Maya Textile Art at The Americas Society

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Maya Textile Art at The Americas Society
Tzute de cofradía, Cotton gauze woven on a treadle loom, brocated with synthetic silo thread, neckline embroidered by hand, 1940, Sololá, Guatemala, Collection Fomento Cultural Banamex

NEW YORK.- The Americas Society will host the exhibition “Maya Textile Art: Collections of the Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya” from September 28 to December 9, 2006. It marks the first time that New York audiences will be able to admire contemporary textiles juxtaposed with paintings, reflecting the splendor and continuity of the Maya culture as it has spanned across centuries and continues to thrive today.

“Maya Textile Art” features 20th century textiles designed by some of the leading artists of Mexico and Guatemala, huipiles (embroidered and brocaded women’s dresses), menswear, headpieces, and paintings by modern artists like Carlos Mérida, Rufino Tamayo, Alice Rahon, Juan Soriano and Vicente Rojo. It is a traveling exhibition, which has also been hosted by the Museo Nacional de Antropología of Mexico City, The Presidio Officer’s Club of San Francisco, and the Meadows Museum of Dallas.

“This show establishes an imaginary parity among the textiles and the paintings, and emphasizes the artistic and creative character of Maya textiles and their masterful use of form, pattern, color and textiles,” said Gabriela Rangel, Director of Visual Arts of the Americas Society. “It offers an innovative perspective of the Maya textiles: not only does it go beyond the pre-Columbian area, but it looks to the present and the future,” added Rangel.

The exhibition aims to illuminate the collection of Maya textile selections as unique and inimitable ‘pieces of art’ that are distinguished by the aesthetic quality of their composition, authenticity, and structural perfection, reaching beyond their utilitarian function and the rich symbolic content each incorporates.

Clothing is not limited to the mere function of protection and coverage; it also contains essential distinctive and symbolic traits that confer on it a characteristic of originality and aesthetic essence. The beauty of the Maya textile is inseparable from its function: it is lovely because it is useful.

The curators of the exhibition are María Teresa Pomar, founder of the Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanías (FONART); and Mexican historian Juan R.Coronel Rivera.

“Their textiles,” said María Teresa Pomar, “are of everyday character and not strictly ornamental; they are worn every day and, in the case of the Maya community, represent a type of short prayer, a request to the gods, each one naturally adapted to each of the distinctive religions that they profess.”

“In turn, [the show] attempts to present that these textiles are of the same quality as the paintings that will be displayed in the exhibition,” noted art critic Juan R. Coronel Rivera. “The principal idea is to illuminate how contemporary painters have taken the elements found in Maya textiles, above all those that are indigenous, to develop them in their work – particularly in terms of color and form.”

The cultural space designated as the Maya world covers the entire Yucatán Peninsula – the jungles of the center and, to the south, the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala, extending toward Honduras and El Salvador.

The show will be complemented by a catalogue and a special calendar of public programs will also accompany the exhibition, beginning with a lecture on October 26th by Rosario Miralbés de Polanco, former Curator and Director of the Technical Department of the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena in Guatemala, discussing the relevance of textiles in the Mayan tradition. On November 8, the Americas Society will host a conversation between anthropologist Francesco Pellizi and Gabriela Rangel, of the Americas Society which will explore how the aesthetics of Maya craftsmanship impacts and informs contemporary art practices in Mexico.

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