An exhibition featuring paintings by Agnes Martin alongside wearing blankets by masterful Navajo (Diné) weavers has opened in New York. The first exhibition of its kind, Agnes Martin / Navajo Blankets will illuminate parallels between these exquisitely-crafted and transcendent bodies of work.
Most of the woven works in the exhibition were created in the form of the “chief-style” blankets by Navajo women working on indigenous vertical looms in their homes. In the mid-19th century, the Navajo chief blanket was one of the most valued garments in the world. The design spectrum of chief blankets includes four inter-figured phases, defined by their increasingly elaborate banding, colouration, and placement of foreground motifs. The chief blankets in this exhibition span the full range from first through fourth phases plus unusual variants. They and several classic serapes, dresses, and mantas (shawls) represent exceptionally rare examples of each type, rivalling museum and private collections worldwide.
Beyond their value as trade items, classic Navajo textiles are celebrated for their ideal manifestations of harmony and balance as expressed in Navajo culture and philosophy. While the Navajo language has no singular term for “art,” the powerfully descriptive word “hózhó” refers to harmony and balance in both aesthetic and intrinsic forms, a state of being where the natural and the supernatural can coexist.
While Martin took no direct inspiration from the aesthetics of Navajo weaving in her approach to painting, she spent much of her life in New Mexico, and the region’s cultural history and artistic production suffused her experience. Using a limited colour palette and a geometric vocabulary, her works are inscribed with lines, grids, or simple shapes that hover over subtle grounds of colour. Maximizing the strength of pure abstraction, she explored space, metaphysics, and internal emotional states throughout her practice. By placing these two bodies of work in dialogue with one another for the first time, the exhibition encourages the discovery of their compelling resonances and invites new appreciation for their respective emotional impact and contributions to our shared visual culture.
Until Dec 21, 2018
New York NY 10011