The Fabric of Home
The Fabric of Home
Cotton Cloth between Ontology and Use-Value in Paul Klee’s and Varvara Stepanova and Lyubov Popova’s Artwork
This essay focuses on the ways in which a humble piece of cotton cloth reconfigured the idea of the object as such, into one characterized, dually, by its own making process and by its orientation towards the unforeseeable use. The essay engages two distinct modernist artistic utterances that articulated, and bore witness to, this changed relationship towards objects and links them to an effort to rearticulate the affect of home in modernism. My case studies are the series of drawings Paul Klee executed on cheesecloths in the 1920s-30s, and Varvara Stepanova’s textile designs while at work at the First State Textile Factory in 1924. The essay suggests that both artists, their expressive and ideological dissimilarities notwithstanding, perceived in the piece of cotton cloth a “comrade”—that is, an active, animate participant in the creation process, itself a procedure of metabolizing experience which involves the replication of geometric forms and lines of threaded cotton or burlap. Juxtaposing the textile tremors in Klee’s paintings and Stepanova’s designs unearths a hidden axial point in which the modernists’ perception of home, as a physical environment, projective phantasy and constitutive emotion, changed, and our perception of key experiential categories such as objects and object-making transformed.
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