Monday, January 12, 2015

IHQ 1 -- Ana Lupas

I've written about my new volunteer gig, helping to catalog the "International Honor Quilt" collection of panels that were made to accompany Judy Chicago's Dinner Party installation.  What I'm finding as I go through the boxes is fascinating, so I'll share some of it with you as I work.

My favorite piece in the first 200 panels I've catalogued is this one, by Ana Lupas:

Yes, at first glance it looks pretty awful, a mess of raggedy interfacing and loose thread ends.  But as you look more closely, you notice the intricate machine-stitched gridwork in the center:

Why did this piece call out to me so loudly?  I love grids, and I love dense machine stitching, and I love old-fashioned typewriters like the one used to type Lupas' name and address on the interfacing.  But what I really admire is the supreme confidence of an artist who can put such humble materials together -- the edges are secured with staples! -- and make them stand up straight and proud.

The panel stood out from the others -- not pretty, not earnest, not awkward or amateurish, despite its seemingly haphazard construction.  It's the only one I've seen so far that strikes me as art rather than as decoration.

I had never heard of Ana Lupas, but some research reveals her to be 75 years old, living in Cluj, Romania, where she was born.  She started her art career as a tapestry weaver and was exhibited in all the major shows, including several times at the the Lodz Triennial, where she won Gold and Silver medals in 1979.

She expanded her work to installations and happenings, especially outdoors where she was among the earliest Land Art practitioners and strongly influenced many of her fellow artists in Eastern Europe.  She would enlist people from villages to construct wreaths, towers and other forms from straw, then leave them outside for years to weather and disintegrate.  Predating Christo's Running Fence, she had 100 women help her cover an entire hill with clotheslines of wet linens.

Ana Lupas, Humid Installation, 1970

I was unable to find more information about Lupas and her recent work, even by painfully reading Google translations of art criticism from the Hungarian. Likewise, I found an artist statement that somebody else had translated into English, but it left most of its meaning behind.  She talks about art having "to contribute, to shape, and to give new dimensions to the social existential universe," whatever that means.  She has no website, and I could find no images of her early tapestry work, predating the internet.

I'm afraid she will remain a mystery to me; her work calls out to me across the years but leaves me hungry for more.

This is cross-posted to Ragged Cloth Cafe, a blog about art.


  1. Fascinating.....thank you for sharing!

  2. What a discovery! Is her triangle honouring someone specific?
    It can be so frustrating seeking the works of folks pre-internet, especially if they are not Big Names. Thank you for showing us what you found - I love the washing lines piece.

    1. It's honoring herself, as several of the panels do. She typed her name and address on the interfacing border.

  3. hi Kathy, happy new year to you, The idea of installations is always intriguing to me... LeeAnna at not afraid of color

  4. She sounds like a very interesting person. Thank you for honoring her here.

  5. What a great peek at we otherwise would never set eyes on! Thanks!

  6. I hadn't heard of her before but a gallery from Bologna is exhibiting her work, plus a beautiful photograph of the wet sheet project, at Frieze Masters. I was so intrigued that I then came looking for more about her and found your great blog. I have taken some photographs & will put them on my blog - - next week, should you wish to see more.

  7. Thank you for sharing this extremely interesting work. It is wonderful to see the connections between artists across countries and times... At London´s Tate Modern at the moment (July 2017) You can find in the same Display (Level 3 Blavatnik Building) a room devoted to Suzanne Lacy´s Crystal Quilt and another to Ana Lupas´s Solemn Process. Both are tremendous works. What is extremely interesting is that Judy Chicago should be the invisible link between these two artists. Lacy worked with Chicago and now I learn that Lupas contributed to Dinner... fantastic!!
    Just in case, the link to Tate and more info on AL

  8. Actually, now that I am thinking, Suzanne Lacy organised the International Dinner Party lined to the DP proper... wonder if AL was part of it too.

  9. Cayetana -- thanks so much for the update! I hadn't know about this show at the Tate. Glad to hear more about my mystery artist!!

  10. If you are still interested in finding our more about this artist, you could check these publications: page 41

    or this material in Italian (I needed to use google page translate for this one)