A genderless figure in head-to-toe crochet camouflage lounges on a crochet-covered chair atop a crochet rug, surrounded by crochet wall hangings that say things like “Wake up and play with me.” In another scene, a crocheted person stands beside what resembles a gigantic car cozy. Polish-born Brooklyn-based artist Agata Olek definitely isn’t making boring blankets or grandma sweaters – she’s working her needles like a madwoman on the most bizarre and unexpected things.
At her recent solo exhibition entitled ‘Knitting is for Pus****’ at New York’s Christopher Henry Gallery, Olek covered practically every square inch of the space in multi-colored crochet, but the installation was just a home base for a range of work that also includes costumes and sculpture. From that gallery burst forth groups of performers outfitted in holey camouflage, looking like deranged robbers debuting a new kind of disguise, holding signs or laying down on benches to be observed and puzzled over by passersby. Gallery visitors were even provided with a map to find more of her installations across the city.
Olek’s interest in crochet began in early childhood and intensified after she graduated from college with a cultural studies degree and found herself wanting to work on art while watching movies. Crochet proved to be the perfect medium, and the artist even occasionally knits in front of a live audience while surrounded by her work – hidden by a crochet ski mask, of course.
“A loop after a loop. Hour after hour my madness becomes crochet. Life and art are inseparable. The movies I watch while crocheting influence my work, and my work dictates the films I select. I crochet everything that enters my space. Sometimes it’s a text message, a medical report, found objects. There is the unraveling, the ephemeral part of my work that never lets me forget about the limited life of the art object and art concept. What do I intend to reveal? You have to pull the end of the yarn and unravel the story behind the crochet.”