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String, Felt, Threadpresents an unconventional history of the American art world, chronicling the advance of thread, rope, string, felt, and fabric from the "low" world of craft to the "high" world of art in the 1960s and 1970s and the emergence today of a craft counterculture. In this full-color illustrated volume, Elissa Auther discusses the work of American artists using fiber, considering provocative questions of material, process, and intention that bridge the art-craft divide.Drawn to the aesthetic possibilities and symbolic power of fiber, the artists whose work is explored here-Eva Hesse, Robert Morris, Claire Zeisler, Miriam Shapiro, Faith Ringgold, and others-experimented with materials that previously had been dismissed for their associations with the merely decorative, with "arts and crafts," and with "women's work." In analyzing this shift and these exceptional artists' works, Auther engages far-reaching debates in the art world: What accounts for the distinction between art and craft? Who assigns value to these categories, and who polices the boundaries distinguishing them?String, Felt, Threadnot only illuminates the centrality of fiber to contemporary artistic practice but also uncovers the social dynamics-including the roles of race and gender-that determine how art has historically been defined and valued.
Elissa Auther is associate professor of contemporary art at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.