The final exhibition at The Textile Museum before its 2014 reopening will showcase the textile traditions of Southeast Asia and demonstrate how four contemporary artists integrate the best of the past into new works. “Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains,” (April 12 through October 13, 2013), features the work of Carol Cassidy, the husband-wife team Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam, and Vernal Bogren Swift. The exhibition centers on Indonesia and Laos, but takes up a question faced by nations around the world: How can long-inherited art forms be carried forward in meaningful ways by future generations? By pairing recent artworks with 16 treasures from the museum’s collections, “Out of Southeast Asia” asserts the beauty of these traditional textiles and demonstrates how contemporary makers help to preserve these art forms even as they interpret them in new and innovative ways.
“Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains” is the final exhibition The Textile Museum will present in its historic S Street buildings as it prepares to reopen in 2014 as a cornerstone of the forthcoming George Washington University Museum. Beginning October 14, 2013, The Textile Museum Shop will be open Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through December 31, 2013. Programs and special events will be offered throughout the transition; visit the museum’s calendar online for the most up-to-date schedule.
As The Textile Museum prepares to move to its new location, “Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains” provides a fitting visual link between the past, present and future while demonstrating the continued relevance of traditional textiles. In addition to precious examples of handmade batik from Indonesia, the ethnic weaving of northeast Laos presents exotic new forms rarely seen in this country. “Out of Southeast Asia” extols how these textiles—both familiar and not—inspire today’s creations.
“Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains” includes six hangings, scarves and upscale upholstery by artist Carol Cassidy. While her works employ traditional Lao motifs, Cassidy often increases their scale and uses a simple color palette, resulting in panels with a distinctly contemporary feel. The artist first visited Laos in 1989, while serving as an advisor to a United Nations weaving project. While there, Cassidy chose to stay and establish her own weaving enterprise with the mission to preserve local skills and techniques. In the following 20 years, Cassidy’s studio has grown into a professional, large-scale commercial business, while staying true to the designs and idiosyncrasies that define Laos’s weaving. Lao Textiles, the enterprise Cassidy established in Vientiane in 1990, was awarded the Product Excellence Award by UNESCO in 2001. In 2002, Cassidy received the Preservation of Craft award from Aid to Artisans. Today, Cassidy’s studio produces artistic textiles and upscale upholstery used by designers in Paris, London and New York, and the success of her enterprise has resulted in a resurgence of local weaving.
Nia Fliam and Agus Ismoyo
Artists Nia Fliam and Agus Ismoyo are primarily interested in Indonesian batik (wax-resist patterned cloth). Seen on countless beach wraps and home-décor items today, batik was perfected in the courts of Java, where certain motifs were considered powerful in both political and spiritual terms. In 2009, UNESCO added batik to its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today, commercial batik production is mechanized, leaving it to artists such as the Ismoyos to perpetuate the spirit of this centuries-old art. As demonstrated in the seven complex, colorful silk hangings on view in “Out of Southeast Asia,” Fliam and Ismoyo employ batik’s motifs and techniques in entirely new ways. Their effort to bring traditional imagery into the 21st century also extends past Indonesia—the artists frequently speak of an interest in finding “the DNA of our world culture” through exploring commonalities between ancient art forms. Following this interest, the artists have partnered with indigenous communities around the world, and the exhibition includes a collaboration with aboriginal Australian artists. “Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains” also includes the sculpture “Tree of Life VIII (Pohon Hayati VIII),” a 3D tribute to a design used by cultures around the world.
Vernal Bogren Swift
“Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains” is the Washington, D.C. debut for Vernal Bogren Swift. The finest Indonesian batiks employ patterns—both bold and minute—across the entire surface. Swift integrates this aesthetic into her storybook-like illustrations of myths, legends and old wives tales—drawn from her extensive travels and the strong oral history tradition present on Haida Gwaii (British Columbia, Canada), where she currently lives. Originally from Kansas, Swift taught herself batik more than 40 years ago. Intrigued by the medium’s emphasis on small patterns, Swift traveled to Indonesia to learn traditional batik. Recently, she has developed means to use more natural dyes (such as pomegranate) in her practice. The works on view in “Out of Southeast Asia” are typical of Swift’s style, which pushes batik patterning into new applications. The three large triptychs on view take up magical subjects: “Early Lessons and Lies,” “A Garden of Earthquakes” and “Moons under Sea.”
About the Exhibition
“Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains” is curated by Dr. Mattiebelle Gittinger, one of the foremost researchers and scholars in the field of Southeast Asian textiles. Gittinger received her PhD from Columbia University in 1972. Since the 1970s, she has conducted extensive fieldwork across Southeast Asia, India, Myanmar (Burma), Europe and the Middle East. During her 38 years at The Textile Museum, Gittinger has organized several important exhibitions, each accompanied by a highly-regarded catalog. “Out of Southeast Asia: Art that Sustains” is made possible in part through grants from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council.
About The Textile Museum
The Textile Museum expands public knowledge and appreciation—locally, nationally and internationally—of the artistic merit and cultural importance of the world’s textiles. Founded in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers, The Textile Museum is an international center for the exhibition, study, collection and preservation of the textile arts. The Textile Museum collection encompasses more than 19,000 objects that date from 3,000 BCE to the present. The museum’s 20,000 volume Arthur D. Jenkins Library of Textile Arts is among the world’s foremost resources for the study of textiles. The Textile Museum is located at 2320 ‘S’ Street, NW in Washington, D.C. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through October 13, 2013. An $8 suggested admission is requested of non-members. In the fall of 2014, The Textile Museum will reopen as a primary cornerstone of the forthcoming George Washington University Museum (G and 21st Streets NW). For more information, visit www.gwu.edu/textilemuseum or http://textilemuseum.org/tmatgw/.
Please Note: Beginning October 14, 2013, The Textile Museum will not have an exhibition on view. The Textile Museum Shop will remain open Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October 14 through December 31, 2013. The Textile Museum will offer a variety of special events and programs throughout the transition in 2013 and 2014. Visit http://www.textilemuseum.org/calendar/ for the most up-to-date list of events.
PRESS PREVIEW: Wednesday, April 10, 9:30 a.m. Join us for a curator-led tour of the exhibition and the opportunity to learn more about The Textile Museum’s move in 2014. RSVP to email@example.com.