Blue, Pantone's 2008 "Color of the Year," is Focus of Upcoming Exhibition

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"BLUE," a follow-up to the 2007 Textile Museum exhibition "RED," will be on view April 4 through September 18, 2008.

Blue iris has been chosen as Pantone, Inc.'s 2008 "Color of the Year" and various shades of blue have appeared on fashion runways in recent seasons, but textile artists have been using this bold color for several millennia -- and continue to do so today. "BLUE," on view at The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. April 4 through September 18, 2008, explores the creation and meaning of the color blue on textiles produced across time and place, with particular emphasis on contemporary artists' use of natural indigo dyes. This exhibition follows up the 2007 Textile Museum exhibition "RED."

"BLUE" features 30 historical textiles from the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Middle East -- as well as installations by contemporary artists working in Japan, Venezuela and elsewhere. Complementing the exhibition is a film by Mary Lance, a work-in-progress of the upcoming documentary "Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo."

Cathy Horyn of The New York Times recently reported, "There has indeed been a surge of blue on the runways in the last year, beginning last February with Raf Simons' dresses and pantsuits, in an Yves Klein blue, for Jil Sander and extending into the spring 2008 collections with Nicolas Ghesquiere's explosive floral prints for Balenciaga. Mr. Elbaz used a deep lagoon blue in his spring Lanvin show, and one found lighter but no less robust shades in collections by Marni and Chloé, and in the men's lines of Prada and Alexander McQueen. Dolce & Gabbana called its new fragrance Light Blue. And JWT, the advertising and marketing company, just named blue as one of the top 10 trends for 2008, saying that 'blue is the new green,' particularly as it denotes ecological concerns."

"The human perception of color is a complex sensory phenomenon filtered through the eyes, brain, language and multiple layers of social experience. While shades of red (examined in the 2007 Textile Museum exhibition "RED") quicken the pulse and increase blood pressure, blue induces a calming effect and is widely perceived as a 'cool,' tranquil color," said Lee Talbot, co-curator of "BLUE."

Until the invention of chemical dyes in the late 19th century, peoples worldwide relied largely on indigo-bearing plants to achieve blue-colored garments, household furnishings, artworks and even body paint. Many cultures attributed talismanic properties as well as health benefits to indigo, and the mysterious transformation of this temperamental dye has long been steeped in myth and magic.

The exhibition features blue textiles ranging from Greco-Roman and pre-Columbian tunic fragments drawn from The Textile Museum's internationally renowned collection as well as installations by internationally celebrated artists. Hiroyuki Shindo, a Japanese artist who processes his own indigo to produce innovatively patterned textiles, as well as Maria Eugenia Davila and Eduardo Portillo, who raise silkworms and dye threads with natural dyes in Venezuela, highlight the ways that artists around the world are embracing this ancient dye to create works that speak to their own experience.

"BLUE" is co-curated by Lee Talbot, Assistant Curator for Eastern Hemisphere Collections, and Mattiebelle S. Gittinger, Research Associate for Southeast Asian Textiles.

Related Programming

Saturday, April 5 • 11:00 am
Join exhibition curators Lee Talbot and Mattiebelle Gittinger for a tour of the new exhibition.
FREE; no reservations required. Limited to 35 participants.

Saturday, April 5 • 2 - 4 pm
Did you know that in many places blue is a royal color? Explore the exhibition "BLUE" and learn about the history of this magical dye through different cultures and time periods. Create your own textile crown and watch "The Emperor's New Clothes." FREE; no reservations required.

Saturday, May 3 • 2 - 4 pm
Learn why your denim jeans are called "blue jeans" and examine Levi Strauss jeans from different eras. Wear your favorite pair of jeans and receive a free bookmark (while supplies last). Inspired by the exhibition "BLUE," decorate your own jeans or make another blue textile. FREE; no reservations required.

Learn more about the color blue in textiles ranging from historical works, to blue jeans, to contemporary fiber art. This lecture series complements the exhibition "BLUE." Fee per lecture: $5/members; $8/non-members. Advance registration required; space is limited.
Call (202) 667-0441, ext. 64 to register.

"A Passion for Indigo: My Fascination with the Exotic Past and Exciting Future of this Unique Dyestuff"
Thursday, April 10 • 6:30 pm
Jenny Balfour-Paul, textile artist, researcher and author of Indigo, examines the mysteries and mystique of this ubiquitous dyestuff.

"African Blues"
Thursday, April 24 • 6:30 pm
Lisa Aronson, associate professor of art history at Skidmore College, explores the use and meaning of blue in African textiles.

"Transforming Blue: From Seed to Dye, Indigo in Contemporary Japan"
Thursday, May 1 • 6:30 pm
Artist Rowland Ricketts, III shares insight into the transformative process of using indigo dye.

"Indigo Immortal: The History and Global Culture of Levi's Jeans"
Thursday, May 15 • 6:30 pm
Lynn Downey, an archivist with Levi Strauss and Company, looks at the evolution and lasting appeal of Levi's denim jeans.

"Indigo: A Personal Journey"
Thursday, May 22 • 6:30 pm
Hiroyuki Shindo, a Japanese artist who processes his own indigo to produce innovatively patterned textiles, discusses the use and meaning of this dyestuff in his artwork.

Saturday, June 7 • 10 am - 4 pm
Sunday, June 8 • 1 - 5 pm
Join us for the 30th anniversary of Celebration of Textiles, an annual festival of hands-on fun and learning at The Textile Museum. Visitors of all ages are invited to explore the textile arts and cultures of the world through a multitude of activities and demonstrations in the Museum's historic buildings, exhibitions and garden. During this year's program, learn about natural dyes and create a blue textile, inspired by the exhibition BLUE. FREE; no reservations required. Celebration of Textiles is part of the Dupont-Kalorama Museums Consortium's Museum Walk Weekend.

About The Textile Museum

Established in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers, The Textile Museum is an international center for the exhibition, study, collection and preservation of the textile arts. The Museum explores the role that textiles play in the daily and ceremonial life of individuals the world over. Special attention is given to textiles of the Near East, Asia, Africa and the indigenous cultures of the Americas. The Museum also presents exhibitions of historical and contemporary quilts, and fiber art. With a collection of more than 18,000 textiles and rugs and an unparalleled library, The Textile Museum is a unique and valuable resource for people locally, nationally and internationally.

The Textile Museum is located at 2320 'S' Street, NW in Washington, D.C. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $5.00 for non-members. For further information, call 202-667-0441 or visit

In fall 2008 The Textile Museum will open a second site, dedicated to exhibitions and educational activities, in Washington, D.C.'s thriving Penn Quarter neighborhood. For more information about this exciting initiative, visit

Media contact: Cyndi Bohlin, Communications & Marketing Manager, (202) 667-0441, ext. 78.


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