All posts in “Mood Indigo”

10 Things Unseen in Mood Indigo

Mood Indigo: Textiles From Around the World is more than meets the eye. Pam McClusky, curator of the exhibition now on view at the Asian Art Museum, shares ten bits of insider information that reveal the multi-layered meaning of indigo across cultures, the process of mounting a large-scale exhibition, and some surprising contemporary inspiration. You’ve got less than a week to put this knowledge to work with a visit to see Mood Indigo in person—it closes October 9!

1. The AV master’s work

Norbert Herber's audio configuration for "Mobile Section"

Hidden from view, this monitor was installed by Norbert Herber who created a unique sonic landscape for the entry gallery. He recorded sounds of indigo processing which algorithms organized to create what he calls a “gauzy” effect that compliments the large enclosure of cloth that shares the space.

2. The deluxe “spa” treatment the tapestries received in Belgium

The tapestries got a bath and repairs were made

Large looms held the tapestries during repairs

The magnificent colors of three tapestries were enhanced by their trip to the Royal Manufacturers de Wit, the world’s leading restorer of European tapestries which was founded in 1889. Each tapestry was cleaned with aerosol suction, a patented process, and then all stray threads were carefully repaired.

3. The inspiration that comes from living artists

"Broken Star" by Anissa Mack, 2008.

The force is with us . . . as the opening of Star Wars are a point of departure for the denim quilt by Anissa Mack. She attests that “I wanted very much to stress the Americanness of quilts . . . and to marry the concept of a backward/future narrative with the idealism of American frontier denim.”

4. Impeccable installation coordination

Exhibition map and a familiar face still wrapped from storage

The SAM team hanging tapestries

When exhibition plans are posted by the designer, it sets off an intricate chain of steps taken by installers. They manage to get art into place while never forgetting how delicate and fragile it can be.

5. The back sides of textiles

The back of a tapestry can be just as fun to look at at the front!

Front views of textiles can be deceiving. Precise compositions are seen, while the underside may be an explosion of threads that showcase the job of the weaver. Putting on this shawl from the Kashmir region of India would envelope the wearer in lovely, soft goat hair.

6. Details hidden in plain view

Space Age Inspiration

Nature Inspiration

Focusing can encourage imaginary connections. In the bold geometry of a Laotian ancestor or Japanese trees, there is an affinity with space age imagery. In the swerving curls of cloth from Uzbekistan and China, you can see tendrils of vines and leaves that burst out of the deep dark blue.

7. The original owners of the textiles

Japanese Firemen

Batak of Sumatra

Photographs of indigo wearers can be revealing. Edo firemen of Japan wore garments soaked in water to protect themselves as they attacked flames. A shawl among the Batak of Sumatra can carry a blessing that is read by a priest who suggests ways to enhance the wearer’s future.

8. Conversations with researchers about the ups and downs of indigo

Indigo vats in India

During an exhibition, one hopes that great conversations emerge. For this, numerous scholars and artists have come to offer perspectives on the labor history of indigo in India and America, and often point out the fact that the rebellion in India led by Mahatma Gandhi was a major factor in changing the course of that country in the 20th century.

9. Stories about rabbits in the moon

Rabbits pound mochi on this vest

Japanese rabbits abound over several textiles on view. On this vest for an actor, a whole group are gathering what is needed to celebrate the full moon, including a mound of freshly-made rice cakes (mochi). Why rabbits do this is best explained by a view of the moon, whose silhouette is thought to resemble a rabbit pounding the rice for this very purpose.

10. A theory about indigo fascination

Indigo vat

Indigo dye vats offer a magical transformation of cloth in many parts of the world. Also around the world, the color of indigo emerges each morning and night, and is often found in water and in moods. From space, the earth is said to resemble a blue marble as water covers 70% of the planet’s surface. One could say that blue is the earth’s signature color.

– Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art

Images: Photo: Stephanie Fink. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Courtesy of Royal Manufacturers de Wit. Photo: Courtesy of Royal Manufacturers de Wit. Photo: Courtesy of Royal Manufacturers de Wit. Broken Star, 2008, Anissa Mack, American, born 1970, quilted denim, 84 x 144 in., Patricia Denny Art Acquisition Fund, 2009.11. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Pam McClusky. Pam McClusky. Pam McClusky. Ceremonial shawl (Pa Biang) (detail), ca. 1920, Laos, cotton weft, silk brocade, metal toggles, 14 1/2 × 96 1/2 in., Dr. David and Marita Paly, T2015.54.5. Bedding cover (futonji) (detail), 1900-1912, Japanese, cotton, hand-woven plain weave, resist dyed (kasuri) with indigo dye, 76 5/8 x 59 3/4 in., Gift of the Christensen Fund, 2001.442. Furnishing fabric (detail), ca. 1860, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, silk warp, cotton weft, resist dyed warp (ikat), natural dyes including indigo, 40 1/2 × 74 1/2 in., Loan from Dr. David and Marita Paly T2015.54.7. Hanging (detail), ca. 1750-1800, Chinese, silk with embroidery (satin stitch), natural and synthetic dyes, 30 in., L.: 41 1/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 37.32.1. Fireman’s coat (hikeshi banten), mid -19th century, Japanese, quilted (sashiko) cotton cloth with freehand paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki), indigo dye, 34 3/8 x 46 7/8 in., Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, 89.81.1, Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Courtesy of Pam McClusky. Sacred Shawl (Ulos Ragidup) (detail), ca. 1900, Indonesian; Batak, cotton, warp resist (ikat), supplementary weft, natural dyes including indigo, 44 × 96 in., Dr. David and Marita Paly, T2015.54.4, Photo: Pam McClusky. Photo: Courtesy of Pam McClusky. Photo: Oscar Mallitte. Kyogen Theater Vest (kataginu) (detail), 19th century, Japanese, hemp fiber, paper with paint (applique), indigo dye, 30 3/4 x 27 3/8 in. with ties, 59 x 28 in., Gift of the Christensen Fund, 2001.403, Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Rowland Ricketts.
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Norbert Herber on “Mobile Section”

“Everyone has a part to play in this tradition, whether you work with indigo or not. Anyone who wears blue jeans has a part to play in this tradition.” – Norbert Herber

What sound does a seed make? How about compost? Experience how digital images and color can translate to timber in the hands of Norbert Herber.

