Sculptor, performance, and street artist. Born Agata Oleksiak in 1978 in Ruda Śląska, professionally known as Crocheted Olek, or Olek.
Olek received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Studies from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań where she studied between 1997-2000. Her works include sculptures, installations, inflatable objects, as well as fiber art. She has exhibited in various countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Turkey, France, Italy, Poland, Russia and Costa Rica. Olek currently lives and works in New York City.
GRAND CROCHET from olek on Vimeo.
Olek uses her crochets to cover public spaces and objects in an activist guerilla fashion. As quoted for Miami’s Robert Fontaine Gallery, Olek notes about her signature medium, crochet as:
…a metaphor for the complexity and interconnectedness of our body and its systems and psychology. The connections are stronger as one fabric as opposed to separate strands, but, if you cut one, the whole thing will fall apart. Relationships are complex and greatly vary situation to situation. They are developmental journeys of growth, and transformation. Time passes, great distances are surpassed and the fabric which individuals are composed of compiles and unravels simultaneously.
In September 2010, one of her best-known pieces, Knitting is for Pus**** (2010), was originally installed at New York’s Christopher Henry Gallery, as part of her first major solo exhibition. The piece took years to make and consists of a false apartment whose contents, including the residents, are covered in crochet. The work included members of the public or the media also crocheted directly into suits as part of the apartment space. Knitting is for Pus**** toured different venues, including the 40 Under 40: Craft Futures exhibition in 2012 at The Smithsonian American Art Museum, which brought together 40 artists born after 1972, who investigate evolving notions of craft through their work.
Olek’s body of work includes equally critical performative pieces. Her 2010 performance involved covering the Charging Bull (1989) statue on Wall Street, as a tribute to artist Arturo Di Modica, who originally installed the sculpture without permission. Two hours after Olek’s covering, a park caretaker tore the suit from the statue.
Despite frequent connotations of her work with yarn bombing - a recently popular form of street art - Olek prefers to associate her creative output with mainstream art (as opposed to amateur actions): 'I don’t yarn bomb, I make art [...] If someone calls my bull a yarn bomb, I get really upset.' She adds:
Lots of people have aunts or grandmas who paint [...] Do you want to see that work in the galleries? No. The street is an extension of the gallery. Not everyone’s work deserves to be in public. (The New York Times)
During this period, Olek also participated as the 2010-2011 Workspace artist-in-residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, for which she created and performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In August 2011, Olek presented another major solo exhibition, The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal, at New York’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery. Following the inspiration/appropriation theme, Olek’s works for the exhibition included famous imagery and words by various celebrity icons, featuring a camouflage crochet pattern in grayscale, rather than the fluorescent palette typical of the artist’s previous work. Olek recreated a 1986 Keith Haring portrait by photographer Annie Leibovitz—in which the artist’s body and entire room surrounding him was painted white with black line work—in a three-dimensional site-specific installation. Other works by Olek for the exhibition included objects and canvases on which the artist has crocheted texts of provocative quotes such as; “Well behaved women rarely make history” by Marilyn Monroe, and 'If I go down on my knees, it is not to pray,' by Madonna.
In 2012, Olek collaborated with director Gina Vecchione and producer Michelle Price to create a short silent-film called YARNANA (2012), through Kickstarter-based fundraising. The short, silent film was released with the tagline; “a dark love story, featuring the 'Crochet Madness' of New York artist, Olek.” Again in 2012, she collaborated with artist David E. Peterson in the joint exhibition, Synthetic Nature, at New York’s Krause Gallery. Different from her major body of work, Olek used thousands of semi-inflated balloons, crocheted like yarn to create a cave-like structure inside the gallery space.
Olek continues to publish for her blog on The Huffington Post.
