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Sheila Hicks

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Writing in 1973, Monique Lévi-Strauss described Sheila Hicks’s (b. Hastings, Nebraska, 1934) life as ‘a tissue of threads woven together on purpose or through chance, fertile encounters.’ While decades have passed since Lévi-Strauss offered this overview, her words remain continually relevant. Since the 1970s, Hicks has established herself as one of the most distinctive artists of her generation. Working to manoeuvre colour, texture and form, the Paris-based artist has produced a rich and complex body of large-scale bas-reliefs, sculptures and installations that indulge in material tactility and the collective experience of space.

Hicks was born in Hastings, Nebraska, in 1934, but she was nomadic from an early age: growing up in the Midwest during the Depression, her father spent much of his time on the road. (‘I always say I grew up in a car’, she told Artforum in 2019. ) From 1954–59, Hicks studied painting with Josef Albers at Yale School of Art; during this time, she attended art historian George Kubler’s class on pre-Columbian art and archeology. ‘I was interested in how the pre-Incas structured thought with threads, with lines’, she told Jennifer Higgie in 2015. ‘The richness of the pre-Incaic textile language is the most complex of any textile culture in history.’

It was while writing a paper on ancient Andean Textiles for Kubler’s class that Hicks taught herself to weave on a backstrap loom of tree branches and assemble threads on a small frame made of painting stretchers. (To this day, she uses painting stretchers to create intimate works, which she refers to as minimes.) In 1957, Hicks was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, which enabled her to travel extensively around South America, methodically documenting and photographing. She lived and worked in Guerrero, Mexico, from 1959 until 1964, where ‘people made everything that they wore’, as she told the artist Anicka Yi of her time on the Pacific coast, ‘including their shoes.’

Hicks is at her most recognisable when producing monumental hangings, tapestries, bas-reliefs and sculptures: The Questioning Column (2016), first installed at the entrance of the 2016 Sydney Biennale, rose to over 7 metres; Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands, presented at the 2017 Venice Biennale, saw an avalanche of synthetic, brilliantly colored bales piled up to the ceiling of the Arsenale. For the 2020 iteration of the Nuit Blanche festival in Paris, Hicks suspended a luminous constellation of comets from the colonnades connecting the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and the Palais de Tokyo, an architectural reminder of the fleeting nature of lived experience.

On a contrasting scale, Hicks’s intimate minimes allow a valuable glimpse into the artist’s habitual, incessant making process, as well as her enduring interest in construction and material relationships. The works are exemplary of the fact that, for Hicks, spectacle is never the sole ambition. Regardless of scale, hers is a project of tactility, sensuality, hapticity; of felt connection and the communication thereof. ‘Hands, eyes, brain’, notes Hicks, ‘it’s the magic triangulation. It comes from passion, heart and intellect inseparably cemented to your times and to your emotional experiences.’

Hicks has been the subject of numerous major solo exhibitions at international museums, including: MAK, Vienna (2020); The Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2019); Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2019); Museo Chileno de arte Precolombino, Santiago (2019); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018), and Amparo Museum, Puebla (2017), Festival d’Automne à Paris, Musée Carnavalet and Nanterre-Amandiers, Paris (2016); Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (2016); Textiel Museum, Tilburg (2016); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2015); Hayward Gallery, London (2015); the Mint Museum, Charlotte (2012); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2011); Addison Gallery, Andover (2010); Passage de Retz, Paris, France (2010); and Bard Graduate Centre for Studies in Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, New York (2006). In April 2022, she will have a major solo exhibition at Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire, curated by Andrew Bonacina, her first survey in a UK museum.

Hicks’s work is featured in a number of prominent collections including Tate Gallery, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Museo de Bellas Artes, Santiago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The National Gallery, Washington D.C; Art Institute of Chicago; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; The Jewish Museum, New York; and the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska.

