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Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats
Sep '10
The striking colors and bold patterns of ikat, a textile woven from pre-dyed thread, have earned these fabrics international recognition as the latest trend in fashion and interior design. Visitors to Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats, opening at The Textile Museum on October 16, 2010, will discover why the ikat tradition has been considered a cultural treasure in Uzbekistan for over two centuries.

The exhibition will showcase a selection of 19th-century ikat garments and textiles from the museum's Megalli Collection in engaging, off-the-wall installations that situate ikat production, use and aesthetic significance to Central Asian culture within a socio-historic context. The exhibition also heralds the recent revival of this art form in Uzbekistan after near extinction during the Soviet era, coinciding with the global popularity of this aesthetic through popular design houses such as Oscar de la Renta, J. Crew, and Pottery Barn.

The more than 60 garments and other textiles in the exhibition have never been exhibited before. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color comprehensive book, published by The Textile Museum, which will present new scholarship and illustrate the collection in its entirety.

Unlike a majority of textiles that are woven with solid-colored thread or are printed or dyed after weaving, ikat is produced using the reverse process. Individual threads are first dyed with several colors that, when woven together, produce the energetic patterns unique to this textile tradition. Successful application of this complex technique requires extensive forethought and teamwork between various craftsmen and the designer. For this reason, ikat has been celebrated in Central Asia as one of the region's great arts.

In the 19th century, when costume indicated an individual's social rank, wealth, domestic role, tribal affiliation and geographic origin, ikat was considered the most prestigious material to wear. Alarmingly, however, this art form was nearly lost during the Soviet era. Now, 19 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan's ikat industry is currently under renewal by artists using the traditional technique. Ikat continues to gain international recognition with recent trends in fashion and home décor motivated by designers who are inspired by the textile's bold motifs.

With an appreciation for the textile's increasing global popularity, Colors of the Oasis will trace the historic development of ikat production and its contemporary revival. The pieces featured in the exhibition were selected from The Textile Museum's Megalli collection, a diverse array of 19th-century ikat robes, pants, dresses, bohce (wrapping cloth), hangings, fragments and cradle covers donated to the institution by collector Murad Megalli in 2005 and 2009.

The exhibition is divided into three sections that guide the visitor through ikat design and artistic principles, the stories of the people who used them and how, and the technical aspect of ikat making and the people involved in this craft. Dynamic installations, including a setting inspired by a 19th-century Uzbek interior, life-like displays using dress forms and historic photographs, situate the collection within a socio-historic context and encourage the visitor to appreciate the textile's versatility and significance to Central Asian culture.

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