Spun: Adventures in Textiles Explores the Extensive World of Fiber Art in a Campus-wide Exhibition

DAM will unveil new textile art galleries with inaugural exhibition Cover Story, a display exploring how textiles envelop our lives

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) takes a wide-ranging look at textiles from pre-Columbian weavings to Navajo blankets to an examination of clothing in art and photography in the campus-wide exhibition Spun: Adventures in Textiles, on view May 19–September 22, 2013. The museum-wide show is in celebration of the DAM’s new textile art galleries, which also will be unveiled on May 19. The inaugural exhibition in the new gallery space, Cover Story, will feature approximately 60 objects from the museum’s textile art collection that explore the myriad ways that textiles envelop, embellish and enrich human lives across centuries, continents and cultures. Spun will draw from collections throughout the museum as well as loans and interactive on-site creations—for example, an ever-growing crochet coral reef —and will feature multiple exhibitions throughout the Hamilton and North buildings with a full slate of programming to complement the exhibitions.

Since the beginning of his tenure at the DAM, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director Christoph Heinrich has made it a priority to expand the previously underrepresented textile art department and tell the story of textiles as triggers of cultural exchange and creative expression from around the world.

“As a global and highly portable art form, textiles reveal the richness that comes from cultures intermingling throughout history,” Heinrich said. “Textiles also show the geographical and historical courses by which techniques and design motifs were shared. With the expanded department, and museum-wide look at this art form, visitors will experience the incredible versatility, functionality and historical variety of textile arts over millennia.”

The museum’s newly opened and renovated textile art galleries and its inaugural show Cover Story are at the heart of this campus-wide event. Whether as warming layers that comfort us during sleep, decorative furnishings on our walls and floors that enhance our waking hours or shields providing protection from the elements or evil spirits, textiles are present throughout all moments of our lives. Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art Alice Zrebiec has chosen a selection of objects that not only illustrate the exhibition theme but also display the depth of the museum’s extensive textile art collection offering surprising stories about how textiles enhance our lives. The objects in Cover Story mirror the diverse geographical areas and range of textiles found in the permanent collection.

Cover Story introduces the public to the scope of our textile art collection by exploring the multitude of ways textiles permeate our lives: from bedcovers, furnishing fabrics and robes of prestige to ceremonial, ritual and talismanic textiles,” said Zrebiec. “The theme allows the presentation of objects from different cultures and periods in thought-provoking juxtaposition.”

Expanding the current textile art gallery space more than six times, the new galleries also feature a Textile Art Studio where visitors can be inspired by the creativity of textile artists and their materials and a special PreVIEW area offering glimpses into the behind-the-scenes work that fuels exhibitions, from study and examination to preparation and conservation of the textile art collection.

The DAM’s permanent collections have inspired these additional Spun exhibitions. Please note some titles are still working.

  • Navajo Design: Drawing from the museum’s extensive collection of Navajo textiles, Navajo Design conveys the importance of color, pattern and an artist’s hand in the stunning cloths created during the high point of Navajo weaving, from 1840–1870.
  • Focus: Material World: From recycled and bound to woven and stretched, Material World will offer viewers a range of work by contemporary artists who utilize fabric and related materials either directly or as a means of informing their art. New acquisitions by Shinique Smith, Leonardo Drew, Tucker Nichols and Ernesto Neto will be on view for the first time ever.
    Charkheb (rain cover) (detail), Bhutan, early 1900s. Denver Art Museum, Neusteter Textile Collection: Textile Art department funds, by exchange.
  • Irresistible: Multicolored Textiles from Across Asia: This exhibition highlights the use of resist-dye techniques from several Asian countries examining cultural traditions.
  • Jacqueline Groag: Czech-born Jacqueline Groag was one of the most versatile women designers of the post WWII period. From the colorful and playful to the abstract and sculptural, Groag’s work contributed to Britain’s spirit of renewal and defined this popular style. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view original works-on-paper alongside Groag's lively, bold designs for furnishing textiles, dress fabrics, laminates and other decorative surfaces.
  • Common Threads: Portraits by August Sander and Seydou Keita: Exhibiting the work of Seydou Keita, official photographer for the Malian government, and August Sander, noted European photographer of the 20th century, together allows for comparison of two bodies of work that documented social transformations in their respective countries through portraiture of everyday citizens. Although the aims of each photographer were quite different, clothing was an important marker of identity and societal change for both artists.
  • Fashion Fusion: Drawing from the DAM’s extensive Spanish Colonial art collection, this exhibition looks at the influence textile motifs have had on other artistic mediums.
  • Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobel Mendoza: A collaboration between artists Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobel Mendoza, Nervous Structure (field) explores the intersection between craft and technology. The artwork consists of physical elastic ropes that are illuminated by glowing virtual strings. Interacting with this artwork, visitors can discover the relationship between textile, movement and technology.
  • Bruce Price: A selection of more than 30 drawings by Bruce Price will be shown in our works-on-paper gallery. Utilizing fabric, sand, acrylic and other materials, Price experiments with non-traditional drawing and collage.

“We are inviting visitors to look at textiles in a new way,” said Nancy Blomberg, chief curator and curator of native arts at the DAM. “There are many unexpected elements—a photograph, for example—that connect to this medium that will surprise and delight our guests. We want people to tap into their creativity as well and try their hand at weaving, quilting, sewing—anything and everything related to thread.”

Unknown Navajo Artist, Blanket, Chief’s Style–Third Phase, 1860s. Wool and dye. Denver Art Museum; Native Arts acquisition funds.
There also will be extensive programming encouraging visitors to join in the exploration of this vibrant medium, including a drop-in Quilt Studio, collaborative projects with artists and creative groups, new in-gallery opportunities supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project, a dye garden and an artist-in-residency with Marie Watt.

Spun: Adventures in Textiles is organized by the Denver Art Museum. Exhibition support is provided by the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).

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