Monday, June 17, 2019

Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats Exhibition, Los Angeles

Lucky residents and visitors to California: at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a superb exhibition of more than 60 examples of Central Asian robes and wall hangings. It closes 28 July 2019.

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Chapan from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord collection, LACMA

The objects on view are drawn solely from the collection of Dr. David and Elizabeth Reisbord. On the occasion of the exhibition, LACMA announced the acquisition of all the ikats on display, a generous gift from the Reisbords, strengthening the museum’s encyclopaedic costume and textiles collection.

Organized by motif, the exhibit examines how the region's textile designers, dyers and weavers used improvisation and abstraction to create unique textiles.

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Chapan from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord collection, LACMA
Central Asian ikat textiles are a testament to the power of pattern and are influenced by the various cultures along the historic Silk Road.

Employing creative use of scale, proportion and orientation, with hues that are compelling in the purposeful contrast, these luxury fabrics functioned as beacons of kaleidoscopic colour that reflected the wealth and sophistication of its patrons.

Their vivid patterns with blurred, cloud-like juxtapositions of colour are known as arbandi, literally "cloud binding". As clothing or decoration for the home, these textiles resonated against the Central Asian landscapes.

The catalogue from the exhibition is available via the museum's website, though unfortunately shipping is only available to the USA.

Below is a one-minute video from the exhibition highlighting these gorgeous pieces. (If the video does not display on your device, go directly to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcjrQIZ6Uhc)

Related posts:
Ikat: The "Thread That Connects Generations" Exhibition, Tashkent
The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Fashion's Obsession with Central Asian Design
The Story of Uzbek Silk Production: Step by Step
Buy Original Ikat Items by Dilyara Kaipova - Uzbekistan's Foremost, Modern Textile Designer

Video:

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A 19th century Georgian Painter in Uzbekistan - Gigo Gabashvili

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Gigo Gabashvili's painting The Bazaar in Samarkand. He painted four versions
of this bazaar in front of the Sher-Dor Madrasah in Samarkand's Registan Square
Giorgi "Gigo" Gabashvili, a Georgian painter and educator, was born in 1862 and died in 1936. He was one of the earliest Georgian representatives of the Realist School; his work is known for covering a wide range of subjects, landscapes and scenes of everyday life through orientalist lens.

Although not widely known in the West, Gabashvili's paintings are highly valued - the artist's late 19th century painting The Bazaar in Samarkand, sold for $1.36 million US dollars at Christie's in 2006.

His 1894 visit to Turkestan, as Central Asia was then known, was triggered  by a visit to Tbilisi by a wealthy American businessman, Charles Crane. Crane was heir to a large industrial fortune, a connoisseur of Arab culture and a noted Arabist.

Crane liked Gabashvili's works and commissioned several paintings on the Caucasus as well as two paintings of Samarkand and Bukhara. When Gabashvili arrived in Central Asia he was captivated by the light, the monuments, the daily life of the people and their customs. He filled his sketch books with hundreds of drawings and studies.

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Gigo Gabashvili in 1885
The trip had a profound impact on his artistic output. As he wrote to a fellow Georgia artist David Guramishvili "You can't imagine, dear David Alexsandrovich, what a grandiose benefit I derived from my visit to Bukhara and Samarkand".

After Central Asia, Gabshvili went to Munich to further his studies. While there he continued to draw on his Central Asian experiences. According to art historian Grigol Beradze, he worked on paintings of Samarkand and Bukhara, which were exhibited in Munich's Kunstverein and Glaspalast in 1895, drawing favourable reactions. It was these paintings, after the Munich exhibitions, that were dispatched to Charles Crane.

Gabshvili stayed in Munich until 1897, after which he returned to Tbilisi) and devoted the latter part of his life to teaching, and founded an art studio. From 1900, he taught at the school of drawing at the Caucasian Society for the Promotion of the Arts, where he later became director. From 1922 to 1930 Gabashvili was the head of the art studio at the Academy of Art in Tbilisi .

It was with much joy that I discovered this painter and the connection with Uzbekistan on a recent visit to Georgia. You can view some of his works at Georgia's Museum of Fine Arts and the Georgian Art Palace Museum, as well as two other paintings below.

Related posts:
Georgian State Silk Museum
Georgian painter Levan Lagidze's London exhibition:  Bach Exercises
Robert Rauschenberg: Samarkand Stitches
Ernst Neizvestny's Last Soviet Sculpture - Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

 
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Gigo Gabashvili's painting Pilgrims from Samarkand

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Gigo Gabashvili's painting Divan Begi, Bukhara (known today as Lyabi Haus)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Georgia: State Silk Museum, Tbilisi

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An old postcard of the State Silk Museum, Tbilisi. It looks very much the same today.

