Immersive Architectural Installations by Sarah Zapata Expand Rich Textile Traditions

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#fiber art #installation #Sarah Zapata #sculpture #textiles

Pillars covered in vibrant woven textiles and fringe fill a gallery space

“Existing with the moon under our feet” (2022), installation at Deli Gallery, New York, NY. Image courtesy of the artist and Deli Gallery. All images © Sarah Zapata, shared with permission

Sarah Zapata is interested in the presence of textiles. Her large-scale, immersive installations are architectural, with feet-high columns looming over interiors, ladders holding stitched works on their rungs, and structural forms arranged like walls or distant skylines. Expanding the realm of textiles beyond physical touch and practical use, Zapata considers how fibers occupy space and the way traditions and notions of community continue to evolve. “What I’m always thinking about in installation, and why I find it to be so important, is the viewer is literally part of the work,” she says, noting that she tends to use space as a material itself. Enveloping and robust, Zapata’s pieces plunge viewers into a world of bold, exuberant fiber.

This past March, Zapata closed a solo exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which transformed the gallery into an immersive chamber of dichotomies: palettes of tan and gray jutted up against red and lavender, the sleek lines of painted stripes contrasted with the textured fringe of fiber, and calm, neutral tones were met with the regal, riotous energy of vivid color.

Titled a resilience of things not seen, the exhibition referenced the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic Christian text that Zapata encountered frequently as a child in an Evangelical home. The installation drew on her adolescent experiences with religious fear, alongside the alarm produced by the early days of the pandemic when everything was uncertain. Color played an important role in confronting these worries, and the inclusion of black, white, and grays became the artist’s opportunity to consider her own predilections. “I’m always very scared of it being too beautiful,” Zapata says. “Beauty is a very important entry point, and I’m always thinking about how the work can be accessible… but (I) have to challenge myself to be using things that are so ugly. And I hate neutrals.”

structural forms covered in fringe and stripes fill a gallery surrounded by striped walls and floors. There are two sides, one in neutral tones, the other in purple and red

“A resilience of things not seen” (2022), installation at John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Image courtesy of the artist and JMKAC

Centered around hope and the possibilities of the future, the exhibition also hearkened back to textile heritage and was, in part, an homage to Lenore Tawney. The pioneering fiber artist’s delicate “Cloud Labyrinth” was suspended in that same gallery during a 2019 retrospective. While Zapata for many years focused on the ground and its humble nature, she expanded her work in this exhibition to the ceiling, again enforcing the polarity of the space while positioning her textiles in the middle. “I’m always thinking about how to occupy opposites and how to really be both and neither,” she tells Colossal. “I’m always trying to lean into this in-between space, not only physically but thinking about that in terms of time and accessing past, futurity, existing in the present, always this amorphous sense of time.”

This nebulous state figures prominently in Zapata’s practice, which filters longstanding cultural customs through her distinctly contemporary lens. She often refers to her works as ruins and draws on pre-colonial weaving practices in Peru, her father’s native country and a region with a robust legacy of women working collectively with fibers. Whereas textiles today tend to be infused with plastic and are part of a massively wasteful fast-fashion ecosystem, they’re historically linked to longevity and respect for the material itself.

“Textiles are very indicative of time and of course commerce, but I think they’re just such a beautiful indicator of one’s existence,” Zapata says, noting that she frequently returns to the rituals of the Paracas peninsula. The Andean peoples are known for their elaborate embroideries and use of cloth to celebrate life milestones. Much of the artist’s work references these ancient practices, along with Biblical narratives, queer history, and of course, the technical aspects of such an ancient craft.

Two pillars covered in vibrant woven textiles and fringe fill a gallery space, along with a white ladder with striped weavings hung on its rungs

“Existing with the moon under our feet” (2022), installation at Deli Gallery, New York, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and Deli Gallery

Currently, Zapata works on three looms in her Red Hook studio, one of which she recently acquired from her alma mater, the University of North Texas, Denton, after the institution shuttered its fiber program. Weaving in the last few years has become a “way to reset, a way to enter into this new paradigm of the world really,” and what’s emerged is an exploration into variety and potential. Some of her recent pieces, which were on view last year at Deli Gallery in New York, include tall plinths cloaked in patches of shag, tightly intertwined stripes, and conical pockets that stick out from the sides. Rich in color, pattern, and texture, the works continue the artist’s interest in contrast and juxtaposition.

Zapata will have a new installation on view this August at The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, which alludes to the revolutionary lesbian community Womontown that emerged in the city in the 1980s. She’ll also open a solo show in September at Galleria Poggiali in Milan. Find more of her work on her site and Instagram.

structural forms covered in fringe and stripes fill a gallery surrounded by striped walls and floors. There are two sides, one in neutral tones, the other in purple and red

“A resilience of things not seen” (2022), installation at John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Image courtesy of the artist and JMKAC

A detail of a striped weaving on a painted striped backdrop surrounded by fringe

Detail of “A resilience of things not seen” (2022), installation at John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Image courtesy of the artist and JMKAC

A wall hanging with striped and fringed patches

“How often they move between the planets II” (2022), installation at Unit Gallery, London. Photo by Marcus Peel

Three pillars covered in vibrant woven textiles and fringe fill a gallery space, along with two white ladders with striped weavings hung on their rungs

“Existing with the moon under our feet” (2022), installation at Deli Gallery, New York, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and Deli Gallery

The artist stands in her studio surrounded by a textile pillar and wall hanging

Zapata in her studio (2022). Photo by Ignacio Torres

#fiber art #installation #Sarah Zapata #sculpture #textiles

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