Sheila Hicks: 50 Years is the first museum retrospective devoted to this pioneering figure. Sheila Hicks is an artist who builds with color and thinks with line. From her earliest work of the late 1950s, to the present she has crossed the bounds of painting, sculpture, design, drawing, and woven form, and has been a critical force in redefining the domains of contemporary art-making. While challenging the relation of fine arts to commercial arts and studio practice to site-specific commissions, Hicks has, above all, re-imagined the profound, vital relation of artist to artisan.
Sheila Hicks: 50 Years addresses the artist’s conceptual, procedural, and material concerns via five distinct, though intimately related, fields of inquiry: architecture and industry; color; small weavings (minimes)and drawings; free standing sculptures; and works made of recycled textiles, clothing, and other found objects. There are approximately 100 works in the exhibition.
Born in Hastings, Nebraska, Hicks received her BFA and MFA degrees from Yale (1957; 1959), studying painting with master teacher and theorist Josef Albers and history of art with George Kubler, a pivotal figure in the rediscovery of Mesoamerican art. Hicks’s self-described practice of “linear thinking” and “composing texture” reflects the Bauhaus tradition of finding the expressive voices of different materials and the dynamic interactions of color. Equally, her work reflects her studies with Kubler, in particular the juxtapositions she first saw in his class of small Pre-Incaic weavings with the colossal structures of Machu Picchu.
From her earliest experiments with woven forms, Hicks has explored processes that skew the traditional grid, incorporating traditional and new materials or integrating found objects, even deconstructing her own works and reusing the elements to create any number of others. She has explored the role of the artist’s hand and the use of technologies to create works that range from the size of a page to that of a football field. In addition to her studio works and commissions, Hicks is noted internationally as a teacher and mentor of several generations of artists and designers.