Margery Amdur, Seams to be Constructed, 2024. Fiber installation: printed polytab fiber, fabric, wire, window screen, thread, acrylic, gouache, cosmetic sponge, and found materials, dimensions variable. Photo: Alejandro Loureiro Lorenzo

Margery Amdur

Camden, New Jersey

Stedman Gallery, Rutgers University-Camden

Margery Amdur’s “Seams to be Constructed” (on view through April 12, 2024) continues in the tradition of female-identifying artists questioning the hierarchy of gendered materials, upending ideas around high and low, as well as finished versus in progress. Presented as a living work, the exhibition has been continually unfolding and morphing throughout its three-month run, merging old works with new and much in between. Viewers visiting during the first week encountered a very different exhibition than those visiting later on. This approach, mimicking a typically unseen studio process, is a way of democratizing the art-viewing process, allowing visitors to see the creation and changing of work over time, as well as Amdur’s vulnerability as creator. “Seams to be Constructed” also involves a robust collaborative effort, accompanied by workshops and lectures with community members and other artists on subjects like weaving, textile history, and quilting. This programming smartly contextualizes Amdur’s work beyond contemporary art and within the traditions of craft-based, often community-driven processes historically associated with women.

As a professor of art at Rutgers University, where she has been on the faculty for more than 15 years, Amdur often collaborates with students and values communal processes. This constantly changing exhibition is no exception, and it allows her to question mysteries around creativity within the confines of a deadline. Neither knowing, nor needing to know where one piece ends and another begins, viewers encounter everything from small, wall-based textile studies to more considered high-relief sculptures. The foundations of Amdur’s work are all present—repetition, pattern, and examination of scale through modular systems. The large-scale, wall-based works flow with organic, map-like visuals punctuated by red dots, lines, and flurries of mark-making. Drawing, sewing, and folding mingle on surfaces, working together to tell an unfussy story of the human hand. Wrapped jagged sticks operate like knitted sweater lines, contrasting with the soft mark-making and neutral colors of the wall works. Forms reminiscent of wearables and their relationships to pattern and decoration reinforce the accessibility of the show. Again questioning hierarchies of design, Amdur links clothing to soft sculpture, encouraging the mixing of high art with the everyday. Breadcrumbs of pattern and pops of color, along with the invitation of inclusion, lead viewers to Amdur’s ideas around making art and possibly how she approaches her creative practice.

Many of her forms glide between the natural world and fashion. Some sprawl and shed like tree bark, while others wind tight like bows or dress bustles. Amdur’s work sits in a harmonious universe but delights in the unexpected. A zipper and a spool of thread both speak the language of fashion, but their positioning aims to tell more about the maker. The spool of thread sits on the floor, still attached to a work in progress. Zippers repeat in vertical rows, rendering them functionally useless and instead encouraging examination of their formal makeup. Repetitive lines and geometric teeth now take the front seat. This storytelling, and the tracking of an ever-elusive artist, has been consistent throughout the show’s many iterations.

The provisional nature of the presentation allows viewers to take in Amdur’s visual vocabulary through a number of doors rather than just one. Her long-held interest in labor-intensive work flips the typically internal art-making process into an external one, while community-driven visitor experiences offer more than passive viewing. Instead of contemplating definitive works, we are invited to feel the painstaking and undervalued labor associated with domestic spaces and what it takes to be an artist. Repeat visitors have been rewarded by seeing Amdur’s entire decision-making process rather than a final product whose origins are often shrouded. The title, “Seams to be Constructed,” pulls at the conceptual threads around presentation and ownership. Is an artist’s decision-making ability valued more or less than that of a homemaker or a maybe a student? Here, these questions play out through the entire viewing experience rather than any one individual piece of art.