Lenore Tawney in her Coenties Slip studio, New York, 1958.
Photo by David Attie?Courtesy of Lenore G. Tawney Foundation?Photo by David Attie

Pathmakers Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today

Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today considers the important contributions of women to modernism in postwar visual culture. In the 1950s and 60s, an era when painting, sculpture, and architecture were dominated by men, women had considerable impact in alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics, and metals. Largely unexamined in major art historical surveys, either due to their gender or choice of materials, these pioneering women achieved success and international recognition, laying the ground for the feminist movement that followed.

Posted 13 February 2015

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Featuring more than 80 works, Pathmakers focuses on a core cadre of women—including Ruth Asawa, Edith Heath, Sheila Hicks, Karen Karnes, Dorothy Liebes, Alice Kagawa Parrott, Lenore Tawney, and Eva Zeisel—who had impact and influence as designers, artists, and teachers, using materials such as clay, fiber, and metals in innovative ways. Significantly, the group came to maturity along with the Museum of Arts and Design itself, which was founded in 1956 as the center of the emerging American modern craft movement.

Installation view of 'A Handweaver's Pattern Book,' 2014
Polly Apfelbaum
Image courtesy the artist and Clifton Benevento, New York
Photo by Andres Ramirez

The exhibition also highlights contributions of European émigrés, including Anni Albers and Maija Grotell, who brought with them a conviction that craft could serve as a pathway to modernist innovation. Parallels between women creating work in Scandinavia and the United States are emphasized by the inclusion of important Scandinavian designers such as Rut Bryk, Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe.

The legacy of these women is conveyed through a section of the exhibition that presents works by contemporary female artists and designers that reflect and expand upon the work of the earlier generation. International and United States-based artists and designers featured in this section include Polly Apfelbaum, Vivian Beer, Front Design, Hella Jongerius, and Magdalene Odundo, among others. 

Knots & Beads Curtain for UN Delegates Lounge, before 2013
Hella Jongerius
Hand-knotted yarn, porcelain beads
129 15/16 x 203 1/8 in. (330 x 516 cm)
Courtesy of JongeriusLab
Photo by Frank Oudeman

Installation of weavings by Lenore Tawney in Woven Forms, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, 1963
Lenore Tawney
Courtesy of American Craft Council
Photo by Ferdinand Boesch

Pathmakers is organized by guest curators Jennifer Scanlan and Ezra Shales, along with Barbara Paris Gifford, Curatorial Assistant and Project Manager. The exhibition will be accompanied by a special issue of the Journal of Modern Craft, guest edited by MAD’s Windgate Research Curator Elissa Auther. The issue will serve as an in-depth exploration of subjects raised in the exhibition, and will feature articles by international scholars including Helena Kaberg, Professor and Curator at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden; Dr. Sarah Lichtman, Assistant Professor of Art & Design Studies and Director of the Cooper Hewitt’s Masters in Decorative Arts and Design; and  Dr. Simon Olding, Professor and Director of the Crafts Study Centre at the University of Creative Arts in Surrey, UK.

Nagare III, 1968
Kay Sekimach
Nylon monofilament
87 x 10 x 11 in. (221 x 25.4 x 27.9 cm)
Museum of Arts and Design; gift of the Johnson Wax Company, through the American Craft Council, 1977

Hanging #57, c. 1957
Olga de Amara
Hand spun wool
87 x 43 in. (221 x 109.2 cm)
Museum of Arts and Design; gift of the Dreyfus Foundation, through the American Craft Council, 1989?Photo by Eva Heyd

Dorothy Liebes
DuPont Orlon and Fairtex metallic yarn
99 1/2 x 46 3/4 in. (252.7 x 118.7 cm)
Museum of Arts and Design; gift of Dorothy Liebes Design, through the American Craft Council, 1973
?Photo by Eva Heyd

Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today is supported by Rago Arts and Auction Center, Hans and Jayne Hufschmid, the Coby Foundation, The Brian and Edith Heath Foundation, the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation, and the Consulate General of Finland in New York. Research was supported by a Craft Research Fund grant from The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, Inc.

Events Related to this Exhibition
Ceramic Stamps, Slabs, and Rollers
Saturday, February 7, 2015 - 1:00 pm

Ceramic Painting Set
Saturday, March 7, 2015 - 1:00 pm

Join artist Leah Wolff as she assists participants in the creation of personalized art-making tools during this afternoon­long, hands­on workshop. Participants...
Ceramic Wall Pockets
Saturday, April 18, 2015 - 1:00 pm

Join artist Leah Wolff as she assists participants in the creation of their own personalized art-making tools during this afternoon­long, hands­on workshop....
Curator-Led Tour of Pathmakers: Women in Modern Craft, Midcentury and Today
Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 6:30 pm

Discover the new exhibition Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today"with curator Jennifer Scanlan as your guide. As the first...
Do We Need Exhibitions Just for Women? Examining the Specialization of Exhibitions by Gender
Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 7:00 pm

In recent years, institutions and galleries have begun to present exhibitions and programming that focus exclusively on women artists, from MoMA’s year long...
Women in Industrial Design: A Changing Field
Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 7:00 pm

In certain areas of the design world—interiors, textiles and tableware—women have been extremely successful while in others—furniture and product design—they...

Teen and Family Programs
Studio Sunday
Sunday, June 7, 2015 - 2:00 pm
Studio Sundays, held once monthly offers countless opportunities to learn and explore. These intergenerational workshops are included with museum admission for...
Studio Sunday
Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 2:00 pm


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Double Petal, 1963
Alice Kagawa Parrott
78 1/2 x 36 in. (199.4 x 91.4 cm)
Museum of Arts and Design; Museum purchase, through the American Craft Council, 1963
Photo by Eva Heyd

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