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Marilyn Henrion at NOHO Gallery


"Presences" 78" x 49" Silk and Cotton.
Hand Stitched ©2001

(Photos Courtesy the Artist)

By RAYMOND J. STEINER
ARTTIMES January, 2003

AMONG MY SEVERAL biases – and make no mistake; anyone voicing opinions, perhaps especially critical ones, has (or ought to own that he has) personal preferences that can and do color one's’ judgments – is that of a distaste for the blurring of boundaries between art and craft. Without advocating the relative value of either "fine art" or of the "useful" arts, I’ve found that the steadily-growing prevalence for claiming no distinction between the two activities a disturbing and unnecessary complication. Art, after all, in whatever manifestation it takes, is never an easy subject to translate into verbal symbolism – and muddying the waters with fuzzy thinking doesn’t help. Yet, in spite of my long-held misgivings, it was something of a surprise to come across the fiber artistry of Marilyn Henrion recently exhibited at the NOHO Gallery* since, if anyone has successfully bridged the gap, this is an artist who has brought her craft of ‘stitchery’ to rival that of the brush. Taken from a line of Loren Eisley’s The Star Thrower, Henrion’s beautifully wrought "Night Thoughts" theme amply satisfy this viewer’s requisite for fine art’s obligation to live up to everything it might be. Through the use of metallic fabrics and fine silks salvaged from old kimonos that have been meticulously pieced together into abstract patterns, Henrion offers up a richly-textured array of "pictures" that suggest a world of strict geometric harmony gently softened by carefully counterpoised hues. Far from the cold sterility one finds so often in hard-lined abstraction, Henrion’s stunning juxtaposition of primary and complementary colors make for a surprisingly lush and visually-rich viewing experience. Whatever rigidity one might expect from geometry, Henrion subtly undermines predisposed assumptions through not only a bold and profligate use of color, texture, and


"Night Thoughts #5" 53" x 51" Silk, cotton,
metallic. Hand Quilted. ©2002

patterned fabric, but through occasional "break-outs" from the usual rectilinear frame (see, for example, Presences; Remains of the Day; A Vivid Air.) At times these deviations are so understated that they are easily overlooked (See Night Thoughts 1, 3, 4 & 5). So richly varied are Henrion’s conceptions and constructions that, unless one looks closely, one might also overlook that the five "Studies" for the Night Thoughts Series (each 19"x18") are precisely mirrored – in form if not in color – in the larger 53"x51" Series of the same name, proving beyond a doubt that her exquisite sense of color and texture joyously shouts down the austerity of hard-lined geometric shape. This is creative concept and realization at its best and Henrion has gone a long way toward emending my prejudice. If more would follow her successful culmination of "blurring the boundaries," then I stand to have my aesthetic outlook further extended.

*"Night Thoughts: Recent Works by Marilyn Henrion" (Nov 26-Dec 14): NOHO Gallery in Chelsea, 530 West 25th St., NYC (212) 367-7063. (Henrion’s work may also be seen online at www.marilynhenrion.com)

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