In a three-part series, we are introducing you to the three artists featured in “At the Center: Masters of American Craft” installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art now through July 2018.
The curator of this installation and the author of this piece is Elisabeth Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
This presentation is the fifth and final installation in the At the Center: Masters of American Craft series. Each exhibit highlights significant people who have shaped and influenced the field of American modern and contemporary craft. This installation concentrates on the contributions of Yvonne Pacanovsky Bobrowicz, Sharon Church, and Jack Larimore. The pairing of their objects not only demonstrates the artists’ ingenuity, virtuosity, and impact on the field, but also challenges the notion of what is considered sculpture.
“At the center” of this gallery stand Wharton Esherick’s fireplace and doorway. Esherick is renowned for pushing woodwork into the sculptural realm and these massive pieces provide a perfect setting for this display of work by contemporary artists. With a focus on craft, each installation opening has coincided with the annual Contemporary Craft Show, a celebration of craft showcasing the finest makers from around the world. What distinguishes craft within contemporary art is the value of the skill, commitment to material, and deep knowledge of process that the artists bring to their work.
Yvonne Pacanovsky Bobrowicz (born 1928) says her fiber work “comes from the hand,” referring to her childhood and artistic career. Her mother was an avid embroiderer and her father a master carver and instructor of fine woodworking. Bobrowicz studied with two of the most important and forward-thinking artists in her field: Marianne Strengell (1909–1998) at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and Anni Albers (1899–1994) at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art.
Nationally recognized for her contributions to the field of fiber art, Bobrowicz has been awarded commissions from Louis Kahn, the iconic architect, for the Kimball Museum in Texas, as well as from big corporate collections such as RCA and DuPont. In 1996 she received the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and in 1997 the Leeway Foundation’s Bessie Berman Award. Bobrowicz has also inspired future generations as professor of textiles and weavings at Philadelphia’s Drexel University from 1966 until she retired in 1997.
Bobrowicz feels “the constant motion, change, and growth in the universe.” She integrates these sensations into her sculptural, fiber-based works. By blending natural materials with synthetic materials, Bobrowicz plays with the idea of opposites such as dark versus light and order versus randomness. She uses clear monofilament because she feels strongly that “It is a fiber of our age, reflecting it in so many ways. It illuminates, vibrates, pulsates, expressing motion, a translucent, celestial energy field.”