Monday, March 14, 2011

Pattern ID

Here's something quilters will identify with--Pattern ID, a current exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City.  I can't tell you how happy it made me. And, if you love pattern, and if you're a quilter I'm guessing you do, it will be an exciting experience for you, too.

The thread that ties the very diverse pieces together is artists' use of pattern and dress in expressing their personal and communal identities.  Nick Cave, who grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri, makes wildly imaginative costumes featuring the kind of elaborate, crocheted doilies, potholders, and dresser scarves (among many other tactile things) so familiar to anyone who's ever perused a Heartland secondhand store.  Moroccan Lalla Essaydi photographs women draped in acres of fabric she has covered with henna calligraphy in rooms with floors and walls entirely patterned with henna calligraphy.  Pattern paradise in gorgeous, giant photographs heavily laden with social commentary.
Nigerian/British Yinka Shonibare dresses headless female mannequins in fabulously interesting costumes of Dutch wax cotton prints.  His piece in an exhibition called Through African Eyes that I wrote about awhile back knocked me out, as did his Three Graces in Pattern ID. 

The catalogue for Pattern ID includes an essay on cross-cultural uses of textiles by Cecilia Gunzburger Anderson.  She says the Dutch wax prints originated as a Dutch roller-printed imitation of Indonesian batiks that became iconic of African culture.  Today there are still some European designers and manufacturers turning out a product called, "Real Dutch Wax," and there are many, many African-made versions of the roller-printed cloth called fancy prints. Here's a particularly wonderful fancy print from The Art of African Textiles, a catalogue from a 1995 exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, London:

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