Art review: ‘Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design’ at the Textile Museum

Gerard Ortiz
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Long ahead of ragas, rooster tikka or Bollywood videos were being exported from India, there was brisk global demand for the subcontinent’s textiles. These objects did not simply just trickle from regional bazaars to unintended faraway markets. Many of the attractive cloths had been produced expressly for consumers in places as significantly-flung as Europe, Egypt and Southeast Asia. Perhaps the most eye-catching object in “Indian Textiles: 1,000 Yrs of Art and Style,” an expansive exhibition at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, is a wall hanging that was manufactured to offer in Indonesia and is titled in a local language.

“Mata Hari,” which suggests “eye of the day” in Malay, is just one of several ceremonial cloths of a identical layout crafted in India for Indonesian potential buyers. (The reputed Entire world War I spy identified as Mata Hari was a Dutch woman who took the name soon after living in Indonesia.) The piece on screen in this article vividly depicts a purple solar, whose rays study as a collection of spikes, on a discipline of minimalist, broadly spaced flowers. The banner hangs radically in the two-tale space where by the museum’s 2nd ground opens to its third, a placement that tends to make the purple circle look to soar like a celestial body.

The cloth is amid numerous items in the exhibition that are on financial loan from London’s Karun Thakar, a single of the world’s leading non-public textile collectors. Thakar’s contributions supplement objects from the museum’s possess holdings in this exhibition of a lot more than 150 examples of clothes and ornamental textiles produced on the Indian subcontinent (which includes what is now Pakistan) from as early as the eighth century to as recently as the early 20th.

Fairly than show the textiles chronologically or by regional origin, the curators have divided them by 3 forms of styles: summary, floral and figurative. The 1st, as the exhibition textual content notes, is “inherent” in weaving, but the geometric designs manufactured by the procedure can be emphasized for aesthetic needs. Florals are the most universal, and had been emulated and adapted in Europe and other elements of Asia. The figurative styles surface the most distinctively Indian, given that they frequently attribute spiritual imagery.

Even this category, though, reveals that entrepreneurial Indian weavers have been keen to cater to international choices. The elaborate theological types include one particular that depicts the coronation of Rama, a main Hindu deity, and a far more-than-40-episode narrative piece that starts with Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god. Nearby are a hanging that illustrates the Jain conception of the afterlife and an illustrated fabric possibly supposed as an supplying to the shrine of an 11th-century Muslim warrior-saint. But there is also an 18th-century include or hanging, created for a Christian church in Portuguese-dominated Goa, that portrays Mary and the infant Jesus framed by stars and angels.

The stylistic and thematic streams did not stream only outward from India. An 18th-century wall hanging or bedcover that depicts a tiger’s assault on a deer shows the influence of Persian artwork, brought into India when the Mughals conquered considerably of the state in the 16th century. Mughal motifs melded with Indian ones in the design identified as chintz, a corruption of the Hindi phrase “chimt,” which implies noticed or speckled. The design and time period grew to become common in Europe, and in Britain low-high-quality knockoffs have been at some point termed “chintzy.”

Some of the textiles aspect blacks and greens, as perfectly as occasional blues, but are generally in shades of brown and pink. The dominant color of the “mata hari” that appears to be to preside in excess of the total show is echoed in dozens of other pieces, from an array of only striped shawls and headscarves to a stunningly comprehensive hanging that shows a devotee who’s finding buds, probably for a temple presenting. Having said that faded from their first brilliance, all embody the primal hues of sun and Earth.

Indian Textiles: 1,000 A long time of Art and Layout

George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, 702 21st St. NW. 202-994-5200.

Admission: $8 suggested donation.

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