Press release: ‘Southwest Weavings’ exhibition highlights outstanding Diné textiles

By | November 30, 2018

“Chief-Style Blanket,” Second Phase, c.1880; Diné (Navajo); wool and dye; 71 1/4 x 55 1/4 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Elissa and Paul Cahn  221:2017

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 30, 2018—The Saint Louis Art Museum will present “Southwest Weavings: 800 Years of Artistic Exchange,” an exhibition of 13 outstanding textiles from the United States and Mexico.

Created by indigenous Diné (Navajo) and Pueblo artists, as well as Spanish colonial weavers, these works reflect centuries of migration, exchange and territorial conflict in the borderlands. The free exhibition opens Dec. 14 and runs through May 5, 2019 in Gallery 100.

“Southwest Weavings” focuses on Diné work from the 19th century, a period of distinction and innovation in Southwestern textile arts.

A highlight of the exhibition is a wider-than-long wearing blanket, or manta, which functioned as outerwear. In this blanket, bold stripes in natural wool tones—browns, blacks and creamy whites—are balanced against bands of rich red. Diné weavers won acclaim for large blankets such as this by the early 19th century, when they circulated widely through Native trade routes as well as trade fairs in northern New Spain.

Works from the second half of the 19th century showcase Diné weavers’ considerable experimentation with materials and design. After the United States expanded to territorial New Mexico and Arizona, trading posts and rail lines began to link the Southwest with cities in the Midwest and Northeast, bringing new materials such as pre-spun wool yarns dyed with early synthetic colors. Diné artists wove these yarns in buzzing polychrome designs, often achieved on a small scale. By the 1890s, Diné weavers began to produce rugs as home décor.

The exhibition draws from a group of Southwestern textiles St. Louis collectors Paul and Elissa Cahn generously gave to the Museum. “Southwest Weavings” is curated by Alexander Brier Marr, assistant curator for Native American art.

CONTACT: Matthew Hathaway, 314.655.5493, matthew.hathaway@slam.org