As you enter Mood Indigo: Textiles From Around the World you encounter a contemporary compliment to the historic scope of the exhibition exploring this vibrant dye. A collaboration between textile artist Rowland Ricketts and sound artist Norbert Herber, “Mobile Section” is a responsive and immersive installation combining a large-scale, hanging textile and field recordings of Ricketts’ indigo dyeing process synthesized using data from various conditions that produced the dye and color gradations of the cloth in the installation. Sensors in the gallery register people as they move around the installation and accelerate or decelerate the sound mix so that the audio element on “Mobile Section” will never sound the same twice.

See this work before it’s too late—it will be on view through October 9 in the exhibition Mood Indigo: Textiles From Around the World at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park.

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Rowland Ricketts on “Mobile Section”

Mood Indigo: Textiles From Around the World is a chance to absorb a unique spectrum of global history from Flanders to Africa, tapestries to kimonos—the exhibition balances ancient fragments with the inclusion of an immersive contemporary installation by Rowland Ricketts, an artist working in traditional indigo dying techniques. “Mobile Section” is made up of a large, indigo-dyed textile, 11½ ft. tall by 30 ft. circumference, dried indigo plants, and a video illustrating the indigo cultivation and dying process. Watch this video with the artist for more information on his process and how, beyond the blue, indigo is about the deep connection of the physical labor that connects Ricketts to other people who have also worked with indigo.

Field recordings of Rickett’s indigo process—growing, processing, vatting, and dyeing—were synthesized in collaboration with sound artist Norbert Herber and the audio reacts to the movements of visitors in the gallery as they move around the large hanging textile. The work plays upon the notions of materiality and immateriality, and is a true multisensory experience.

You’ve got one more month to see Mood Indigo at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park before it closes October 9. So go on, give yourself the blues.

 

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Object of the Week: Tapestry of America

The tapestries of the continents that feature in Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World at the Asian Art Museum are simply stunning art objects, almost too much to see, each offering a near-constant barrage of decorative detail that takes time and energy to decipher. Happily, their aesthetic abundance encourages return visits. As particularly exaggerated allegorical portrayals, the tapestries provoke more thoughts about the values of the culture that produced them than the actual life of 17th-century inhabitants of Asia, Africa, and America. Or maybe we think Native women did lounge about, attended by tobacco-smoking cherubs, petting alligators?

Tapestry of America (detail)

As an American citizen, I find the Tapestry of America especially interesting to consider. On a staff tour of Mood Indigo, SAM curator Pam McClusky pointed out one detail that has echoed in my brain since, prodding me to think on it whenever I see the tapestry. Near the feet of the enthroned lady of America stand three stacks of gold coins, with a small pile next to them. The coins are ignored by the figures and occupy an unimportant place in the composition; they are as easily overlooked by the viewer as by America and her active attendants. With this detail, the makers of the tapestry commented on the value of money in cultures other than their own. America, we see, is laughably uninterested in gold and riches.

Tapestry of America (detail)

It’s clear that cultural tensions are surfacing here, but what exactly are they, and where do they originate? University of Washington professor of history Benjamin Schmidt helps us to identify what’s happening in the tapestry in his 2015 book Inventing Exoticism: Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World.

Writing on the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Europe, Schmidt points to maps and other material objects that reflect consistent opinions on what was European, what was not, and how the European related to things non-European. Of course, implicit in those ideas was an assumption that Europeans did it better. Take, for instance, commodities. Schmidt writes that “Europeans, even as they dearly coveted them, believed only they understood an object’s ‘true’ material value, while non-European peoples, notwithstanding their casual regard of them, failed to grasp the worth of those very goods they so richly possessed.”1 The maddening judgment present in the picture visualizes Schmidt’s thesis perfectly: Gold coins would sit at the feet of the Natives; they just didn’t understand true value.

Tapestry of America (detail)

A related point revealed in the tapestry is the Europeans’ readiness to take. Schmidt explains how, in their portrayals of exotic lands, early modern Europe developed a habit of thinking about the broader world as a consumable commodity, theirs for the taking.2 This “exotic” other world was essentially “agreeable” and ripe for plundering. So, even as the makers of the tapestry ridicule its subject for valuing anything above gold, we also see Europe’s greedy desire for tobacco reflected in the smoking cherub. Tobacco, like everything else, could probably be taken, because it probably wasn’t valued rightly.

Profound cultural differences and centuries of difficult history have made the Tapestry of America a charged work, one that is rewarding to engage.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

1 Benjamin Schmidt, Inventing Exoticism: Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015; 256-257
2 Schmidt, Inventing Exoticism, 228.
Images: Installation view of Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World at Asian Art Museum, © Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Natali Wiseman. Tapestry of America (detail), late 17th c., Jacob van der Borcht (Flemish) and Jan Cobus (Flemish), wool, 156 x 144 1/8 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of the Hearst Foundation, Inc., 62.1991, Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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