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Nov/Dec 2006

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By Suzanne Beal

Photo: Adam L. Weintraub.

Although his MFA from the University of Washington is in fiber arts, Seattle artist Robert Yoder previously eschewed fabric—until now. Originally seen at Aqua Art Miami in 2005 and the Frye Art Museum in September 2006, SLUICE GATE represents the artist’s first foray into carpets. Yoder, best known for his collages, has often borrowed eclectic elements from popular culture such as wood road signs, magazines, vinyl, latex, and nail polish to create imaginary views of ambiguous space.

Initially inspired by Walk Softly, an exhibit at the contemporary arts center Consolidated Works of contemporary carpets designed by University of Washington students, Yoder entered into conversation with professor Layne Goldsmith about creating a rug of his own design. Goldsmith, having recently formed Dorjé Contemporary, a carpet design and production company with posts in Seattle and Kathmandu, responded enthusiastically. [Goldsmith and her students were featured in the April/May 2006 issue of Fiberarts.]

Working with Goldsmith and her partners, Rachel Meginnes and Passang Dorjee, Yoder drew on past working practices in collage, identifying varying pile heights and specific areas of carpet to be knotted or sheared to reproduce his design in wool. His final drawing was sent to Nepal, where artisan companies who work with Dorjé completed production. The Nepal companies are Rugmark certified, meaning no child labor is involved.

Yoder’s collages grace the walls of some of Seattle’s most prestigious collections. But with SLUICE GATE, Yoder literally demands his viewers to walk all over his work. “I don’t want it to be mistaken for something other than a carpet,” said Yoder. “That’s what it is.”

Photo: Adam L. Weintraub.

Sluice gates are generally used to manage water levels and flow rates in rivers and canals. Here Yoder uses geometric forms to guide the direction and speed with which the eye roams his carpet. SLUICE GATE offers a dizzying overhead perspective of an 8' 5" spiraling utopian landscape. By precluding exclusive focal and vantage points, his wool collage suggests that joy isn’t found in the final destination but on the road thereto.

Suzanne Beal is a freelance writer and curator in Seattle. Her writings on art have been published in Artdish, Seattle Weekly, Art in America and Art on Paper.


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