Loads of hulking bags of color you just want to throw yourself into – that’s the best way for me to describe the installations for which Sheila Hicks is best known and which was one of the most eye-catching works of the Biennale. of Venice 2017.
Although there is a similar large-scale sculpture in this exhibit, which is indeed eye-catching, I came to this exhibit not knowing much about Sheila Hicks. So it’s great to see that the show is starting on a small scale with a context for her larger work with textiles.
She was a constant collaborator traveling and learning techniques from local communities to use in her work – the exhibit is clear to credit these communities and show the work as a collaborative process. Given that art history is littered with examples of artists co-opting other styles without credit, it’s a welcome change to show that Hicks didn’t go that route.
The textile works hanging on the walls descend in long ropes and, in one case, appear as if the tentacles of an alien creature have pierced the ceiling. If some works are much more evocative than others, I must resist the temptation to read them all.
The most striking pieces are those with a story, such as a sculpture made out of hospital gown pockets, as it makes us wonder what those pockets once contained, and a colorful piece made out of shredded nurses’ gowns – triggering a memory of those we have cheered on so recently during the pandemic.
This is Hicks’ first major retrospective in the UK and it gives visitors the context they need to really engage with his work in a deeper way that goes beyond the eye-catching colorful creations. attention and appearing regularly on my Instagram feed.
Sheila Hicks: Off Grid at Hepworth Wakefield is on until September 25. Tickets cost £12 for adults.
All installation images: Tom Bird / Courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield
- sheila hicks
Art critic for FAD and Londonist. Visit as many exhibitions as possible and write reviews, opinion pieces and a weekly top 5 for FAD.
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