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02 October – 30 December 2012
Palm Springs Art Museum

Woven Together: Art and Design in Southwest Indian Textiles examines one hundred years of artistic developments in Southwest Native American weaving. Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition presents sixty-four Navajo and Pueblo blankets, rugs, and pictorial weavings dating from the 1870s to 1970s. Examples from the late 19th-century Classic and Transitional Periods through the Regional Rug Period of the first half of the 20th century are featured with a selection of historic Germantown and banded blankets from the Jan and Mark Hilbert Collection. The textiles are accompanied by fine examples of basketry, pottery, jewelry, and kachinas from the museum’s permanent collection.

The art of weaving in the southwestern United States emerged from a deep tradition developed over a long period of time. By A.D. 700-1100, sophisticated fiber arts had become the hallmark of ancient Pueblo cultures and coveted articles of trade throughout the region. In the mid-16th century, Spanish colonialists introduced sheep, and wool replaced cotton as the preferred weaving material. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, Pueblo Indians began migrating into Navajo territory and passed on their traditional weaving skills to the Navajo. Today we recognize the Navajo as the great masters of textile weaving in the Southwest.

Traditional weaving designs presented in this exhibition range from the simple but finely woven banded wearing blankets for every-day use to the more elegant and bold geometric designs of the coveted Chief’s blankets. The bold designs of the Chief’s blankets, however, convey confidence and a sense of both power and restraint that sets them apart from other weavings.

Traditional style wearing blankets continued to be produced, but during the Transitional Period (1868-1890), weaving designs dramatically changed. By the late 1870s, the introduction of synthetic dyes provided a greater range of color in unparalleled intensity, and weavers began experimenting with more elaborate and complex designs. Often referred to as Germantown blankets, a reference to the Pennsylvania city where the dyes were produced, visually dynamic abstract geometric patterns called Eye-dazzlers emerged. With the expansion of the railroad and ranching into the Southwest, pictorial elements such as cattle, farm animals, and men on horseback also began to appear. By 1890, however, rug-making began to replace blanket-weaving, and designs changed again to accommodate a growing off-reservation market. 

The Regional Rug Period (1890-1930) developed under the influence of the trading posts and the illustrated sales catalogue was introduced in an effort to market to a wider national audience. One of the major stylistic changes introduced by the traders was the use of the border as a framing device to “contain” the bold geometric designs. The “exotic” designs of Southwest rugs and wall weavings, combined with the hand-crafted quality, appealed to the proponents of the popular Arts and Crafts movement of the period. Reservation traders such as C.N. Cotton of Gallup, New Mexico; Juan Lorenzo Hubble of Ganado, Arizona; and J.B. Moore of Crystal, New Mexico wielded tremendous influence on weavers’ designs, colors, and even the sizes they marketed through their catalogues. As a result, distinctive regional styles emerged around the trading posts, taking on the names of either the region or the associated trading post such as Crystal, Two Grey Hills, Chinle, Red Mesa, Crownpoint, Ganado, and Western Reservation among others.

Organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum, this exhibition is supported by the Western Art Council and contributions from Patty and Arthur Newman, and the Terra Foundation for American Art on behalf of board member, Gloria Scoby. The catalogue is funded in part by Jan and Mark Hilbert.

Members-only reception Friday, November 2