SEWN TOGETHER: Graphic Uses of Thread
by Lindsey Westbrook
It's made out of blankets, but Ulrike Palmbach's Heater won't keep you warm on a cold winter's night. Palmbach has cut up an army blanket and sewn it with twine into the shape of a crude, misshapen radiator, which, mostly because of its color, also suggests a row of bedraggled soldiers who are struggling to stay in formation but clearly on the verge of collapse. Sewing traditionally carries feminine connotations, as do the radiator's references to hearth and home, but Palmbach's heater isn't so much a commentary on gender as it is about wordplay and the (non)convergence of form and function. Warmth, a basic human need, is something it can't provide. Slumping sadly, it's been gutted literally and figuratively fallen down on the job, so to speak. Palmbach is one of the eight Bay Area artists featured in "Sewn Together: Graphic Uses of Thread," all of whom incorporate some aspect of sewing into their art. Lauren Dyer, Seth Koen, Christian Maychack, Becky Schaefer, Tucker Schwarz, Lisa Solomon, and Anna Von Mertens make up the rest of the group. A couple of them work in heavily conceptual mode, especially Koen with his two red circles, titled Circles #4(+1), but the nature of this medium the texture of the cloth and the hours of manual labor invested in even the smallest piece keeps them all at least somewhat grounded in the realm of reality. Maychack's untitled leather-vinyl-satin creation rides the same line. It's inspired by ordinary domestic furniture and made out of upholsterylike materials, but it perches on the gallery wall and serves none of the ordinary functions of furniture. With its eccentric conglomeration of fabrics and geometry, it declares in no uncertain terms that it's a subject for discussion, not a substrate for sitting.