Indecent – A group exhibition of erotic lace miniatures
17 September - 22 October 2022
On the face of it, only a fool would spend so many hours producing an article of little practical use which serves neither to keep us decent, nor warm.
Lace has a colourful history and relationship with sexuality, and this small group exhibition curated by lace artists Pierre Fouché(ZA) and Elena Kanagy-Loux(US/JP) takes that relationship as its starting point. Unravelling the theme in miniature lace opens up Pandora’s box of further questions about human nature, aesthetics, politics, pleasures, taboos and the fine line separating them.
A subtext of the exhibition is to counter an alarming contemporary trend in viewing large-scale lace, and lace in unconventional materials as the only lace worthy of Art. With predictable irreverence for any rules, the collection of international artists participating in this exhibition made a point of interpreting the exhibition’s raison d’étre with broad strokes, humour, savvy and spectacularly good lace, proving that handmade lace is coming into its own as a vibrant and versatile artistic medium.
Theo Bignon (FR/CA) & Smart Barnett (UK) have drawn inspiration from contemporary image cultures relating to online dating and web/screen based intimacy and how these cultures have expanded the range and familiarity of erotic imagery.
Marian Nuñez (ES) & Elena Kanagy-Loux (US/JP) cast their nets into history: Marian Nuñez’ contribution draws from historical Japanese erotic woodcut traditions and Pop art, while Elena Kanagy-Loux playfully re-imagines a historical link she discovered between lacemaking and prostitution.
In an understated subversive video and sculpture piece, April Daucha (US) links religious ecstasy with its erotic counterpart. In a novel subversion of lace’s historical ecclesiastical use, an intimate piece of needle lace, hair and thread is used in a performance the artist calls a “personal act of penance”.
Mia Weiner (US), Kinkyneedles (ES), Pierre Fouché(ZA) and Penny Nickels (US) represent the “floral” lacemakers in this line-up. They succumbed to the glory of traditional lace’s iconography, but combine that exuberance with images of contemporary erotica.
Penny Nickels’ representation of a carnivorous plant instead of “pretty” flowers, combined with a scene of intimacy between women hint at the sometimes predatory nature of sexual desire, often supressed in female sexuality.
Pierre Fouche’s “Thickems” series equate the raised ornamentation of Venetian Gros Point needle lace with the curves of beefy thighs.
Mia Weiner draws a parallel between the negative spaces between touching motifs in lace and the similar spaces created by bodies that “…meet, cross, tangle, and […] pull away.”
Kinkyneedles’ paper cutouts and embroideries celebrate a form of Queer erotica one can’t help but describe as Romantic/Idyllic. Like Barnett’s applique collages of textile and textile printed photography, the explicit nature of the representation isn’t immediately apparent. The moment of recognition is met with either a jolt or a smile.
Erotic art has been a part of humanity’s cultural heritage from the earliest civilizations to the current era. Textiles, as one of humanity’s oldest technologies, are so entrenched in our daily lives that the ingenuity of all its forms is often overlooked. Handmade lace, the textile that proclaims its ingenuity louder than most, applied to create erotic art connects us to our shared humanity in a rather spectacular way.
Text by Pierre Fouché