First impressions of Brent Wadden’s work, especially through photographic reproductions, significantly undersell the scope of both his techniques and themes. Wadden trained as a painter and still considers his large-scale woven works as paintings rather than tapestries: it is this distinction which represents the most intriguing element of his oeuvre.
Wadden seeks to deconstruct the derogatory connotations surrounding the term ‘craft’, in particular, the process of weaving, which has remained a technique closely associated with women. The process that Wadden undertakes in unravelling left-over cotton and wool blankets, and then weaving them back together into beautiful, abstract works, literally and metaphorically signifies his attempt at de-gendering the craft of weaving.
In describing his admiration for American abstract female artists such as Agnes Martin and Bridget Riley, Wadden is opaque about the importance of the gendered hierarchies of fine art and craft within his work. “My book about the weaving department at the Bauhaus is one of my prized possessions. I learned about Anni Albers and the other talented women there, but I also learned that they were discriminated against and the reality really left a mark on me. Challenging the craft/art spectrum is a worthwhile endeavour – and hopefully, my work helps to shift how people think about weaving.”
Wadden has used his credentials of white male to bypass the gendered categorisation of the weaving medium and move into the realm of the international art market. His show at Pace represents his ability to discuss feminism through the use of craft, culminating in an aesthetically pleasing body of work, which no doubt, is in high demand.
Rather than paying an admission fee to see Anni Albers work at Tate, head over to Pace Gallery, which is advantageously positioned next to the Royal Academy of Art. Ironically, the works are physically challenging to look at, as the optical illusions of the monochromatic patterns play tricks on the eye. However, once you push past the material barriers, the intricate values present in weaving, come to the fore.