On the left bank of the Mtkvari river, Tbilisi, is a small gem of a museum - the State Silk Museum. Although there are numerous silk museums in Europe and Asia, only this Georgian one, founded in the 19th century, still resides in the building specifically for the museum's purpose.

For centuries Georgia had its own flourishing silk industry. - remember it was also part of the Silk Road - and was a source of silk for the Russian Empire. The Caucasian Silk Station was founded in 1887 under the leadership of the renowned naturalist, Nikolay Shavrov. It was with his direct engagement that the complex was built during 1890-1892 at the end of Mikhail Street, what is now Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue, within the Mushtaid Gardens.
 
Originally it housed a cocoon house, silk spinning and reeling mills, a silkworm nursery and other structures. The main building, which clearly dominates the complex, survives in an authentic shape. It is one of the finest works of Tbilisi architecture of the late 19th century and is listed as a monument of national significance.

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Ionic capital crowning pilasters with high relief showing the silk moth Bombyx mori and the mulberry leaves

As architectural historian Maia Mania writes: "... the entire complex, was designed by an architect of Polish origin, Alexander Szymkiewicz, who then worked in Tbilisi. Szymkiewicz is responsible for numerous public and residential buildings erected in Tbilisi in the second half of the 19th century.

Stylistically, the building represents a fusion of traditions, with its fa├žade and elevations displaying features typical of the so-called Russian style, Classicism, and Gothic and Islamic arts.

Of particular note is the interior adornment which, apart from architectural decoration, includes designed elements, such as a frieze, a cornice, a pilaster and a capital, all of which display silk related features including a mulberry leave, a silkworm, a silkworm cocoon and a pupa".

Alexander Szymkiewicz also designed all the library furniture and display cabinets: these remain intact today. They were built in the wood workshop of the museum's basement. The library includes around 20,000 volumes related to silk farming and natural sciences in many languages. Visitors are welcome to use the library's resources - though note that there is no photocopier.

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Library of the State Silk Museum - note the stunning parquetry floors

The main exhibition space displays several collections:

Dyes: there are 144 exhibits collected at the end of the 19th century,. They were imported from 16 countries. Most of them are plant, organic and mineral dyes, with some synthetic dyes added from a later period.

Silkworm eggs containers: countries exchanged silkworm eggs for centuries and special perforated transportation containers were created. The museum's 125 box collection testifies to the international trading relationships that the Caucasian Sericulture Station had in the past.  Charming reproductions are available as souvenirs.

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Reproductions of the covers of silkworm egg containers with perforations

Silk cocoons: most of the 5,000 different varieties were collected in the 1880 - 1890s from over 20 countries. This diversity once again demonstrates the scale of international contacts that the Caucasian Sericulture Station had across the world.

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Display case of cocoons at Georgia's State Silk Museum

In addition, there is the Jacquard textile collection of almost 100 patterns, which was brought from France in the 1890s. The Jejimi collection, a Caucasian silk textile usually produced at home in the 19th century, has 45 samples. The lace collection was imported from Munich at the end of the 19th century and consists of almost 400 samples of lace - one of the world's most unique collections.

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Lace collection at Georgia's State Silk Museum

There is a section devoted to the mulberry tree dating from the 19th century and the rich photo collection, depicting silk and mulberry farming in the Caucasus, were taken by the photogpapher Konstantine Zanis. He was actively involved in scientific expeditions organised by the Caucasian Sericulture Station and this museum is the only place that Zanis' entire collection can be viewed.

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Georgian silk workers, weighing cocoons

The Georgian silk industry collapsed at the end of the 20th century. There are small steps toward reviving it and entrepreneurs await what the governmental strategy for silk's renaissance will unveil in terms of opportunities.

Dilyara Kaipova, whom I think is Uzbekistan's most innovative textile designer, undertook a residency in Tbilisi with the State Sik Museum in 2018 and conducted master classes there.

Address: 6 Tsabadze Street, Tbilisi next to the stadium Dynamo. Easily reached by bus from downtown Tbilisi or a 10-minute walk from Station Square metro station.
Tel: +995 322 340 967
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Entrance fee: 5 Georgian Lari (about US$2)

Related posts:
The Blue Tablecloths of Georgia: New Life of an Old Tradition
Ikat: The "Thread That Connects Generations" Exhibition, Tashkent
Sacrament of Magic Yarn - Madina Kasimbaeva's Exhibition, Tashkent
Buy Dilyara Kaipova Original Pieces