|Ethel Stein. Portrait, 1999. Art Institute of Chicago.|
One of my favourite exhibits during my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago was Ethel Stein, Master Weaver. Located down in the basement of the Institute the exhibit included drawloom weavings created by Stein from 1982 through 2008. This retrospective exhibition includes over 40 works that have either been donated to the Art Institute or have been promised as future gifts.
I was blown away by the detail in Stein's work, the complexity of the weaving, and the thought behind each piece. Weaving at the most fundamental level seems like a very simple artisan craft. But the drawloom technique that allows for each warp thread to be controlled separately has tremendous potential for creativity, complexity, and skill. Some of Stein's work does at first glance appear uncomplicated but works like Portrait and Circus and Slapstick by Stein illustrate the artistic process and elaborate nature of her work.
In addition to the textile works by Stein the exhibit space includes a video installation. The video shows Stein working in her studio and provides insight into the labour intensive, detail orientated nature of her work. For me the video also highlighted the vision, math, accuracy, and planning required to execute textile works on the scale the Stein has. A copy of the short video can be viewed here.
The exhibition is located on the Lower Level of the Art Institute and is a bit out of the way. But it is definitely worth the effort to find the one elevator that gets you down there.