Behind the Numbers: Winter 2013
Lot 48 Los Angeles Modern Auctions “20th Anniversary Auction,“ October 7, 2012: Tahoe Wall by Sheila Hicks, c. 1970, three panels in rayon, linen, and cotton, 89 by 128 inches assembled. Estimated at $20,000–$30,000, it sold for $93,750. Some reasons for the unexpectedly high price:
Sheila Hicks’s Tahoe Wall is a cascade of undulating color and texture: skeins of raw linen arranged side-by-side are tightly spot-wrapped with shiny rayon and cotton threads in a range of autumnal hues. The twisted, wound, and looped threads of Tahoe Wall celebrate the inherently tactile and sensual qualities of raw fiber. In this piece, the thread is not woven, but arranged in a way that reflects its properties differently: sometimes slack, other times supportive.
Hicks was born in Nebraska in 1934 and studied painting under former Bauhaus instructor Josef Albers at Yale, where she obtained BFA and MFA degrees, before turning to weaving as her primary medium in the late 1950s. She has traveled the globe absorbing different textile traditions from Central and South America to India and North Africa. Her sensibility as an artist working with fiber is deeply architectural and reveals a fascination with surfaces, landscapes, and built environments. Tahoe Wall exemplifies the sculptural nature of Hicks’s process, which she calls “form-making with soft materials.” By taking fiber off-loom and into three dimensions, Tahoe Wall invites the viewer to rethink thread, and to experience the expressive potential of textile art through its abstract passages of color and texture.