From textile to tactile

More than an exploration in restraint and quietude, Kiyomi Iwata’s art is an elegant move forward in defining textile art. Rather than submitting bold, in-your-face materials to counter the audience’s preconceptions as to what Iwata’s medium should be, she delicately layers her cloth with materials that subvert only when close attention is paid, thereby producing perhaps not textile art — but tactile art.

Everything on first appearance sets Iwata’s exhibit at Jan Weiner Gallery as a textile show: Large-scale fabric is draped over a bar, gold folds drop to the floor, and thread is woven throughout some of the works. Closer inspection reveals that although traditional textile materials and fabric are present, unconventional materials also are involved — namely, aluminum and brass mesh and gold leaf. Such materials may force opinions of her work from the textile to the more solid, rigid associations of sculpture, but it is the treatment of these materials that delicately announces that Iwata is an artist who sits on the fence of definitions, playfully and mischievously working back and forth.

Thus far, Iwata’s approach has been purely textile. Her “folds” series — small silk organza kerchiefs stiffened and folded into vessels frozen in time before collapsing upon themselves — delicately explores generally traditional fabrics and notions intended not necessarily to serve as a utilitarian object but, rather, as an evolution of the traditional Japanese “furoshiki” concept of tying a bundle to hold secrets and mysteries. These are contemplative objects, a take-off point for imaginative solitude. However, the larger works comprising the series Iwata has labeled “Revelation” exhibit a maturation into a more muscular, although reserved, sense. Brass mesh serves as the backdrop for gold-leaf squares that are riveted by embroidery floss and painted. Gold predominates: It is at once flashy and elegant, a decadent escape from the small silk objects.

“Revelation Five,” “Revelation Ten,” and “Auric Grid Three” are graphic, dominating hangings that retain the familiar simplicity of Japanese textile art. The gold squares float on the mesh’s surface, weightless and delicate, a teasing appearance given their metallic existence. Set against her smaller silk works, such as “White Silk Form” and “Silver Fungus Box,” these works pay creative homage to traditional Japanese armor, which combined metals and silk to “create original languages,” as Iwata writes in her artist’s statement.

Eddie Dominguez’s somewhat expressive ceramic works, on view in Weiner’s second-room gallery, contrast with Iwata’s reserved peace. A tornado platter, a garden dinnerware set, and prints burned and inscribed suggest anything but stasis. Dominguez works in capturing movement, whether it be the fury of weather and emotion or the smooth strides of growth.

Regular Jan Weiner Gallery-goers are familiar with this New Mexican artist. His dinnerware sets — ingenious dioramas that initally don’t reveal their means — are popular among the Kansas City art set. “Cactus Garden Dinnerware for 10” is a sculptural, illustrative presence of ceramic leaves that perk out of the copper base. Initially, it is cute, playful, whimsical. When the purpose is discovered — first the cactus flowers evolve into teacups, and then the plates establish their identity — the adjectives change. Dominguez’s sly cleverness is the element that makes art fun.

There is an illustrative element to Dominguez’s ceramics that places them on a more accessible level. Images are clearly identified; the artist tends to work within a familiar vocabulary, combining nostalgic and scenic images with bright colors and expressive, Van Gogh-like hash marks. “Twister,” a platter consisting of a flat prairie and an ominous black tornado, strikes at the hearts of Midwesterners, especially in this volatile season. The surface is lush and gleaming, a painterly technique that makes the ceramic appear as if it were still wet.

Like Iwata, there is movement in Dominguez’s work away from familiar mediums. Three monotypes, members of the “Aspen Series,” eschew most of the techniques in which the artist generally works with ceramics. The prints are more subtle and natural in color; browns dominate, from wood-grain surfaces to carbon burn scars and gestural lettering in lead. These monotypes are closer to Iwata’s sensibilities and actually help settle the two shows together. Dominguez’s journey into this new medium is not as quiet as Iwata’s explorations — the presence of words puts noise in the contemplation, which is absent in Iwata’s work — but the reservation and control witnessed in the burns that are tempered early, as well as the palate, are relatable.

Kiyomi Iwata and Eddie Dominguez
through June 30

at Jan Weiner Gallery


Categories: A&E, Art