On View | Textiles from Vienna + Germany in 1913

In a witty curatorial juxtaposition to the new pattern-rich Islamic Art galleries, European textiles from a century ago look as fresh as ever.  A couple reflections on raw material as final product after the jump.

Off The Bolt: Robert Allerton’s Designer Fabrics
The Art Institute of Chicago
Through July 19, 2015

Championing heritage craft as Art is not new. Ruskin was writing essays in the 1840s declaring the exact same concepts I’m posting to this blog right now. But, when it comes to challenging the definition of fine art, museums have the most skin in the game. That’s why it was such a delight to stumble upon the newly re-opened textile galleries at the Art Institute last week. The stirring collection of Bauhaus-era fabrics, grouped by city of origin, feels crisp, unexpected and playful.

I’d fawn over any of these fabrics today if I encountered them in a boutique. What I love about this show most, though, is the display of each textile as its own illuminated canvas. Certainly, when the artists designed these, the textiles were expected to be sewn into some other final product. Unused textiles don’t usually wind up in museums at all, and when they do, they’re most likely in a musty artifact-cluttered display case.The clean, bright exhibit design here, however, immediately feels more like a luxe painting show.

Off the Bolt is a reminder to seek out materials that transcend their function and bring subtle attention to the thoughtfulness of their raw state. Acquire good ingredients before you know exactly how you’re going to use them in the end. They might work best on their own.