What if Textiles

The art of Gerhardt Knodel

Need some last minute holiday gift ideas for your favorite textile and coffee table book enthusiast? Consider the gorgeous and luscious What if Textiles: The Art of Gerhardt Knodel to place under the Christmas Tree. 

What if Textiles gives readers a rich look at all aspects of the work of internationally-renowned contemporary textile artist Gerhardt Knodel, documenting the evolution of Knodel's art from 1969 through 2014.

As a textile devotee, Knodel is a master of all textile arts: he weaves, cuts, sews, draws but also writes and photographs his love of fabric. He is also a collector of indigenous textiles that reflect meaning and craft, but also the ability to inspire. They are his muse as Rebecca A.T. Steven notes in her essay, “The Game of Collecting.” But it’s Knodel’s twenty essays about his collection that offers humorous anecdotes of how each has piece inspired and played a part in his own work. His acquired textiles range from the practical, “Instructive bandage of the St. Johns Ambulance Association, created during the 19th century in England to a stunning 19th-century Japanese fireman’s coat with a lining that depicts scenes confronting fires. Dragons also have a place among Knodel’s treasures. A fine example of the dragon motif is a Sileh dragon carpet from Southeastern Caucasus.

In Janet Koplos biographical essay of Knodel, “Scene Design, Gerhardt Knodel’s Theatrical Magic,” we’re introduced to Knodel in high school, designing scenery for a school play. Disheartened by a design he painted on a drop curtain, he later became entranced of the art’s transformation under the theatrical lighting. Koplos writes that the “anecdote is illuminating as the experience was, for scene design in the largest sense has been the heart of Knodel’s exceptional body of work, and his career might be said to have originated in the memorable moment, He made his reputation by creating textiles of very large scale that dramatically shaped and activated space. His signature work has more to do with architectural context than with weave structure or tactility that often attracts makers and viewers to the medium. From high school on, Knodel was concerned with creating an environment.”

Among the large featured works in What if Textiles is Calvino’s Curtain: Invitation to a Future from the body of work Let the Games Begin! The piece, inspired by Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees that consists of 11 textile hangings in the form of two layered planes: the front is a sheath of woven panels that are pulled back to reveal transparent shadow curtains with creatures behind.  Other works include the 44 Panel Channel, a corridor of china-silk panels through which viewers walk; the three-story Sky Court at Xerox world headquarters, made from wool, Mylar, and nylon.

What if Textiles is a welcome addition to your collection of textile art books with more than 400 images and an illustrated chronology that will keep you revisiting and reading through the new year.

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