The concepts, materials and strategies represented here are so varied and transcend those boundaries in so many ways that a visitor could be excused for not recognizing this as a show of fiber art.
Whether intentionally, the show makes a persuasive case for abandoning the term because it has become not only ambiguous and vague but irrelevant.
Hoffman encourages that view by stretching conceptual parameters beyond their limit. For example, Anne Lindberg is showing a wall sculpture made of a bundle of steel rods, each capped with shaped pieces of wood, draped over a pin, so they describe an arc.
Wood is technically fiber, but that's not why this piece qualifies. According to Hoffman, it's because of the draping effect, which is intrinsic to fabrics.
Gyongy Laky offers another example made in the same spirit, an openwork bowl form constructed of short lengths of tree branches pinned together with nails and screws. The reference to baskets, both in materials and form, brings this sculpture into the tent.
One of fiber-art's particular charms is the way it displays its various methods of creation, especially the transformation of undifferentiated strands of organic material into complex and beautiful objects. This is true for works made by traditional processes such as weaving and also for those made by more unorthodox methods.
For instance, Ed Bing Lee produces his tiny pictorial plaques, such as the reclining nude that quotes a famous painting by Ingres, by a process akin to weaving.
A fringe of raw threads along the bottom of his Odalisque not only sets off the finished picture but reveals the starting point of this image. The juxtaposition makes the transformation seem magical.
In a similar way, all the basic elements of Lewis Knauss' globular wall cluster - linen twine, bits of paper, steel wire - are exposed in their natural state, while simultaneously they coalesce into a captivating sculpture that draws all of its parts into harmony.
This exhibition also displays a seemingly boundless range of structural, textural, coloristic and allusive effects.
In Dominic Di Mare's small sculpture Tidal Offering, a hank of horsehair appears to flow sinuously through an upright box like a stream of water. By contrast, Barbara Lee Smith's fabric collages on triangular pylons look sturdy enough to hold up the roof.
For newcomers to fiber art, the Snyderman-Works exhibition should be an adventure, with something novel and startling at every turn. However, the show might unsettle traditionalists because there's relatively little conventional work in it.
The other major gallery show in town is at Helen Drutt, where 83 artists, many from Europe and Japan, have contributed to a display that is focused in terms of object size. None of the pieces is more than eight inches on a side.
Drutt's show includes many of the artists at Snyderman-Works, which allows viewers to see how various creative strategies play out at radically different scales.
The Drutt show demonstrates that fiber art is extremely flexible in this regard, and adapts readily to tiny formats. Delicacy and detail, rather than imposing mass and effusive display, become the dominant hallmarks.
This is manifest, for instance, in a relief by Connie Utterback made of layered colored screening, and in an exquisite patch of weaving, no more than two inches by three, by Cynthia Shira.
A wire-and-fabric construction in the shape of a wheel by Warren Seelig reduces this signature form of his to the size of a dinner plate, but without diminishing its underlying concept.
The Drutt exhibition wins the novelty context with a piece by Susie Brandt called Homage to Meret Oppenheim, who gained enduring fame by upholstering a teacup with fur. Brandt has covered her cup in fingernail cuttings - a tenuous connection to fiber, at best.
Fiber fans who prefer traditional craftsmanship to cheeky innovation might check out exhibitions in the Stedman Gallery of Rutgers University-Camden and at the Fabric Workshop and Museum.
The Stedman show features a multicultural lineup of five New Jersey artists and groups who have mastered culturally-based crafts.
These include paste-resist, stencil-printing of cloth (Japan), fine-weave textiles (Guatemala), decorative embroidery (Ukraine), American Indian costumes and accessories and African American quilts.
Especially impressive are hangings woven by Armando Sosa. His warps are typically 38 threads to the inch, which results in designs of exceptional clarity and density.
Sosa's hangings represent a culture-specific skill executed at the highest level - artisanship transmuted into art by process.
The Fabric Workshop's exhibition, "Threads of Dissent," is billed as a show of contemporary tapestries, even though several pieces don't qualify technically. For example, Edward Derwent's Dante's Inferno is made of tiny glass beads strung on thread. Whatever one calls it, it's a tour de force.
The genuine tapestries include Murray Walker's visual collage of consumer goods and entertainment ephemera such as ticket stubs and Lilian Tyrrell's graphic denunciation of slaughtering elephants for their ivory, which incorporates an unusual trompe l'oeil effect.
Snyderman-Works Galleries, 303 Cherry St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through April 29. Phone: 215-238-9576.
Helen Drutt Gallery, 1721 Walnut St. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Through April 29. Phone: 215-735-1625.
Stedman Gallery, Center for the Arts, Rutgers University, Third Street north of Cooper Street, Camden. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Through April 29. Phone: 856-225-6350.
Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1315 Cherry St. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Through May 20. Phone: 215-568-1111.
Edward J. Sozanski's e-mail address is email@example.com