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Hanging, Prayer Wall

This is a Hanging. It was designed by Sheila Hicks. It is dated 2012 and we acquired it in 2013. Its medium is linen, cotton and its technique is stitched. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Sheila Hicks describes what she does and how she thinks as "channels of investigation.” These explorations come in all media and sizes—from pocket-size weavings or miniatures in silk and stainless steel to full-room installations of linen embroidery. This range reflects her experience at Yale’s School of Art and Architecture, where she studied painting with Josef Albers and photography with Herbert Matter, as well as the years she lived and worked in South America studying Andean weavers and archaeological sites.
At the time of proposed acquisition, the museum is fortunate to have more than 20 examples of Hicks’s "channels of investigation" in its collection. The works, which span most of her career as an artist and textile designer, include 20 miniatures made between 1957 and 2005 and two large panels representing embroidered works from 1967 and 1997, respectively. The museum has chosen to collect this artist in-depth because of her importance to the textile field during the 20th and 21st centuries. Hicks is one of the foremost American artists practicing today.
Prayer Wall, created for her solo exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in 2012, would be the largest and most recent work by Hicks to enter the collection. The piece demonstrates a serendipitous sensibility—its tussled texture invites touch and is a wonderful surface for the play of light and shadow. Prayer Wall relates directly to some of her large-scale commissioned work from the 1960s for the Ford Foundation, George Jensen’s Center for Advanced Design, and Eero Saarinen’s CBS Building. Hicks has collaborated with architects throughout her career, beginning in the late 1950s when she met the architects and engineers Luis Barragán, Ricardo Legoretta, and Félix Candela. At that time, Hicks was moving away from presenting flat woven surfaces and, instead, inserting her work into space so that the surface, light, and color could interact.
The “tassels” that form Prayer Wall connect with the museum’s own extraordinary collection of tassels from the 17th and 18th centuries. Braiding and knotting, key techniques in creating tassels, are very familiar to Hicks, who has used the techniques in her work over the years. In Prayer Wall, however, she wraps individual hanks of linen and then secures each one to the backing, thereby allowing the tassel to be more playful and unkempt rather than precisely controlled. Prayer Wall represents how an artist revisits a historic technique and/or form and translates it into contemporary language.

This object was donated by Momentum Group. It is credited Gift of Momentum Group.

  • PH Artichoke Hanging Lamp
  • bent sheet copper, cast steel, enameled metal.
  • Museum purchase from General Exhibition Funds.
  • 1983-16-1

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Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 182.9 x 116.8 x 15.2 cm (72 x 46 x 6 in.)

Cite this object as

Hanging, Prayer Wall; Designed by Sheila Hicks (American, b. 1934); France; linen, cotton; H x W x D: 182.9 x 116.8 x 15.2 cm (72 x 46 x 6 in.); Gift of Momentum Group; 2013-48-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Hanging, Prayer Wall |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=22 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>