Sheila Hicks (* 1934) is one of the most important international artists active today, and the MAK is the first institution in Austria to dedicate a solo exhibition to her work. Especially for the exhibition, she has developed extensive sculptures and new works and also includes an inspirational object from the MAK Textiles and Carpets Collection.
The textiles and installations of the American artist, who has been living in Paris since the mid-1960s, elude traditional ideas of textile art and techniques of knotting and weaving. In the development and perception of the objects, the sculptural, the tactile, fine color nuances up to vibrating luminosity, and nature play an essential role as the starting point and poetry of the textile. Her visionary practice between visual and applied art is determined by the processes and parameters of studio production.
Hicks studied at Yale University under Josef Albers (1888–1976), various weaving techniques were taught to her personally by the textile artist Anni Albers (1899–1994). Through Josef and Anni Albers, she immersed herself in the ideas of Bauhaus and Modernism. In addition, she has been inspired by Raoul d’Harcourt’s book Les textiles anciens du Pérou et leurs techniques [Textiles of Ancient Peru and Their Techniques] (1934) to explore the subject of cultural appropriation and to turn from painting to textile as a medium.
At the end of the 1950s, a Fulbright grant enabled her to spend time in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. In Mexico she developed a close connection to the architect Luis Barragán (1902–1988). To this day, Hicks sees the textile as an intrinsic element of architecture and a metaphor for measuring space—comparable to the practice-oriented approach of architect and theoretician Gottfried Semper (1803–1879), who explored the context between nature, textile, architecture, and space.