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Jan/Feb 2002


Lesley Kice: Rearrangements

A "surface" always argues with space, incorporating or creating or adopting some form of dimensionality. Lesley Kice's "Rearrangements" argues with space in intriguing ways, with beautiful results. The show took place at Light Box Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri, April 20-May 26.

Installation view. On wall: Mokume-positive (foreground) and Internal Mokume back). Suspended in middle of gallery: Boxes.

The earliest piece in the show, Boxes, argues with space by creating a solid form out of organza. Conceptually, the issue of scale emerges through the work's evocation of the Menger sponge, the three-dimensional fractal form with an infinite surface area but zero volume. More viscerally, the piece pits apparent flimsiness against actual strength, and the flimsiness of the component parts against the stability of the whole. In doing so, it gives a key to the whole show, which manages throughout to unite the ethereal and the earthy.

The show's visual and conceptual axis is a group of three works made simultaneously and from a single piece of fabric, entitled Mokume-positive, Internal Mokume, and Mokume-negative. Imagine one stretch of silk, from which irregular rings with serrated edges have been cut by burning. The original piece of silk out of which the rings were cut (or in other words, the part of the material outside of the rings) constitutes Mokume-negative. The rings themselves, stitched together in overlapping patterns, compose Mokume-positive. The small circles that were the interior of the rings (the donut holes), stitched together in various shapes and hung by threads in vertical rows, become Internal Mokume. Together, the three works argue with space by multiplication: they make three surfaces out of one. Individually, Mokume-negative pursues depth by reproducing itself as shadows, Mokume-positive pursues depth by layering, and Internal Mokume pursues depth by folding, like origami.

Mokume-positive (detail); silk; shibori, burning, stitching.
The pattern created by the overlapping rings in Mokume-positive then becomes the basis for Burnout Mokume and Holey Mokume, each of which achieves depth by layering. In Burnout Mokume, the rings pattern appears in its original size on one panel and expanded on two others. The repetition of the basic pattern in different sizes on thick fabric and sheer fabric creates another pattern of its own. Similarly, in Holey Mokume, the pattern silk-screened on the back panel is visible through holes burned on the front panel.

As with any body of work, the pieces are not of perfectly even quality. Buchi Lace, the least successful piece, seems limp by comparison with the others and hangs in a location that does not emphasize its shadows as well as some of the other pieces emphasize theirs. One must work hard to find weaknesses, though, in a show that is simultaneously coherent and various, that is replete with beautiful works, and that at its highest moments, especially in the exquisite Mokume-positive, is moving and memorable.

"Rearrangements," the first major solo show by Lesley Kice, introduces an extraordinary young talent with an already complex vision, informed by knowledge of and connection to Japanese culture, and possessed of a prodigious level of craft. By simple techniques that call forth meditative patience through painstaking repetition, and by attention to the whole piece, including its shadows and movements, she has created a set of works that sustain attention through complex explorations of dimensionality, but only after attracting attention with their simple beauty.
Folded Buchi (detail); silk; shibori, burning, stitching. Photos: M Studios.

--H. L. Hix

H. L. Hix is the director of the School of Liberal Arts at Kansas City Art Insitute in Kansas City, Missouri.

All photos: M Studios












Boxes, detail; silk; tea stained, burnt, folded, stitched.


Burnout Mokume; silk, cotton; dyed, stitched.


Holey Mokume; silk; dyed, burnt holes.


Installation view showing Buchi Lace (burnt silk).

This review first appeared in:

Jan/Feb 2002


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