Spring 2007 Vol 33 No 1

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Mark Adams — 1925 - 2006

By Jackie Wollenberg

The impact of losing Mark Adams in 2006 was felt near and far in the world of the visual arts. We . . . knew him particularly for his prolific tapestry designs woven in the French manner... . . .He learned a variety of disciplines while in high school and college and then studied privately with Hans Hofmann in New York where he was engrossed with abstraction.

Eventually, Adams did study for a period with Lurçat learning a great deal about designing for the medium. . . . [and] in Aubusson he became close friends and collaborators with M. and Mme. Paul Avignon, the weavers who wove all of Mark Adams’ early designs after he returned to San Francisco. A good source of information on these early works is the catalogue, Mark Adams, An Exhibition of Tapestries, Paintings, Stained Glass Windows and Architectural Designs, from the 1970 California Palace of the Legion of Honor exhibit...

below: Mark Adams, Joseph's Coat, 60" x 69", 1961. Woven by Paul Avignon.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gene A. Estribou

below: Mark Adams, Ranunculus, 80" x 71", 1968. #1 of 4, Woven by Paul Avignon.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles P Davies, Novato, California

Jean Pierre Larochette says, "Mark insisted that cartoon designing was a very calculated and much rehearsed process. He would advise one to draw the same general composition for five or six consecutive days before entering in detail... . Mark wanted his tapestry work to be efficient, clear, well defined. His cartoons were easy to weave, fast but never boring. He was very disciplined and expected the same from others.”

Phoebe McAfee, . . . has many similar things to say about Mark Adams. In all, she counted twenty-four projects that she worked on with Mark, at the Tapestry Workshop, at Bethany with Rudy, and in her home studio. . . .In one of her favorites, “Rose and Dogwood,” the portrayal of a spotted dog sitting on a colorful, patterned rug on a deck surrounded by dogwood blossoms seems complex at first glance . . . When you take a second look at this charming scene, you realize, as a tapestry weaver, that all the lines are turned just the right way to make this tapestry a perfect manifestation of the Adams efficiency credo.

below: Mark Adams, "Lotus, Sumatra," 80 x 92", 1989. Woven by McAfee/Richardson.
Collection of the Fine Museums of San Francisco

below: Mark Adams, Rose and Dogwood, 72" x 80", 1986. Woven by McAfee/Richardson.
Collection of Gould, St. Louis, MO

Jean Pierre says that Mark Adams was a very good student of Lurçat. He understood Lurçat's mural objectives and loved large surfaces. When... we wove the "White Block," I presented him with samples of available colored yarns and a technique he had not used before and that would much affect his later work: chinee and melange. The great colorist he was, he turned the limitation of working with commercial yarns to his own benefit and deeply influenced other works woven during those early years at the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop.

Below: Mark Adams, "The White Block," 52" x 44", 1977
woven by the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop.

ATB6 Artists’ Profiles

by Linda Rees

Christine Laffer took an analytical approach to a career blended with a visceral response to subject matter. It first directed her away from a profession in architecture to a mandate to explore the properties of Cloth. The large attendance of eager weavers at the symposium sponsored by ATA and SFTW in 1983 emphasized that there were many people interested in tapestry who, like her, sought to expand their knowledge of the medium.

…With steady persistance, the long journey to find the unique visual vocabulary that could achieve her initial intent has resulted in highly individualistic tapestries. "Cloth of Construction: Tarps" was started in 1991 but has undergone modification and issues of presentation until recently ready for exhibition. It was one of very few tapestries to not be minimalized by the specific environment of the Grand Rapids venue for ATB6, which was a gallery designed for installations and sculptural art.. . . It looked at home on the high ceilinged cement wall, and more recently commanded attention in the entry hall of the Bellevue Art Museum, the second venue.

below: Christine Laffer, Cloth of Construction: Tarps, 102" x 138",
Bas Relief tapestry, wool. Photo by Jack Toolin

. . . Like Christine, Tricia recounts that SFTW was a tremendously exciting place for learning, with many commissions being woven and enthusiastic weavers dropping in or taking classes.. . . Once Tricia had children, she set up her studio in her home. While her primary energy went to the care of her family, the need to stay active and weaving was a great impetus for Tricia to seek out other weavers.

For the past few years, Tricia has been taking life drawing classes to augment photography as inspiration for designs and enjoys the expressiveness and greater control the practice gives her. She feels lucky to have had the luxury to do tapestry and to have been in the right place at the right time to learn the skills needed amidst such a dynamic community still existing in the Bay Area.

I had a chance to visit Tricia in her studio. "Stamps," her ATB6 tapestry, [was]all aglow in the natural light of the studio. A delicate edging between the creamy perforation and the green-gray border. enlivened the border, balancing it with the varied calligraphy and painterly imagery of the stamps. The composition, with its disparate sides, seems unlikely to have occurred in any other way than chance.. . .. How much of the success revolves around Tricia's shifting of elements to achieve such continuity? How much of the overall effectiveness depends on what is revealed in the cancellation or on the depth of black in the lettering of both sides, or on the wash of blue green in the black and white stamp?

below: Tricia Goldberg, Stamps, 38" x 49", wool silk cotton.
Photo by Dan Dosick

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