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<div id="myExtraContent5"> </div> | Review

Sheila Pepe: Common Sense, Chicago
He Said She Said
Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott
216 N. Harvey Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302

Review: Sheila Pepe/He Said She Said

In what has turned out to be domestic art space He Said She Said’s last exhibition, Sheila Pepe presents the ongoing project “Common Sense.” In it Pepe exhibits an especially sensitive intervention into the living space. Her work suspends looping strands of crochet and shoelace from the living room, entryway and dining room. The low-hanging web physically connects the spaces with its languid gesture. In her recent projects, the artist has involved the participants in the creation of the work. For He Said She Said, part of the looping installation links up with a collection of playful art objects created by the child of the house.

Elsewhere, the shoelace and crochet intersect in connections that support, uphold and create the structure of the form. These connections are frequently tied in ways similar to shoes, where it is apparent that a single pull would release the tension and collapse the shape. As such, there is an air of contingency in the work, aside from its corporeal, weighted quality. Adding to this transient feeling, Pepe encourages participants at the end of each installation of “Common Sense” to unravel part of the work and take away the material for their own purposes.

Drawing significant inspiration from an artistic matrilineage that includes works like Faith Wilding’s crocheted environments, Sheila Pepe’s architectural intervention updates and extends their concerns. Here the notion of communal connectivity, of material poised sympathetically amongst spaces inhabited by living bodies, yet without the rising to the coercive force of solidified architecture, is posited as an ideal. What better way to celebrate (though perhaps unintentionally on the artist’s part) the life of an exhibition and conversation space that was itself temporary, inhabited and bred new forms of connectivity across disciplinary boundaries. (Dan Gunn)

Through May 14, 2011. Open by appointment. | Sheila Pepe

Interactive Crochet Artist Sheila Pepe

Common Sense, Georgia, 2010

Artist Sheila Pepe caught my attention after I recently read a news article about her current exhibition. It’s called Common Sense and it’s been traveling around but has now landed at the he said, she said exhibition and event in the Chicago area. Common Sense is an interactive crochet art exhibit that I find completely intriguing. It is described as: “Incorporating ideas of abstraction and construction, the large-scale crochet “drawing” allows audiences to participate in the work by unraveling the material to be used for their own creations.” I love the idea that the art is the product as well as the process and I love how it gives a nod to the way that crocheters repurpose knit and crochet items from the past to make them into new modern creations.— Kathryn Vercillo

More about crochet artist Sheila Pepe
Sheila Pepe is a New Jersey born artist who lives and works in New York City. She has an extensive background in art with a BA, a BFA in Cermatics, an MFA and training in blacksmithing and painting and sculpture. Wow! She has been showing her work in solo exhibitions since 1994 and she has a terrific body of work to her name. She has won numerous awards, the most recent of which was the 2009 Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. She is also an art teacher who guest lectures regularly at other schools.

Examples of Sheila Pepe’s crochet art
The creativity of Pepe’s work speaks for itself. Take a look:

Women are from Mars with Crocheted Thing, 2010

Your Granny’s Not Square, 2008

Greybeard, 2008

Mutable Thing, 2011

Mr. Slit in situ Break the Rules! Sammlung Hieber/Theising, Mannheim Kunstverein, Germany, 2008

Crafters’ Tent, part of The Big Draw, 2007

Wearable Wrap. Commissioned by Lion Brand Yarn, 2006

ArtSlant | Review

A Room, in Three Movements
Sue Scott Gallery, 1 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002
January 20, 2011 - March 6, 2011

The Tension of Objects in Space

Galleries face the constant challenge:  how can one activate a sterile white box in a way that allows the art to embody its greatest potential? The idea of a temporal exhibition that changes throughout its duration is one that comes up often during curatorial brainstorming. It is poetically enticing in that it invites intuition and an increased level of exchange as well as a trust in the unknown. However, it can be unwieldy or difficult to realize effectively, and therefore hard to pull off.


“A Room, In Three Movements” elegantly engages the above strategy.  Featuring the work of Katy Heinlein, Sheila Pepe, and Halsey Rodman, the show is as much about the allure of the sculptures present as it is about personality of objects when defined against their environment and each other. It is an exhibition that reorganizes itself three times throughout its duration. At any given moment, two works are paired in the front room of the gallery, and one stands alone in the back room. The three cycles allow the work to confront each of the others, as well as to exist in solitude.

