‘Color Riot!’ – Navajo Textiles Exhibition Weaves a Spell at Montclair Art Museum

Prism of Emotions, 2019 by Venancio Francis Aragon (Navajo, b. 1985).

The past and the present come together in “Color Riot! How Color Changed Navajo Textiles” showing at the Montclair Art Museum from September 12 through January 2, 2022. The exhibition features 70 works of Navajo (Diné) weavers from 1860 to 1930 as well as contemporary artists.

“Diné weavers have long embraced the great possibilities of abstract design as well as new materials, technologies, and visual forms. Color Riot! honors the aesthetic and technical complexity of works by historical artists…and shows how today’s weavers uphold and advance that vision,” says MAM’s Curator of Native American Art Laura J. Allen. “I am so pleased that MAM’s visitors will learn about these striking works and their historical contexts from the perspectives of this exhibition’s Indigenous co-curators and artists.”

An additional room in the installation highlights how weaving connects to Navajo cultural ideas and other artistic practices, featuring the perspectives of musicians, boundary-pushing artists, and wearers of Navajo textiles as heritage and fashion, among others. This room also includes immersive music by composer and pianist Connor Chee (Diné) and weaving tools and materials from the Montclair Art Museum collection.

Bar Code/QR Code, 2013 by Velma Kee Craig (Navajo, b. 1977).

The historical textiles are rooted in the experiences of Navajo people between 1863 and 1868, when the United States government forcibly marched more than 10,000 Navajo to Bosque Redondo, an internment camp at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The vivid expressions of ingenuity and autonomy made in the decades after Bosque Redondo and at present testify to the resilience of Navajo communities and the innovation possible in this medium.

Ira Wagner, Executive Director at MAM, believes that this exhibition represents a special opportunity for local and NYC residents since such a range of these works is not readily seen in this area of the country. “Color Riot! shows the richness of the tradition of Diné weaving and its future direction.”

This exhibition, organized by the Heard Museum, is made possible with major support provided by the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation, sustaining support from patrons of the Grand Gallery Exhibition Fund, and additional support by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

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