The thread of messages
from May 30 to August 1st
Burano, Lace Museum
Situated between writing and picture-making, the work of US artist Leslie Hirst subtly challenges the ways that we read marks as language. As a skilled draftsperson, painter, and type designer, she works with a variety of media and found objects, then deconstructs, reconfigures, and embellishes these elements to reflect the complexity of our interconnected world.
Following her first visit to Burano in 2005, Hirst was inspired to create compositions that fuse words with lace designs. As a formal metaphor for verbal expression, she calls upon the attributes of lace to describe content (material fabric) and context (open spaces) through the movement of writing (the stitch). Hirst’s visual language is built from fragments, discorde shapes, and accidental forms excavated from her vast personal archive of antique handwritten letters and photographs of graffiti.
These resources represent a vital link to lace making since they depict a process of time through movement along a continuous line. For the works in the gallery, Hirst presents four collage drawings in tandem with four floating lace and paper fragments. Inspired by literary sources, the collage drawings pose as encrypted systems of language through the shared characteristics of handwriting, mark-making, and abstract form. These visual devices are echoed in small, textile objects woven onto steel frames and suspended within the gallery. Hirst pushes the technique of collage by incorporating fine lacemaking stitches that behave like script or printed text.
Her use of common telephone directories and designs inspired by graffiti tags offer an unsettling contrast to the careful labor demanded from hand-stitched lace. Ultimately, the cultural diffusions suggest an enduring urgency to create meaning in written form through the gesture and signature of the hand. While these works remind us that needlework played a historically significant role in the development of writing, they also allude to a parallel narrative located in contemporary language and data sharing systems.
Hirst’s facility to mix and bend techniques suggests the spliced and looped qualities of current media transmission and information overload. The flattening and distortion of language that proliferates with technologically driven communication systems provide a way of thinking about lace. Sampled data, binary codes, abbreviation, image recognition, glitches, automation, and artificial intelligence mask legibility to create a unique visual vocabulary that transcends words.
The exhibition, curated by Chiara Squarcina, with the scientific coordination of Gabriella Belli, is combined with a issue of the book series Trame (Fondazione Musei CIvici di Venezia, 2015). This project was realized with the help of some of the world’s most skilled and exploratory experts in Venetian lace making, With support from The Rhode Island Foundation and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; The Emily Harvey Foundation New York and Venezia; AIR Krems Krems Austria.
Curated by Chiara Squarcina
Scientific coordination: Gabriella Belli