Optical Fiber – Quirky, youthful FiberPhiladelphia at Space 1026

From Megan Whitmarsh’s neon-addled memories of the 1970s to Allison Watkins’ meticulous rendering of her closet’s contents, Space 1026’s contribution to FiberPhiladelphia, Optical Fiber, is a fun, brash collection. There is a certain quantity of visual noise and focus on youth and imagination; all the artists play with form and evocation, and by far the strongest commonality is their affinity for using fiber in unconventional ways.

5. Erin M Riley, A.) “Alone,” hand woven wool tapestry, 2011. $1200. B.)”Passed Out 3,” hand woven wool tapestry, 2011. $1200. C.) “Webcam,” hand woven wool tapestry, 2011. $1200. D.) “Belly,” hand woven wool tapestry, 2011. $1200.

Erin Riley’s work replicates in tapestry images gleaned from the dark corners of the internet. Chosen for their banality – girls in states of undress, taking bong hits, passed out in a drunken stupor – they can pass as either biting commentary on this generation’s solipsistic self absorption or a condemnation of the theft of girls’ control over their own sexuality. Although the girls were seemingly blasé about being photographed, Riley questions that; she has upped the voyeuristic aspect, and intervened as their protector, by refusing to give them faces. The medium at once elevates her subjects and makes their self-selection as brazen, possibly unwilling sexual objects that much more poignant.

2. Allison Watkins, “My Closet in San Francisco,” Hand stitching on fabric, 2010. $4500.

It’s possible to spend long minutes looking at Allison Watkins’ work and still not catch every amazing detail. She has woven every dress, coat and blouse in her closet, down to the stitching. The labored beauty of her recreations is that, even underscored by the cleverness of using textiles to depict textiles, they still feel incredibly personal.

3. New Friends, A.) “DOG WEAVE,” 2012, $25. B.) “BEST WOOF,” group of weavings, 2012, $25. C.) “TAPESTRY,” Screen print on paper, 2012, $25.

New Friends is a portmanteau of Alexandra Segreti and Kelly Rakowski who, as Weird Friends and Nothing is New, respectively, found one another’s work, saw a lucrative artistic partnership in the making, and decided to collaborate via the internet on a series of woven pieces before meeting in real life. Their oddball concoctions, such as “Best Woof” (an eye-rolling play on warp and woof) make it fun to imagine the two artists working “together, apart,” bouncing ideas off of one another and seeing what sticks, before so much as seeing one another in person.

Optical Fiber
Takashi Iwasaki, “Benkyouribon.” Embroidery thread and fabric. 2008. $2200.

Takashi Iwasaki’s needlepoint work is representative of the artist’s imaginary worlds and of motifs that come into play in his daily life. With little but the extravagant titles to go on, the viewer can project his or her own feelings onto the pieces. We’re not necessarily supposed to know what the tripped-out colors of what appears to be an array of exotic birds are meant to represent in Iwasaki’s mind – if they refer to a childhood memory or are part of an imaginary vista known only to him – but we are free to draw our own conclusions.

4. Annie Larson, “Mother-Daughter Set.” Knit on a brother KH-965i knitting machine with combinations of wool, cashmere, angora, mohair, and other novelty yarns. Painted hangers by Eric T. Carlson. 2012. NFS.

The richness of detail in Brooklyn designer Annie Larson’s sweaters – each hand-made for customers – means that, more than clothes, they are meant to be seen as sculptural pieces. Each sweater bears her signature touches, but each is still unique. “Mother-Daughter Set” shows the connection between Larson’s desire for both function and stylization, as both are extremely useful, even conservative garments, but are given the feeling of discovered artifacts by their display.

1. Megan Whitmarsh, “Totem (Prism).” Embroidery thread, fabric, stuffing, wood, wire and paint. 2011. $8000.

Megan Whitmarsh’s works pay tribute to her 1970s upbringing, exploiting the clichés we immediately associate with the era. “Totem (Prism)” shows a bug-eyed alien, draped in cheesy feathers and gold chains, and crowned with the Pink Floyd prism. Her mock-mystical totems beg people who actually remember the 70s to revel in the decade’s gloriously bad taste.

The cut-and-paste quality of the show won me over. With its lively visual energy, this group show feels like it has all but spilled out of the back of the building, with the print-slathered studio spaces visible from the main room, and the effect is both pleasantly scattershot and complimentary to the artists.