Sheila Hicks: A Matter of Scale

Jrp Ringier, 2020

ISBN 978-3037645338

Sheila Hicks: Lignes De Vie / Lifelines

Centre Pompidou, 2018

ISBN 978-2844268150

Sheila Hicks: Apprentissages

Jrp Ringier, 2017

ISBN 978-3037644836

Sheila Hicks: Indeed

Foundation De 11 Lijnen, 2016

ISBN 9789079881420

Sheila Hicks: Pêcher dans la rivière

Alison Jaques Gallery, 2013

ISBN 978-00957226937

String Felt Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American art

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010

ISBN 978-0816656097

Contemporary Feminist Studies & Its Relation to Art History & Visual Studies

Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothenburgensis, University of Gothenburg Press, 2010, 12-31

ISBN 978-9173466479

Sheila Hicks: 50 Years

Yale University Press, 2010

ISBN 978-0300121643

Textiles et vanneries d’Afrique et d’Océanie de la collection Ghysels

Paris: Passage de Retz, 2007

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century

New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, c. 2007

ISBN 978-0894679698

Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor (Bard Graduate Centre for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design & Culture)

Yale University Press, 2006

ISBN 978-0300116854

Sheila Hicks Soie & Ardoise, Petites Pieces

Trelaze, France: Anciennes écuries des Ardoisieres, 2005

ISBN 978-2950237132

. Crafting a Legacy: Contemporary American Crafts in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art; New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2002

ISBN 978-0813532035

Epic Yarns

WSJ. Magazine. August 2019, text by Alice Cavanagh

Sheila Hicks

MoMa Magazine. December 2019

A Former High School Turned Art Museum Gives Way to Stunning Gallery Spaces

Architectural Digest. November 2019, text by Tim Nelson

Sheila Hick's Brillant, Original Textile art

Natioal Review. July 2019, text by Brian T. Allen

Sheila Hicks on her life and art

ArtForum. June 2019

How Sheila Hicks Changed the Way We Think About Sculpture

Frieze. April 2019, text by Glenn Adamson

The exhibitions worth travelling for in 2019

Vogue. January 2019, text by Hettie Judah

Sheila Hick's thrilling textiles are the antidote to our modern world

Wallpaper-Magazine Jaffa. November 2018, text by Jessica Klingelfuss

A 21st-Century Renaissance for Ford Foundation Landmark

New York Times. November 2018, text by Michael Kimmelman

Free Threads, The Textile and its Prehispanic Roots 1954-2017 & Lifelines

The Brooklyn Rail. April 2018, text by Grant Klarich Johnson

Sheila Hicks takes the Pompidou

The New Yorker. March 2018, text by Lauren Collins

Exposition La vie en couleurs de Sheila Hicks à Pompidou

Ideat. March 2018, text by Marie Godfrain

Disfrutan del arte textil

El popular. December 2017, text by Carlomagno Gonzales

The Artist Sheila Hicks Will Spin Her Threads on the High Line

The New York Times. May 2017, text by Hilarie M. Sheets

Fibre is my alphabet

Frieze n 169. March 2015

Sheila Hicks. Minimes: Small Woven Works

Fiherarts 35, no. 5 (April/May 2009): 58, text by Znamierowski Nell

Fabelhafte Faden

Architektur & Wohnen, June- July 2009. 51-52, text by Steinberg Claudia

Private Lives

New Republic (24 December 2008): 27-32, text by Perl Jed

Green Silk Forest: A Gift to the Institute

The Institute Letter (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey) (summer 2008): 13

Fun with Studio Crafts: When the Traditional Gets Quirky

New York Times (12 January 2007): E45(L)

Reinventing the Look (Even Smell) of a Book

International Herald Tribune (19 March 2007): 9, text by Rawsthorn Alice

High Fiber

Interior Design 77, no. 8 (June 2006): 47, text by Kellogg Craig

In the Woof and Warp of Miniatures, Interlocking Metaphors and Journeys

New York Times (4 September 2006): E3, text by Shattuck, Kathryn

Spinning Yarns

Architecture 95, no. 9 (September 2006): 42, text by Eakin Julie Sinclair

Oral History Interview with Sheila Hicks

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 3 February 2004, text by Levi-Strauss Monique

Pionnière entreprenante

Ateliers d’art (July-August 2004): 19

Oral History Interview with Sheila Hicks

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 18 March 2004, text by Zañartu Cristobal

Abakanowickz en/and Hicks

Stedelijk Museum Bulletin 5/6 (2003): 36-46, text by Heezen Henriette

Classification and Its Consequences: The Case of Fiber Art

American Art 16, no. 3 (autumn 2002): 2-9, text by Anther Elissa