|Gabriel Dawe unwraps social constructs of his youth to weave new stories|
From far away, it looks like thin, mesh sheets in multi-colored hues twisted and wrapped along a wall. Up close, one sees the intricate truth, like individual pixels in a digital picture: this image is made up of more than 37 miles of colorful thread strung in a complex web.
They look like they'd make an ethereal sound if you strummed your fingers over them.
Mexico City-born artist Gabriel Dawe spent roughly two weeks in April installing the piece along a stretch of wall inside LSU's Museum of Art. And the museum invited patrons to watch Dawe weave his colorful magic each day.
It's a meticulous process, with Dawe hoisting strands of thread from a needle at the end of a long pole and hooking them to various anchor points nailed into the wall. Each of his installations takes on a different shape based on the space used.
“The first time, I was climbing up and down a ladder over and over,” Dawe says of installing his first thread-based installation. “When I was offered to do show No. 2, I had to come up with a system, and that's how I came up with this giant needle.”
He's also got a handwritten chart showing him which threads connect to which set of hooks. “It's very simple geometry and a lot of numbers, but it's not as complicated as it seems,” he says.
Dawe's work has its roots in the embroidery traditions of Mexico, more commonly associated with women, and the masculine roles men are expected to play in society. He remembers his grandmother teaching his sisters how to work with thread. “As a child, you absorb the rules on what boys and girls are supposed to do,” he says. “I never wanted to ask my grandmother how to do it. I wouldn't even ask, because I knew I was not supposed to do it. And that's very telling, how social constructs work and sort of wrap around you.”
One of his first works took childhood toys like dinosaurs and toy cars and wrapped them in colorful thread. His current infatuation with geometric shapes and thread is an extension of that theme, allowing visitors to get up close and discover how the patterns and lines of color shift from each direction.
“On the conceptual level, it's sort of a visualization of those social constructs, what they look like and how you try to navigate around them and through them,” Dawe says. “We don't realize that we do that.”
Reneé Payton at LSUMOA says Dawe's installation, “Plexus #15,” will be on display at the museum until April 2013. After that, the miles of thread return to Dawe, who crams it all into compact, clear boxes, many of which go on to be displayed in other galleries.
Dawe has shown his work in the United States, Canada and across Europe. He has yet to show one of his “Plexus” pieces in Mexico. gabrieldawe.com
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