September 12, 1972:
THE NAVAJO BLANKET, an exhibition of eighty-one handwoven blankets spanning the 19th century, will open The Brooklyn Museum’s Fall season on Thursday, September 28. The exhibition of forceful abstract blankets whose color, texture and design represent a high point in the history of American Indian art, includes examples of all the major styles including Serape, Eye-Dazzlers, Wedge-Weaves and Chief Pattern as well as other traditional styles. THE NAVAJO BLANKET will remain on view in the Robert E. Blum Gallery through October 29. Admission is free.
A semi-nomadic tribe of warriors, the Navajos migrated from Canada to the American Southwest in the middle of the 16th century. From the Pueblos they learned the art of weaving but unlike the Pueblo whose weavers were men, it was the Navajo women who wove the strikingly beautiful blankets which played a significant role in Navajo tribal life. “Then weave for us a garment of brightness,” they chanted to Spider Woman and Spider Man as their divinely inspired fingers created the intricate geometric patterns without preliminary designs.
To the Navajo, the blanket was like a second skin. It was an article of clothing, a rug to sit or sleep upon, a shield hung in the doorway to keep out the wind or rain, or simply to be experienced as an aesthetic object. In addition to being a utilitarian object, the blanket was considered a badge of status worn by Navajos as well as important chiefs of other tribes. As its reputation spread, the Navajo blanket became a key element in the tribal economy, eventually being commissioned by white men and utilized as rugs.
THE NAVAJO BLANKET was jointly organized by Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, curator of Textiles and Costumes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Anthony Berlant, contemporary artist and collector. Museums and individual collectors from across the country cooperated in this unusually comprehensive exhibition which was seen this summer at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Among the lenders are several well known contemporary artists, including Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ken Noland and Frank Stella.
A fully illustrated catalogue entitled The Navajo Blanket was written by Ms. Kahlenberg and Berlant , containing 16 color plates, 80 black and white photographs and a comprehensive text on the history, social importance, weaving methods, styles and aesthetic values of Navajo blankets. It is available in a soft-cover edition in The Brooklyn Museum Bookshop for $4.50. The exhibition was made possible with support from The Duplan Corporation and the New York State Council On The Arts.