Thursday, January 18, 2018

Robert Rauschenberg: Samarkand Stitches

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Robert Rauschenberg's Samarkand Stitches #3
Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop art movement. He is usually associated with the Neo-Dadist and Abstract-Expressionist movements.

Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, paper making, and performance. He is regarded as one of the greatest collagists ever.

He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993. He became the recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995 in recognition of his more than 40 years of fruitful art creation.

In 1984, Rauschenberg announced the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) at the United Nations.

This would culminate in a seven-year, ten-country tour to encourage "world peace and understanding", through Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Beijing, Tibet, Japan, Cuba, the Soviet Union, Berlin, and Malaysia. 

These were places that the artist considered underdeveloped and/or politically repressed. He believed in the importance of creating global, cultural dialogues and treated the tours as intense research trips, where he could expand his palette and gain further inspiration for his own practice.

In each country, he worked with local artisans to learn traditional artistic techniques and created multi-media works that were influenced by the respective local cultures and materials, and exhibited at local museums.

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Robert Rauschenberg's Samarkand Stitches #5
Paintings, often on reflective surfaces, as well as drawings, photographs, assemblages and other multimedia were produced, inspired by these surroundings, and these were considered some of his strongest works. 

The around-the-world art-making spree eventually culminated with a 1991 solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. consisting of more than 170 works.

These included large-scale paintings, sculptures and other art objects that were characterized by explosive, highly charged colors, and a lively textural quality. ROCI continues today as the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which supports collaboration and cultural exchange.

The Samarkand Stitches, produced after he visited the ancient Silk Road city, is a suite of wall hangings made from sewn fabric, printed with photographs then silkscreened.

The vibrant panels are as much a representation of Samarkand’s culture as an expression of Rauschenberg’s aesthetic. More images of Samarkand Stitches pieces are available at Gemini G.E.L. Graphic Editions.

In early 2017, the Tate Modern in London, in conjunction with MOMA, New York, organised the first full-scale retrospective since the artist’s death in 2008, celebrating Rauschenberg's six-decade long career.

If you wish to learn more about Rauschenberg's work, please view the excellent 5-minute video below, which was created for the Tate Modern exhibition. [ If the video image does not appear on your device, please go directly to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m98blDqBhk ]

Related posts:
The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Samarkand Painter Alexei Sherbakov
Tashkent Nostalgie - Eugene Panov's Exhibition, Tashkent
Uzbekistan: A Passion for Printing


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

In Search of Lost Paradise - Woodblock Exhibition, Tashkent

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Woodblock exhibition, Tashkent - the main hall
Once again the collaboration of art historian Binafsha Nodir and artist Bobur Ismailov produced an extraordinary exhibition in Tashkent.

Organized with the assistance of the Islam Karimov Foundation, it was the first time that an exhibition dedicated to woodblock printing was held in the capital.

Stunning pieces procured directly from artisans or lent from private collections, graced the exhibition, as well as samples of woodblocks.

The exhibition's title reflects the intricacy, beauty and quality of Uzbek woodblock designs and their execution on the fabric.

It is believed that woodblock printed cotton cloth was well-established in Uzbekistan by the 11th century. Indeed the weaving town of Chitgaron, near Bukhara, was a major centre, whose entire population was engaged in producing printed fabrics. (Woodblock is known as "chitgarlik" in Uzbek).

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Bold and unusual woodblock pattern
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, woodblock was widespread in the Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara and Margilan regions. Its beauty, practicality and relative cheapness, meant it was in great demand among the population.

Chitgar masters, despite the complicated and laborious processes of making printed fabrics, achieved masterly, beautiful results in this craft. Contemporary writers describe the fabrics "like paradise".

By the middle of the 20th century,  factory-produced fabrics had replaced these hand-woven, block-printed fabrics.  

Indian woodblock fabrics, imported to Uzbekistan during the 1970s, ignited a brief revival of the technique. Uzbeks raided the storerooms of their grandparents and started producing woodblock fabric once again.

