SURVEY: Bleaching, staining, and dyeing

Matthew J. Mahler, B T W #1[by the way], 2013, acrylic and dye on canvas, 36 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Sardine.

In fall 2012, the flooding and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy prompted me to think about processes like soaking and staining; in the studio I started to thin binder-and-pigment mixtures with water, pouring them onto wet, raw canvas and letting them absorb. A few months later, Helen Frankenthaler’s 2013 show at Gagosian spurred me to revisit Color Field painting, which I’d never been especially drawn to before. Newly attuned, I noticed that more and more artists had embraced staining, bleaching, and dyeing. Below is an image round-up encompassing a few artists who, at one time or another, have treated canvas and fabric like the woven materials they are, rather than transforming them through finely-prepared grounds, modeling paste, or thick applications of paint.

Lauren Luloff, Denim Land, 2012, oil and bleach on bedsheets and fabric, 39 x 28.5 inches. Courtesy of Halsey McKay.
Saira McLaren, untitled, 2013, acrylic dye on raw linen, 16 x 20 inches. courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

Hildur �sgeirsd�ttir J�nsson weaves hand-dyed silk into paintings. Installation at the Tang Museum. Courtesy of Pocket Utopia.

Piotr Uklanski, installation view at Gagosian. These 2010 paintings are made with fiber-active dye on oxidized cotton textile stretched over cotton canvas. Image courtesy of Gagosian. Photography by Robert McKeever.

Angelina Gualdoni, Ballast, 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, 38 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Asya Geisberg.

Sarah Faux, Shadow II, 2013, dye, bleach and oil on canvas.
Meg Lipke, Felt Sample, 2013; fabric dye, beeswax and acrylic on wool felt; 8 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Parallel Art Space.

Halsey Hathaway, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on dyed canvas, 60 x 30 inches. Courtesy of Rawson Projects.
Sharon Butler, 24 x 24 (Sandy), 2013; pigment and binder, pencil, thread on canvas and linen tarp; 24 x 24 inches. Courtesy of Pocket Utopia.

Richard Tuttle, Walking on Air, B5, 2008, cotton with Rit dye, grommets, thread, 22-1/2 x 122 inches, 2 panels, overall installed. Courtesy of Pace.

Further reading: Check out artists Brece Honeycutt and Amy Wilson who are deeply involved with textiles, fibers and hand dyeing. Honeycutt makes her own dyes from plants and nuts.

Related posts:
Resolution and dissolution at once: Angela Gualdoni at Asya Geisberg
NY Times Art in Review: Richard Tuttle, Richard Phillips (2009)


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  1. Marilyn Levin did a series called 'Cycles of Time' that I saw at Toomey-Tourell Gallery, here in San Francisco, using bleach and watercolor on rag paper. I guess she is a Boston artist. Exquisite work. Marian

  2. It also makes me think of Sam Falls, who has let colored fabric become sun-bleached: http://oh-wow.com/exhibits/somewhere-to-go/

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