Exhibition of silk fabric designs from Paterson, New Jersey, opens

 

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
March 31, 2017

 

                                      PATERSON, NEW JERSEY, SILK DESIGNS ON DISPLAY
                                            Drawings by William Geskes ripe with shapes, colors

Allentown, PA—William Geskes (1877–1962) spent more than forty years creating designs for silk fabrics produced in Paterson, New Jersey, factories. A new exhibition of Geskes work at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley encourages us to consider something unexpected—the role that artists can play in mass production. Designing for the Loom: Drawings by William Geskes opens today in the Museum's downstairs Fuller Gallery and continues, in two different hangings, through November 2, 2017.

Geskes was one of many skilled immigrants that helped make Paterson a booming silk manufacturing center in the early twentieth century. He probably learned to design textiles in his native Krefeld, Germany, a city known for its silk. Geskes’ designs include abstract motifs that look like microorganisms as well as bold polygons and floral imagery. This work shows the influence of various art movements of his day, such as the serpentine curves of Art Nouveau and the abstract geometry of modern art. Many of his drawings also indicate how the pattern would repeat over a length of cloth.

When a manufacturer bought one of Geskes’ designs to make into cloth, they would ask a technician to translate the drawing into a diagram on a grid. The design could then be woven using a Jacquard loom, a special type of loom that wove patterned cloth by reading cards with holes punched in them. You may notice an embossed “E. Frey Designer” seal on some of the drawings, which identifies them as property of one of the design firms that employed Geskes. Such physical traces of these drawings’ commercial past remind us of their dual identity—they are simultaneously works of art and industrial artifacts.

The first selection of Geskes's works will run from March 31 till July 10, and a second selection from July 14 through November 2.

Designing for the Loom: Drawings by William Geskesis supported through the generosity of the Harry C. Trexler Trust, the Julius and Katheryn Hommer Foundation, the Century Fund, the Bernard and Audrey Berman Foundation, the Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment, the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, the Rider-Pool Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Friends of the Museum.
 

     

LEFT: William Geskes (1877-1962), Untitled Jacquard Design, between 1895 and 1940, gouache and pencil on paper. Gift of Karin Geskes Erny, 1993
CENTER: William Geskes (1877-1962), Untitled Jacquard Design, between 1895 and 1940, paint and pencil on paper. Gift of Karin Geskes Erny, 1993
RIGHT: William Geskes (1877-1962), Untitled Jacquard Design, between 1895 and 1940, paint and pencil on paper. Gift of Karin Geskes Erny, 1993

 

Media Contact:

Chris Potash
Manager of Marketing and Public Relations
(610) 432-4333, extension 125
cpotash [at] allentownartmuseum [dot] org

 

About the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley
The Allentown Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that participates in the cultural, educational, and economic life of the Lehigh Valley. Defined by a unique combination of tradition and innovation, our collections, educational partnerships, collaborative and community based programs, and exhibitions are dedicated to inspiring the broadest possible public engagement, access, and service. For more information please visit AllentownArtMuseum.org.

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