The transmutations that occur are relatively subdued in that they do not happen quickly or drastically. However the tension created by the potential of future or past movement charges the artworks and the space with heightened energy. Chances are, you will only see the show in one incarnation. But the knowledge that it has had one or several lives before this one causes each object to vibrate  as your awareness of it and its relationship to the others expands, as well as your understanding of your own relationship to the space. You become increasingly aware of the negative space around each installation that exists in dialogue with the the room, and with you, introducing a curiosity beyond the individual work leading you to wonder how does it behave differently now than it did before? In short, these still, tactile objects have come alive, imbued with character.

Although the works are still, each embodies a kind of movement. Halsey Rodman’s  structure “The Wolves from Three Angles” suggests, in human scale, the movement of frenetic energy and shifting perception. Presenting several juxtaposed viewpoints all within one structure, it consists of  three connected standing panels that are fanned out in such a way that you can never get a view of the whole thing at once. It is both a blockade and a shelter comprised of virtually identical perspectives, thus creating an a effect similar to when you look at something with one eye closed, and then the other (and then a third!). This work was apparently inspired by a dream where the artist saw a pack of wolves from three positions simultaneously, resulting from the fact that he was existing in three places at once. Each section consists of a collection of almost identical paintings and drawings that were created simultaneously by the artist. Painted wildly with electric colors, this structure appears as a set for a staged action that radiates against its surroundings.  It was in fact used as the set for the video on view in the entrance where Rodman playfully reenacts the vision from the dream using his own dog.


Katy Heinlen’s sculpture “Natural Fall” exhibits a vulnerability of latent movement. It consists of various types of fabrics draped across a hidden structure. With some material taught, and other sagging, it appears rigged up like a colorful make-shift lean-to at once holding shape but fragile, at risk of potential shift or collapse. The dangling fringes add whimsicality that inject playfulness into a formal minimalist composition. It is graceful and humble, the hanging fringe, the areas of sag in the fabric, lend it to casual motion brought on by any shift in the surrounding environment. But although it appears fragile, it has an air of dependability in that it actually must thrive in this tenuous state and therefore is sturdy enough to hold its form.

Sheila Pepe’s “A Mutable Thing” participates in the movement game most literally. This object, a giant “improvisational crochet” was created with the intention of changing form as it moves to its different locations. In the second mutation (the one I saw), the “Mutable Thing” is draped like a hammock between pillar and corner of ceiling, taking on the form of a floating vessel- the lines appear drawn, created by the woven combination of crude and elegant handmade materials that cast quirky shadows on the wall. In its prior form, the object stemmed from the same pillar to a different wall, extending as a fence-like grid that divided the room. Its third form promises to be something “wearable, referencing the body in space.” Each time the space changes, the dialogue changes, the shape changes, the shadows change, suggesting three chapters of a non-verbal, non-pictorial  line-drawn narrative that exists in three dimensions.

By the time this review is published, the exhibition will have made its third and final movement. Whether or not you will have had the chance to see more than one variation, you will experience a certain generosity in this presentation. It is playful. It is a game that suggests the artists, the space, and you the viewer, to engage more actively. It does this carefully and in a controlled manner, and thus allows us to contemplate how time and space have settled around the work, and to investigate the tensions that continue to resonate.
— Michelle Levy


Images: Sheila Pepe, detail of "A Mutable Thing," 2011, Crocheted string and fabric. Dimensions variable; Katy Heinlein, "Natural Fall," 2011, Cloth, wood and fringe, 48 x 84 x 48 inches; Halsey Rodman, "The Wolves from Three Angles," 2011, Acrylic pint, MDF, aluminum tube, magnets, gouache and pencil on paper, 107 x 42 x 99 inches; Sheila Pepe,  "A Mutable Thing," 2011, Crocheted string and fabric. Dimensions variable. All courtesy Sue Scott Gallery. | Critics' Picks

A Room, In Three Movements
Sue Scott Gallery, 1 Rivington St, New York, NY
January 20–March 6

This exhibition is pleasing not just for the freshness of the individual works on view but for the rare cogency of its aims and ambience as well. Over the course of the show’s run, the sculptures in the gallery––made by Katy Heinlein, Sheila Pepe, and Halsey Rodman––will be moved three times by the artists, changing their places and spatial relationships to one another. Even before any relocation has taken place, however, the fluidity, playfulness, and interdependence of seemingly discrete objects that the projected plan emphasizes can already be found in the works themselves.

