

GA: What was their response to the actual images? You mentioned that they were puzzled when first seeing these pieces.

AP: The person who first put me in touch with them told me that they had wanted to know what these pieces were for—were they utilitarian objects? And who was their audience—they asked whether they were for a male audience, so we decided to do a presentation for the cooperative, for all the women, on my work so that I might explain it a bit more to them. That was really so much fun, because we already had six or seven, the first five and two more pieces. They put some big tables outside, and we put all the pieces out, and the five women who were working on them were there. Then another twenty women came as well, who were part of a bigger cooperative—there are two big organizations, and they all came. And I started talking to them a little bit about my background in art, saying: “I’m an artist, I work in fine art, and…”, in the history of art there have been predominantly male artists making work, and in what we call the modern movement of art, they used mostly industrial materials and minimalist forms and shapes. Until in the sixties and seventies there began to be movements of women artists wanting to be recognized as women artists, using different materials more traditionally associated with women, who started to employ craft and embroidery, and weaving and fabric in their work, and exhibiting it as art, and opening up the conversation between what is craft and what is art. The women were listening to all of it, because the art side was very abstract to them, but the fact that these pieces would be exhibited in a gallery, and the idea of what is art, and that craft can be art, I think that to them was a very natural way in which they experience what they do. And then, I explained that what I was doing in these works was presenting craft as art but also the female body as a subject, and as a subject that was not inhibited and was represented as unshroudedly as possible, and that the shapes and forms of the body could be experienced as a landscape, as boulders and mountains… And they were really paying attention to what I was saying, very interested in the conversation, and then when I finished talking, they all got up and ran to the tables and couldn’t stop touching the wool, and looking at it and lifting it, and looking into how it was made, and they were very excited about the technical challenge of it too, because, you know, it’s like embroidery but at ten or more times the scale. The fabric is a grid, but it is so much larger, and the wool is a hundred times larger than what they’re used to working with, so it’s all very familiar in a way, but the experience of it is also different, because you experience it with your whole body, and because of the scale and the texture of it. Yes, it was really fun looking at the work with them.

GA: Did they like the final result?

AP: Yes, they seemed very excited about it. I mean, these were the women that weren’t the makers, you know, but a wider public. As for the makers, they were extremely proud of every single piece because every piece had been extremely challenging.  With whatever they had worked on it was never just a mechanical act—there was a lot of resolving and effort to dominate this technique that was being invented. If I invented it originally in the studio, it was also being invented as we went along, so it was not as though we were just employing something that they already knew how to do.

GA: That’s important and quite different from what some artists have done which is to engage artisans to make their work.

AP: It’s not like a tapestry studio where you take your drawing and they translate it or… I know someone who also works with embroiderers who have a style of embroidering, and they are given a drawing to embroider. No, this was just completely unprecedented. Every piece is very different in the techniques that it employs, so we could explore all that because we were working collectively. And each change was also a big challenge that we had to work out, and often, we had to completely undo what we had done, and redo it several times.

GA: I think of an individual piece where you have the breast and clouds coming over it and a cigarette—I imagine it would have been complex to create those shapes.

AP: Almost all the pieces—there are fourteen or thirteen—so let’s say for ten of the thirteen pieces, the bodies of the women, which are the parts that usually have the most complex shapes and volumes and contours, I did myself, and then a couple of those my assistant did, and a couple were done by the one woman who had mastered the technique. The smoke one, with the breast and the arm coming down, and the hand, all of that I did, and the blanket was done by one of the women, the background was done by another, and the smoke was done by the woman who had mastered the technique of the Turkish-knot and could manage the curvature—it was one of the last pieces we did. It came out very well, but when I had it in the studio, I decided I wanted to put in a lighter fringe in the middle to give it another layer, so that was then redone—taken out and rewoven in the studio.

GA: So, it’s almost like having a background that is painted by an assistant, then you go in and do the detail…

AP: Yes, many of the pieces worked that way, and there were a couple of women who were really specialized in the different background techniques we used, and then…

GA: You would go in and make the more complex part.

AP: The more complicated ones. But not entirely, because they became more and more specialized in something, so in the end we all had a different part in the making.

GA: Would you make more works with this process or will the next series be a whole other thing that you’re already thinking of?

AP: I do feel that the large format, the one big piece, can be explored further, because we’ve explored the small format pretty thoroughly, but I feel the large format makes for a very different effect and experience. They’re all the same size except for the image on the invitation which is four times the size of the rest of the series, and that’s the one I feel I could explore more.

GA: Yes, that one has a different feeling about it, it’s a very majestic image, it has a kind of gravitas, and a sense of ‘transfiguration’ about it. The other pieces have a combination of humor and rage.

AP: Is it rage or is it outrageous? Because I do think they’re outrageous.

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PUBLICATION

 

TRANSFIGURATION
by Aurora Pellizzi
printed by Can Can Press

TRANSFIGURATION is a nine ink risographic publication printed by Can Can Press, an independently-run printing press and publishing house in Mexico City.

The book brings together 38 color plates based on Aurora Pellizzi’s latest series of sculptural/pictorial wall–hangings made of naturally hand–dyed, felted and woven wool. In keeping with the artist’s investigation of natural dyes and pigments, each plate explores chromatic relationships through carefully designed layering of the eco-friendly rice–based ink characteristic of the riso printing process.

Within the square bounds of the page, figure and ground twist, turn and unfold, oscillating between abstraction and figuration.

The book was printed on the occasion of the exhibition by the same name at Canada Gallery, New York and is currently available in New York at Canada Gallery & Judi Rosen; at Oven Universe in Sapporo, Japan; and online in Mexico and USA, here.

48 page book
Edition of 200
9 ink risograph print
20 x 20 cm
180g bristol paper

ISBN: 978-0-578-97182-7