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Southwest Textiles: Pueblo and Navajo Traditions
February 3 - July 18, 2004
This exhibition traces many of the weaving developments of the Southwest through more than a dozen works, many of which were graciously lent from private St. Louis collections. The works in the exhibition, dating from approximately 1000 AD to 1930, explore Pueblo, Hispanic, and Navajo weaving traditions and include pictorial weavings, rugs, blankets, and a rare prehistoric Anasazi weaving.
Weaving in the American Southwest began more than 1000 years ago with the Anasazi, or Ancient Ones. Until the introduction of cotton, these ancestors of the Pueblo Indians used human and animal hair, fur, and native plants in their non-loom weavings. This early, non-loom type of weaving served as a precursor to the many traditions that flourished in the Southwest. (right: Blanket; American, New Mexico, Navajo, late Serape style; 1865-80; wool with indigo and red aniline dye; 51 1/2 x 67 1/2 inches; Gift of Mrs. H. H. Bright 99:1975)
In the 1500s, the Spanish introduced sheep to the region, precipitating the use of wool and the upright loom. By the mid-1600s, the loom weaving of the Puebloans had been adapted by the Navajo. In these and many other ways, Navajo, Hispanic, and Pueblo weavers incorporated aspects of each other's cultures while maintaining their own unique heritage and identity.
Pueblo weavers were generally conservative in their works, weaving solid, dark horizontal bands of color. Hispanic weavers of the Rio Grande area showed the influence of the highly prestigious serape garments of Mexico, which featured central medallions surrounded by small diamond patterns in rich colors. The Navajo proved to be both inventive and prolific in their textile works, which led to new markets for their weavings by the late-19th century. Navajo weaving is often classified into several periods: the Classic period (1700 - 1875), during which the Navajo wove for their own use; the Transitional period (1875 - 1900), when experimentation with new materials and markets began; the Rug Period (1900 - c.1950s), when the weaving of rugs and hangings became popular; and finally the Modern period (mid - 20th century - present), in which weavers draw from many periods, traditions, and cultures for their inspiration.
Southwest Textiles: Pueblo and Navajo Traditions was organized by Textile Conservator Zoe Annis Perkins. The exhibition is on view in the Carolyn C. and William A. McDonnell Textile Gallery (100) from February 3 through July 18, 2004.
Following is wall panel text from the exhibit:
Southwest Textiles: Pueblo and Navajo Traditions
The first weavers in the American Southwest were the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians, traditionally known as the Ancient Ones or the Anasazi. These Ancestral Puebloans used hair, fur, and native plants before the introduction of cotton. Archeological evidence indicates that the vertical loom was introduced by 1100. The Spanish introduced sheep to the region in the late 1500s and the use of wool yarns began. The Hispanic weavers of the Rio Grande area trace their ancestry to these early Spanish settlers. Their finest weavings reflect the influence of the highly prestigious serape garments of Mexico.
The weaving traditions of the Pueblo were adapted by the Navajo people in the mid-1600s. Early Navajo works are based on banding formats practiced by the Pueblo. By the nineteenth century Navajo weavers developed a more complex design vocabulary based on terraced diamonds and crosses. The Navajo were very adaptive to changes in materials and trade, supplying new markets with their weavings by the late nineteenth century.
Because the stylistic evolution of Navajo weavings is very complex, they are commonly classified into several overlapping periods: the Classic period, from 17001875, when the Navajo wove for their own use; the Transitional period, from 18751910, when experimentation with new materials and new markets greatly expanded; and the Rug period, 1890 through the present, when the weaving of rugs and wall hangings became popular. Today contemporary weavers of the Southwest continue to look to their ancestors for inspiration for their weavings.
The weaving traditions of the Southwest are represented
in this exhibition by pieces dating from about 1100 until the 1940s. We
are fortunate to be able to include many works that have been lent from
St. Louis private collections.
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