The Dallas Museum of Art will present its first exhibition of works by pioneering fiber artist, designer, and weaver Shelia Hicks in a special display illuminating how the 84-year-old contemporary artist’s practice is inspired by the weaving traditions of indigenous artisans from Latin America. Opening on June 30, Sheila Hicks: Secret Structures, Looming Presence pairs works from the Museum’s collection of ancient Andean art with a selection of loom-woven, wrapped, twisted, and knotted fiberworks by the artist to offer a fresh examination of textile traditions through time.
As part of the exhibition, the DMA will debut the first work by Hicks to enter its collection, a richly textured panel titled Zihzabal. It was purchased in April at the Dallas Art Fair through the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition Program.
On view in the DMA’s Arts of the Americas Andean gallery and Atrium Overlook, this new exhibition partners the Museum’s Arts of the Americas and Contemporary Art departments, led by the Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator Michelle Rich and Hoffman Family Senior Curator Anna Katherine Brodbeck, respectively.
“The DMA’s demonstrated commitment to actively acquire, research, and present the work of women artists in imaginative ways continues with this exhibition of Sheila Hicks’ work,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “The collaboration between our ancient and contemporary departments is a testament to the ability of an encyclopedic museum to put artistic production in broader context, and the power that the past still holds for us today, both as creators and as viewers.”
Last month, in a surprise announcement, the artist revealed that she intends to gift her monumental woven wall sculpture, Chaine et trame interchangeable, to the Museum. The work, originally commissioned in the 1980s to hang in the lobby of the One Main Place building in Downtown Dallas, has since been shown in nine countries and is currently on display in her solo exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Sheila Hicks: Seize, Weave Space.
"In my conversations with Sheila, it was obvious she has tremendous reverence for ancient and modern indigenous weaving techniques,” noted Rich. “A portion of her vast body of work is a dialogue between past and present. This gives us an opportunity to examine both her practice and ancient fiber arts from a different perspective." Brodbeck added, “Hicks is inspired both by history and by the present experience of the beholder. While she has been working in this vein for decades, the acknowledgment of her importance for contemporary art has only intensified in recent years.”
Sheila Hicks has been the subject of nearly 50 solo exhibitions organized by international museums and galleries, including The Bass, Miami (2019), the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018), the Museo Amparo, Puebla (2017), the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2015), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2014), and the Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague (2011). Her towering installation of colorful bundles was a highlight of the 2017 Venice Biennale.
Born in Nebraska and based in Paris since 1964, over the course of her six-decade career Hicks has lived and worked extensively in Mexico, Peru, Chile, and other countries in South America and around the world. Hicks became interested in ancient Andean art as a student at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where she researched ancient Andean textiles for her master’s thesis.
Hicks has often incorporated in her work techniques learned from studying ancient and contemporary indigenous art. Throughout her career, she has made small-scale woven squares she dubs “minimes” that derive from a technique used in ancient Peru to create cloths with four selvages, or finished edges. In Zihzabal, wrapped bamboo sticks recall the important preservative and ritual acts of wrapping and bundling practiced by indigenous communities across the Americas, of which the Chancay Tree is an example. These and other references show how Hicks has experimented with ancient techniques to produce vibrantly original work.
Sheila Hicks: Secret Structures, Looming Presence, organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, is on view June 30, 2019 through January 12, 2020 and is included with free general admission.