Pepe’s woven sculpture A Mutable Thing (all works cited, 2011), with its carefully crafted but slightly derelict air, gathers together sparkly metallic thread along with tan, plastic-tipped shoelaces and occasional swathes of gray linen. An outsize Charlotte weaving her web, Pepe creates a hodgepodge fabric in which the workaday and the refined engage each other.

Rodman’s The Wolves from Three Angles forms a partition whose elements are all multiplied three times, as if answering to some curious internal logic. Though at first glance the piece seems one-sided, a stroll around it reveals its “backstage” area, where three similar shelving units house three abstract drawings. This is a near-literal cabinet of curiosities, and the thinly applied, gestural brushwork with which the structure’s components are painted works in service of one wackily gorgeous color scheme.

Like Rodman, Heinlein employs the language of stage sets in Natural Fall, though her scale is different––model- rather than life-size. This precariously constructed soft sculpture––made out of fabric, fringe, and a very minimal wooden frame––works like a sketch come to life. With its ad hoc outline, it draws attention to the landscape it delineates (mountains, skyline) but also to the graceful equilibrium between objects that makes its provisional existence possible. — Naomi Fry

The New Yorker | Goings on Around Town: Art

A Room in Three Movements / Unpunished
Sue Scott Gallery, 1 Rivington St, New York, NY
January 20–March 6

Katy Heinlein, Sheila Pepe, and Halsey Rodman share the bill, as well as a theatrically nonchalant take on formalism. The “movements” of the title are literal: the show will be rearranged three times. On a recent Sunday, viewers were met at the entrance by a triumvirate of tabletop objects by Pepe, cheeky conglomerations of ceramic, fabric, plaster, and wood that suggest maquettes for much larger works (monuments to improvisation, perhaps). In the next room, Rodman’s “The Wolves from Three Angles”—a knockabout hybrid of painting, drawing, sculpture, and shelving unit—was vying for attention with Pepe’s crocheted fabric grid. The curtain fell in the last room with Heinlein’s pratfall of a sculpture, covered in fringe. Tucked inside a cabinet near the office are loose leaves from the zine “Unpunished” (much of it N.S.F.W.), organized by the artist Nayland Blake. Through Feb. 27

The New Yorker, Feb. 14 & 21, 2011 | Galleries

Sheila Pepe: Common Sense and Other Things
Carroll and Sons, 450 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA
Through Feb. 19, 2011

Strings, attached and removed: Sheila Pepe lets public join in

The yarn in Sheila Pepe’s latest installation at Carroll and Sons is loopy and droopy, crocheted, knit, or just hanging in shades of blue, forming a three-dimensional handicraft abstract expressionist work that fills the gallery space. Pepe started with an armature of black cord and black shoelaces, and then draped and knotted her yarn pieces over, onto, and around it.

If you knit or crochet, come on down. Pepe encourages hook and needle workers to either add to the exhibit with their own handiwork, or start their own project with Pepe’s yarn and take it on home. “Our goal is to leave just the black shoelaces and cords,’’ said gallery owner Joseph Carroll in an interview.

So get there early, before too much of the piece has departed the gallery, because it’s worth seeing in its most elaborate state. Called “Common Sense in Boston,’’ it is soft and domestic, yet also exuberant, splashy, and occasionally creepy. It’s impossible to pass through without encountering strands hanging like cobwebs. The work blends the dramatic gestures of abstract expressionism, associated at its height with a particular masculine bravado, with techniques and materials associated with women’s work.

The call to knitters also seems traditionally feminine, as if Pepe’s hosting a knitting bee. At a commercial gallery, art is a commodity. Objects have a weighty value that isn’t merely monetary; they have been carefully crafted for nuance and beauty, and so it’s rare that part of the process is to give it away, bit by bit, until it’s nearly gone. Here, too, Pepe makes an improbable conflation — between a canny conceptual conceit and warmhearted community outreach.

For good measure, she has some small sculptures on view, pieces that are both gaudy and deliberately homely. “Pink Shoelace Drawing #1,’’ made of sewn shoelaces, looks like a fleshy organ. The aglets in the shoelace drawings are impertinent, protruding here and there, more defiant than fringe. “Grey thing with dangly bit on chain,’’ made of painted fabric, metal, and wood, looks to me like a professorial slug with a cherry-red head, giving a demonstration with a large splinter of wood hanging on a chain. Ridiculous yet dignified. — Cate McQuaid
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