Three heads come together, forced into position by the figure on the right, whose arm stretches out seemingly to strangle the figure on the left. Stranger still, the three heads share only two mouths – frozen rictuses, one a grin, the other a grimace. The central Janus-faced figure stares both ways, his eyes met by the eye of the companion to his left or his right, each of whom presses their face into his. This untitled 2014 work by Christina Forrer, its subjects woven into cotton and linen fibres that are uncoloured but for the pink grasping arm, the heads then filled in with dark purple, blue and brown gouache, is relatively simple and unsophisticated in contrast to the Swiss artist’s larger, vividly coloured tapestries. Nonetheless, the fundamentals of her most recent figurative weaving are there: dramatic interpersonal exchanges, functional or dysfunctional, designed and worked into the very support of the work.
Forrer grew up in Zumikon, outside Zürich, went to study in California at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, in the early 2000s, and has remained in the US ever since. For a decade or so after her studies she assisted other artists, among them Robert Therrien, keeping her own practice under the radar. We first met in 2008, when she was exhibiting design-inspired drawings of speculative objects at an exhibition by a group of LA-based friends at Zürich’s Bolte Lang gallery, but by her own account, her artistic breakthrough happened after this, when she began to include figures in her work; then the oeuvre coalesced and “made sense” to her. Subsequently learning pattern weaving and tapestry weaving from Babajan Lazar, a Kurdish-American teacher, during the late 2000s, she found tapestry to be a medium that enabled her to work both intuitively and just precisely enough. Critics embraced her fresh imagery when Grice Bench gallery in Los Angeles mounted an exhibition of these works in 2014, a selection of what had, by then, become highly sophisticated tapestries and drawings featuring characters from old and recent folklore, such as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz or a horseriding warrior with a lance. This past spring, following a further show at Grice Bench, Forrer had a solo presentation of tapestry works alongside a single sculpture and sketchbooks – books made from collages on photocopies of found images and the artist’s drawings – at the Swiss Institute in New York. Its title: Grappling Hold.
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