The atrium of the Philip Johnson-designed Amon Carter Museum of American Art has an airy quality that could almost make the viewer dizzy when gazing up at its expanse. But associate curator Maggie Adler felt the space was ripe for a site-specific work, and she knew just the artist to pull it off: Gabriel Dawe.
The result is a new installation featuring 60 miles of multicolored thread suspended just under the vaulted ceiling.
A visual interpretation of the spectrum of light, the concept of Plexus n. 34, the latest in an ongoing series, came together surprisingly quickly. Adler had been pulling magazine clippings of Dawe’s work for quite some time, and after a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, she discovered the Mexico-born artist was living in Dallas — making him a prime candidate for the Fort Worth museum’s Texas artist series.
“The Amon Carter isn’t exactly known for contemporary art, but it’s something I feel passionate about,” Adler says. “For the past couple of years, we’ve had the work of a living Texas artist in our atrium space, and I wondered if this was a project we could do.”
Anticipating it would take years to fit such an ambitious undertaking into Dawe’s busy schedule, she was surprised to find he actually had a window of time available in August.
“I was really excited when I was approached,” Dawe says. “I started off doing these installations six-and-half years ago, and I thought this space would be a prime spot for one of my pieces.
“Every work starts with the dialogue in terms of what the space is asking of me, and what I can give to the space. This is sort of the core of the museum, so it really required something that was going from wall to wall, playing with that negative space.”
After solving the issue of finding the only local lift that would fit through the museum’s doors, Dawe was given the all clear to begin weaving in earnest on August 2, with the help of two assistants. Utilizing a device that is similar to a giant needle, ordinary sewing threads were pulled from wall to wall in a repeating overlay so that, as Dawe says, “it looks like the material disappears and leaves the color behind.”
Making its debut to the public on August 16 and on view for two years, Plexus n. 34 is sure to inspire the emotion in even the most impassive viewer.
“I’ve done pieces that have required more thread, but this is one of the biggest, and certainly the highest, I’ve ever had to be,” Dawe says. “All of the colors are about the unity within the whole, and that’s why people are captivated. The rainbow is all the colors in life showing itself in all forms and shades.”
Says Adler, “At some points it’s opaque and then translucent — as you move it creates this iridescence that’s remarkable to see in person. With social media, if there’s a rainbow, 15 people will take a picture and post it. How many other things stop us dead and say ‘Look at me?’
“That’s how Gabriel’s art works. It forces you to take a breath, be a little bit zen, and experience something.”