Sabrina Gschwandtner: Sunshine and Shadow

Philadelphia Art Alliance

May 17, 2013 to August 18, 2013


Sunshine and Shadow is the first solo exhibition of Sabrina Gschwandtner’s film quilts in Pennsylvania. The exhibition features six quilts constructed from 16 mm film. The works are displayed in framed light boxes, engaging the notion of filmic suture through a reconfigured, backlit form. The show is based on "Sunshine and Shadow" quilts, which take their name from a concentric diamond pattern created by squares of color in dramatically intertwined light and dark hues. There are compelling connections between this body of work and Philadelphia’s status as a global center of textile production until the general decline of US manufacturing that began in the 1960s, as well as Pennsylvania’s rich heritage of quilt-making by Amish and Mennonite women.

Artist's Statement

"Since 2009, I've been working from a collection of 16 mm films that were de-accessioned from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and given to me by Anthology Film Archives. These short films, dated 1950 to 1980, are educational documentaries about textiles as art, craft, fashion, decoration, vocation, military camouflage, feminist expression, and scientific metaphor. After watching the movies, I cut and sew them into configurations based on popular American quilt motifs. For my Sunshine and Shadow quilts, I dismantled the narratives of the historical films and re-interpreted their thematic concerns. In each work I intermingled footage to create a dialogue between the images inside the frames and the patterns that emerged from the overall quilt designs. I freely altered the footage by scratching it, painting over it, or bleaching it in the sun, and also used countdown leader, credits, and my own films. "Images of hands at work - spinning yarn, dyeing cloth, and feeding fabric into machines - are repeated throughout the show," says Gschwandtner, "referencing not only my labor and similarly tactile experimental filmmaking methods, but also the historical connections between pioneering cinema and sewing. The sprocket mechanism of an early movie camera/projector was modeled after the newly popular sewing machine, and Hollywood’s first film editors were women who were hired for their agile sewing fingers."

About the Artist

Sabrina Gschwandtner received a BA with honors in art/semiotics from Brown University (2000) and an MFA from Bard College (2008). She has exhibited her work internationally, at institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum (2012); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2011); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2010); Bucharest Biennale (2010); Gustavsbergs Konsthall, Sweden (2009); the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2007); Contemporary Art Centre, Lithuania (2007); Socrates Sculpture Park, NY (2005), and SculptureCenter, NY (2004). She has lectured at art schools, universities, and museums worldwide, including Harvard University; the Rhode Island School of Design; the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London; Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway, and the Museum of World Culture, Sweden, among many others. She has done residencies at Wave Hill (2012), the International Artists Studio Program in Sweden (IASPIS, 2009), the Museum of Arts and Design (2009), and the MacDowell Colony (2007 and 2004). From 2002-7 she edited and published the 'zine KnitKnit, which is now in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, and the Fine Arts Library, Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. Her book KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave was released in 2007, and is distributed by Abrams. She is featured in the film "Handmade Nation" (2009) and has been interviewed on NPR and BBC Radio.