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Color & Light: Embroidery from India and Pakistan at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York City through 11 May 2009

Written on April 6, 2009

The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City is presenting a stunning exhibition consisting of 60 lavishly embroidered textiles from India and Pakistan.  The Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, whose holdings consist of one of the world ‘s finest collections of textiles of South Asia, is loaning work from their collection of South Asian textiles for this exhibition.

The exhibition displays a wide range of sewn embellishment  and it surveys the rich spectrum of cultural variety found in India and Pakistan:  embroidery, applique, bead work, mirror work and fancy tassel work are in wild profusion here– and as a whole the show is heady with color, pattern and vibrancy.

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This chic and exuberant jacket is a boy’s garment or jhuladi (above) or jeladioo as it is spoken in the regional language, from the Ahir community of Gujarat and it dates to about 1970.

It is made from floss silk embroidery on plain-weave cotton, the kind of work on this coat is referred to as heer work, aari work or kuchhi work.  Imagine seeing this being worn by a small boy in the desert sun!

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This boldly graphic detail (above)  is from a bed cover or dharaniyo from the Kutch region of Gujarat and it was made around 1980.  It is attributed to the Banni Muslim community and it is sewn from plain-weave cotton appliqued on plain weave cotton.  The full piece measures 51 1/2″ x 31 1/2″.

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I’ve shown Bengali and Bangladeshi kanthas on this site before, and this wonderful one above can be seen in this exhibition.

This one is stitched by Srimirthi Lokhibala Dashi (note the signature) and hails from West Bengal, India: it was made some time between 1920 – 1960 of floss silk embroidery on pieced and quilted plain-weave cotton.  It measures 72 1/4″ x 50 1/4″.  If you are interested in seeing any pieces from my collection of a dozen or so kanthas, just e mail me.

The trio of  images shown here portrays a folk mood which prevails at the exhibition, but be prepared to be dazzled by some of the more “refined” pieces stitched for the wealthy, upper echelon of Indian society–what comes to mind is a magnificent, Chinese embroidered piece for a Parsi patron in Gujarat, where a community of Chinese lived and practiced their amazing embroidery skills.

If you are visiting New York, make a point to visit this magnificent exhibition–and build in time to stop back: you’ll want to see it again.



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  1. Comment by maria catuna:

    it’s beautifull

    April 11, 2009 @ 10:13 am