Artist Statement: Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie

During the 1960’s, at the time of our first tapestry collaborations, the field was at the peak of its international popularity and its future looked promising. What mostly was needed then was to access the resources –equipment and time, basically- that would enable us to start producing work, trusting that a well established market, in Europe and elsewhere, would allow for a full dedication to new creations.

Undoubtedly much of the enthusiasm for mural tapestry was due to the extraordinary success of Jean Lurcat in France. But their were also other fundamental players, such as Genaro de Carvalho in Brazil, Pedro Preux in Mexico, Magdalena Abakanowicz in Poland, Itche Mambush in Israel, and of course, all the painters that had gathered around the looms of Aubusson during the early years of the resurgence, among others Michel Tourliere, Mathieu Mategot, and the weaver’s favorite, Marcel Gromaire.

For a young couple then, there was an abundance of role models, much excitement in the air and tangible interest. To attend an opening at the Parisian tapestry gallery of Denise Majorel, “La Demeur”, was to meet with many of the tapestry masters themselves. Tapestry was mural, large and expensive: with little means at our hands, a seemingly unworkable production.

The first opportunity of collaborating came during the fall of 1967 at a tapestry workshop Jean Pierre was conducting at the Instituto de Cultura Superior in Mexico City. One of the students who knew of Yael’s work, writer Esther Seligson, suggested she design a piece as a weaving project. About that time Jean Pierre’s brother, Jacques, and his wife, Martha Mesone, proposed to weave in Buenos Aires a series of eight tapestries from Yael’s cartoons. For this series, and for the following ten years, Yael worked full scale cartoons, creating the compositions directly to actual size. Each cartoon would be open to six possible editions. It was not until a 1976 commission by Temple Emanu-El of San Francisco that Yael started working first in mockup format, then enlarging the composition by hand to a full scale design. The image for the working cartoon was then inverted and color coded. In recent years, with the aid of photographic enlargement, these laborious processes have been somewhat simplified.

Jean Pierre’s first weavings were renditions of traditional “verdure” pieces at his father’s workshop. It was through the work of designer Jean Lurcat that he was introduced to modern tapestry, subsequently weaving some of the artist’s cartoons in Israel, and collaborating with Israeli painters, such as Rubin and Jacob Wexler. Invited to the artist village of Ein-Hod he worked with Gedalia Ben-Tzvi and Itche Mambush to produce a series of tapestries from cartoons by a number of well-known Israeli artists. These include Aviva Margalit, Jean David and Marcel Yanco among others. In the 1970’s, having co-founded the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop, and while continuing his collaborations with Yael, he also worked with Judy Chicago, Mark Adams, and Katherine Kilgore.

It was not until the mid 1980’s that we began working exclusively with each other. It was also at that time when we started weaving mostly by commission. We are grateful to the many patrons that have allowed us to work freely and pursue a vision that has been dear to our hearts. With each new work there is the opportunity of learning from each other and deepening our understanding of the medium, so simple in its elements and yet so rich in its endless variations.

We are grateful to all the weavers that have collaborated with us, just to name a few, Martha Mesone of Argentina, the staff at the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop in the USA, Laurita Fernandez of Puerto Rico, Minakshi of Canada, Corine Leridon of France, and to our children, Yadin and Jean Gabriel Larochette.

We are grateful to Courtney Ann Shaw, who insisted once upon a time in the merits of filing; the sum of years and the sum of events –not to speak of the actual tapestries themselves!- do not align easily in the fragile compartments of memory…

We are grateful to Helga Berry, who gave luster to an incipient North American art form, tirelessly organizing and promoting. We are also indebted to her for her foreseeing – and convincing eventually some very reluctant weavers- of the importance of proper image recording in the internet era.

Finally we are especially grateful to Susan Maffei and to American Tapestry Alliance. We feel it is a great privileged to have been invited by Susan –one of our favorite tapestry artists- to put this show together; and to ATA, for safekeeping our not so virtual connecting threads…