Release Date: September 5,2018

Akron Art Museum Presents folded, crumpled and sewn paintings and prints in The Fabricators

Uncommon paintings and prints created by sewing, crumpling and folding take center stage in the Akron Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, The Fabricators, which opens on Saturday, September 22, 2018. The exhibition presents works from the museum collection by Sam Gilliam, Craig Lucas, Alan Shields and Kenneth Showell, along with one Shields print from a private collection. All four artists featured in The Fabricators manipulated the canvas or paper of their work, treating it like fabric by folding, crumpling or sewing on it—going beyond processes adopted by abstract artists of the mid-twentieth century, who applied pigment to canvas unfurled directly on the studio floor. 

Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister said, “These artists were real rule breakers when it comes to processes. Their creative techniques resulted in dynamic artworks that remain fresh even though they were made almost half a century ago.”

Best known for painting-sculpture hybrids of canvas draped from gallery ceilings and walls, Sam Gilliam is also an accomplished printmaker. The works included in The Fabricators combine layers of brightly colored abstract printing, handmade paper and stitching in artworks in which two different prints are sutured together.

Throughout his career, Craig Lucas experimented with different ways to apply paint to surfaces, including collaging on the surface of paper with tape, fabric and paperboard. He often layered pigment atop these elements and scraped it away, building and removing paint until he achieved the image he wanted. An untitled work from 1973 goes further, with Lucas folding the linen-backed paper as he worked, creating a large painting with vertical stripes.

Alan Shields learned to sew during his youth on a farm in Kansas. His paintings and prints, often dyed with Rit, a common fabric dye, are embellished with beads and machine-stitching. Shields introduced diversity into the creation of his prints, altering identical copies with perforation, stitching, paper weaving and color variation.

Kenneth Showell is best known for crumpling canvases into tight balls and showering them with paint droplets from a spray gun. The resulting paintings, when unfurled and stretched onto frames, resemble three-dimensional, abstract surfaces, with gradients and colors that make them look like crinkled foil.

Bembnister said, “Many of the works in The Fabricators have never been exhibited or have remained in storage for decades. The Akron Art Museum encourages its visitors to ‘Live Creative,’ so as a curator it was important to me to share these prints and paintings by artists who experimented with innovative and imaginative ways of working.”

The Fabricators will be on view at the Akron Art Museum through March 3, 2019. A tour for museum members, led by Bembnister, is scheduled for Tuesday, October 9 at 11:00 A.M. Registration is requested at

The Fabricators is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.

For more information about The Fabricators at the Akron Art Museum, visit the museum at Join the conversation on social media with #TheFabricators and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.