However, these days, few are working in the field. In Ferghana and Bukhara two masters continue the tradition. In Tashkent, on an Uzbek Journeys tour, a visit to the studio of Yuri Pak, the last woodblock printer in Tashkent, is included. 

Both the State Fine Arts Museum and the Applied Museum in Tashkent display excellent woodblock pieces.

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Woodblock stamp
Tashkent residents, well versed in their famous ikats and suzanis, were dazzled by the beauty of this little known aspect of their heritage. The organizers hope that the exhibition will inspire younger people to take up the art.

Nodir and Ismailov's earlier collaborations, Ikat - the Thread that Connects Generations and Sacrament of Magic Yarn, about suzanis, were also standout exhibitions. The city looks forward to their future projects. 

More images from the exhibition below.

Related posts:
A Passion for Woodblock Printing
Woodblock Printed Cloth of Uzbekistan

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Early 20th century Uzbek woodblock cloth

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Master embroiderer Madina Kasimbaeva and her daughter admire the woodblock fabric

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Stamped cloth prior to dyeing. Image Ekaterina Kozlova

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View of the woodblock exhibition "In Search of Lost Paradise"

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Cover of the monograph that accompanied the exhibition

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Emir of Bukhara's Mosque in St Petersburg, Russia

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Kristina Makeeva's fabulous fashion shoot at the St Petersburg mosque
Saint Petersburg Mosque was founded in 1910 in honour of the Emir of Bukhara, as a result of Central Asia joining Russia.

This occurred under Tsar Alexander III, when the court was trying to respect the interests of the Muslim community in St Petersburg, in which there were more than 8,000 people.

When opened in 1913, the mosque was the largest church in Russia. It can accommodate up to 5,000 worshippers. Two minarets reach 49 meters, and the dome rises 39 meters high.

The location of the mosque was symbolic, sited opposite the Peter and Paul Fortress, in the city centre. The architect Nikolai Vasilyev patterned the mosque after the 15th century Samarkand building Gur-e-Amir, where Tamerlane’s  ashes are kept. The dome is almost an exact copy.

The permission to purchase the site was given by Emperor Nicholas II in Peterhof on 3 July 1907. That autumn, the committee approved the project. The architect was Nikolai Vasilyev, the engineer Stepan Krichinsky, and construction was overseen by academic Alexander von Hohen. The building facade was made by combining both oriental ornaments and turquoise blue mosaic.

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View of the mosque in St Petersburg
A special committee was formed in 1906 to raise 750,000 rubles within 10 years for the construction of the mosque. It organised collections in Russian towns and provinces, receiving donations from many sponsors.

The biggest donor was Said Abdoul Ahad, Emir of Bukhara, who undertook all expenses for the building.

Skilled craftsmen from Central Asia took part working on the mosque. The facades are decorated with sayings from the Koran in characteristic kufi and suls scripts. Internal columns are made from green marble. Women pray on the first floor, above the western part of the hall. The mosque was covered in huge carpets, especially woven by Central Asian craftsmen.

In 1940 Soviet authorities banned services and turned the building into a medical equipment storehouse. At the request of the first Indonesian President, Sukarno, ten days after his visit to the city, the mosque was returned to the Muslim Religious community of St. Petersburg in 1956.

A major restoration of the mosque was undertaken in 1980 and again in 2017.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour, you will have the chance to see the Emir Of Bukhara's Summer Palace. The Emir also built the extravagant Kagan Palace, near Bukhara, which was built for a visit of Tsar Nicholas II to Turkestan, which did not eventuate.

If you go to St Petersburg prior to or after Central Asia, then a visit to this mosque should definitely be on your program.

Related posts:
Bukhara's Summer Palace: Sitora-i Mokhi-Khosa
Kagan Palace, Near Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Samarkand to Delhi: Timurid-Mughal 21st century connection (this features Gur-e-Amir which was used as the model for the St Petersburg mosque).