29 February 2024

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Things to Go See — Woven Histories at LACMA

Photography courtesy of Claire Walsh, documented on iPhone at LACMA

by Claire Walsh

LACMA’s autumn programme includes Woven Histories, an exhibition which looks at the role textiles have played in modern abstraction over the past 100 years.  

Featuring 150 artworks that range from woven textile samples and drawings to garments and video, the show explores how these mostly female artists fabricated works that were a product of the pivotal moments they lived through.


The exhibition begins in the interwar period, with weavings and drawings by pioneers like the Bauhaus’ Anni Albers. It is worth noting that Albers studied textiles at the legendary Weimar school, because it was one of the few classes permitted for women initially. The next generation we see are the likes of Sheila Hicks and Eva Hesse, whose open-weave textured wallhangings and sculptures still feel revolutionary up close and in person. The knotted metal sculptural net forms by Ruth Asawa and the mixed media basketry by one of the few male artists on display Ed Rossbach, are also high points.

Textiles as an art form have been tarnished with the “craft” or “domestic” label and it is telling that it has been mostly female artists who have more readily interrogated the medium over the past century than male artists of this same time period; textiles were seen as women’s work. We cannot help but wonder if isolation from the machismo of the mainstream may have only helped create a rich art history that capably examines context, culture and community as much as line, fibre and thread.

Exhibition curators point out textiles are “grounded in the stuff of quotidian life”, they have an everyday quality to them. This can mean the medium is somewhat glossed over and unconsidered by us as viewers, but textiles embody time and place perfectly, fusing artistry, craft and innovation into their fabrication.

As LACMA’s renovations continue you may want to head next-door to the Academy Museum for post exhibition lunch or refreshments. Here Fanny’s patisserie counter is the draw and is stocked with picture perfect cakes that cost about the same as an espresso drink, which is a certified steal in this city.


Claire Walsh is a writer and creative consultant living in Los Angeles. @clairevwalsh