2011 Sculpture In Situ, Artaq Award. Paris, France
2011 FUND LMCC Grant for performance in public spaces. New York, NY
2008 Winner of Apex Art gallery’s PBS commercial competition. New York, NY
2007 USArtists International, support for performing arts at international festivals. USA/Poland
2004 The Ruth Mellon Memorial Award For Sculpture. The National Arts Club. New York, NY
2013 One month fully-funded residency. Laznia Center for Contemporary Art. Gdansk, Poland
2010 Nine month artist-in-residency. Workspace, LMCC. New York, NY
2010 Six month artist-in-residency. Artists Alliance. Lower East Side Rotating Studio Program. New York, NY
2009 Two month artist-in-residency, full fellowship. Instituto Sacatar. Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
2005 Two month fully funded artist-in-residency. Sculpture Space. Utica, NY
2014 Santa Ágatha, la torera (St. Agatha, the bullfighter). Delimbo Gallery. Sevilla, Spain
2013 The End Is Far. Jonathan LeVine Gallery. New York, NY
2013 Installation of hand-crocheted rainbow. St. Petersburg, Russia.
2012 I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone. Tony’s Gallery, London, England
2011 The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal. Jonathan LeVine Gallery. New York, NY
2010 Knitting is For Pus****. Christopher Henry Gallery. New York, NY
2010 Kiss Me, I Crochet. LIU Gallery. Brooklyn, NY
2010 99 Cents. G-Train. Brooklyn, NY
2012 40 Under 40. Renwick Gallery. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Washington, DC
2013 Installation for Noise Pop Festival. San Francisco, CA
2012 Make Ends Meet. Flanders Art Gallery. Raleigh, NC
2012 Crocheted diggers for the Katowice Street Art Festival. Katowice, Poland
2012 Installation for Anti-Slavery International’s Follow Your Art – Street Art Against Slavery. Village Underground. London, England
2012 Installation for Bloop Festival. Ibiza, Spain
2012 Synthetic Nature. Krause Gallery. New York, NY
2012 Crocheted jacare. SESC interlagos.Sao Paulo, Brazil
2012 Installation for PALP Festival. Martigny, Switzerland
2012 Happiness is inside job, installation commissioned by Elements. Hong Kong, China
2011 Otulina. Kordegarda Gallery. Warsaw, Poland
2011 No Women, No Art. Poznan, Poland
2011 Festival of Ideas for the New City. The New Museum. New York, NY
2011 A New Hook. Rethinking Needlework. Museum Bellerive. Zurich, Switzerland
2011 Miss Danger on the Loose: A Female Street Artist Exhibition. Lab Art Gallery. Los Angeles, CA
2010 Bite: Street Inspired Art and Fashion, third Streaming, NYC
2010 Bring Your Clothes. Commissioned community-based performance. The Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, NY
2010 Interwoven. Evenings in Performance. The Textile Museum. Washington, DC
2010 T minus 20. Christopher Henry Gallery and INGNITE. New York, NY
2010 Excess and Environment: sustainability in a world of consumption. Art for Global Justice. L.I.C., NY
2010 Low Lives II — Crocheted Painting To Shake Hands. one-night exhibition of performance-based works transmitted via the Internet. Berlin, Germany
2009 Just Bring Your Clothes. Supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Chashama. New York, NY
2009 Thank You for Your Visit, Have a Nice Day. Art In Odd Places: SIGN. New York, NY (catalog)
2009 Tessituras. Museu do Traje e do Têxtil. Salvador, Brazil
2009 Haute-Kraft. Posie Kviat Gallery. Hudon, NY
2009 We Mock What We Don’t Understand. Marmara Gallery. New York, NY
2008 How the book is made. New Orleans Biennale. New Orleans, LA
2008 12th Annual Under the Bridge DUMBO Art Festival. Brooklyn, NY
2007 Borborygami. Installation for Mehr Gallery. New York, NY
2007 and Company. New 42nd Street Studios. The Construction Company, NY
2007 1000 nows. Shua Group. Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church. New York, NY
Author: Elcin Marasli, 28/11/2013, ed. AM March 2014