The new folk art museum celebrates the rise of crafts during the pandemic

LOS ANGELES — AT the pandemic folk art museum, the bright gallery is filled with colorful handmade rugs. There are woolly yellow squiggles on a gray background and a reptilian clown, patchwork prints and an anxious dog. Some rugs have wobbly lines that bleed from their otherwise rectangular canvas, others incorporate mirrors into their plush surface.

Aelfie was once the showroom of textile designer Aelfie Oudghiri, but she has transformed it into the Pandemic Folk Art Museum to showcase the resurgence of craftsmanship that has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic. The inaugural show, Tufted rugs, was inspired by a TikTok trend that demonstrated how you can design freely with a tufting gun while simultaneously creating sturdy and practical rugs. Almost none of the artists on the show had made rugs before discovering the craft on TikTok.

Diving into hashtags, Oudghiri collaborated with artist Katie Holden to find the self-taught artists and invited them to exhibit and sell their fuzzy stacks of pancakes and tasseled tapestries. Most of them don’t support themselves through their practice, but you would never guess that they would be considered amateurs instead of professionals.

Jordan Blake BergerAbstract rugs play with dimension and composition. She combines long and short threads to make her swirling shapes stand out from the flat surface. In “Tomato Cartwheels,” a triangular shape subtly protrudes from the otherwise relational edge, a small detail that makes the rug stand out.

Jordan Blake Shepherd, “LSP’s New Tattoos”

Another artist, Georgia Maroutian, draws on the tradition of esoteric art with its tapestries. “Space Crystals” shows the third eye lighting up a dragonfly. Unlike others who used tufting guns, Marutyan used a punching hand tool, a more laborious but controlled process.

While most of the work is spirited and irreverent, there is also religious iconography. “Flying Torah”, the scroll adorned with angelic wings in the night sky, appeared to the artist Pierre Vicky in a dream.

As for the future of the Pandemic Folk Art Museum, it’s actually more of a concept than an institution. It plans to be nomadic, hopping from host to host, ideally landing at craft businesses in Los Angeles or New York that will show work in mediums that complement their inventory.

Stone’s work seems more faithful to the definition of “folk art”, which mixes art, myth and utility. But the museum’s rugs are too good to lay on the floor and dirty with crumbs and muddy paw prints. They are playful and kaleidoscopic works of art that will bring joy into our claustrophobic homes. If you haven’t redecorated yet during the pandemic, now is the time.

Georgia Marutyan, “Space Crystals”
installation view, Tufted rugsFeaturing (clockwise from top right): Vicki Stone, , CC Teakell, Michael Yarisnky and Emily Anderson
Melissa Monroe, “Childhood Memories”
installation view, Tufted rugswith Libbie Farrell, Vicki Stone and Missy Steele

Tufted rugs continues at the Pandemic Folk Art Museum (8627 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, Los Angeles) until February 1.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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