Mary Little: The Shape of Cloth

April 21, 2018 – June 2, 2018

Subdued and flawless, the sculptural fiber wall hangings of Mary Little will be on view in an exhibition at the Craft in America Center from April 21 through June 2, 2018. This group of meditative works stem from Little’s passion for the magical and metaphorical qualities of cloth. For this exhibition, Little will additionally be making a site-specific, three-dimensional fiber form suspended in the Center window that will complement the patterns and inspiration of her wall pieces. Little recently began investigating fiber spaces in her practice as an extension of the contemplative and poetic qualities she strives to achieve throughout her work. With her remarkable ability to maintain a balance between the delicate and striking, Little’s art flows between big emotions and subtlety.

Now based in Los Angeles, Little takes inspiration from the landscape of her childhood on a peninsula in Northern Ireland. After moving to downtown L.A. four years ago, she visited her mother in Ireland and realized just how much her sculptural sensibility was reflected in the scenery of the soft rolling hills and textured coastline in the area where she grew up. Little evokes the contrasts of land to abstract the terrain and create line and pattern via shadow and light. Little solely uses unbleached artist canvas because of its utility and simplicity and because of her history in working with the material as a furniture designer. Using upholstery techniques, Little manipulates her material by creating seemingly ephemeral folds and tucks that are permanently documented in the cloth. Her minimalist aesthetic is apparent in her neutral palette, humble material, and precision of form.

In recent years, Little’s evolving work has shifted from a furniture-based practice in which she pushed the potential of upholstery to animate furniture forms, into an exploration of the fiber itself. Early in her career, Little focused on conceptual furniture after completing graduate work at Royal College of Art in 1985. At the height of Postmodernism, she charted her own pathway within the expressive qualities of furniture. She began exploring ideas around how personality and character are projected through the objects we sit upon: chairs. She then turned to the more fundamental aspects of what caught her interest: surface, texture, pattern, rhythm, and how their interactions awaken emotions.

Little’s work has been shown internationally at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, the Textile Museum, Washington D.C. and Übersee-Museum, Bremen, Germany. Her furniture is in the permanent collections of the Vitra Design Museum in Basel, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and Victoria & Albert Museum, London and in private collections in Europe and North America. Her work has been reviewed in Fabrik, The New York Times, Luxe magazine and Architectural Digest.

Courtesy of the artist, Sydney Brown photo