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Dazzling Patola Textile at SF Tribal’s October Show

by Susi, 30 September 2008

Patola textile offered by Joe Loux in Primal Art at the Presidio.

Joe Loux, one of the few tribal art and textile dealers whose tastes coincide almost unerringly with my own, is showing this dazzling patola in the annual exhibition of the San Francisco Tribal group at the Presidio. The exhibition opens with a benefit bash on 10 October, with proceeds going to the De Young Museum’s oceanic, tribal and textile arts departments. It runs through the weekend.

Among the dealers exhibiting are my friends Tom Murray, Andres Moraga, Wenhua Liu, and Frank Whiggers. Moraga has a keen eye for textile art, and never fails to put things up on the wall that make eyes pop, jaws drop, and cause contemporary art collectors to go into paroxysms of glee.

Coming back to the textile above. Loux’s patola will be of particular interest to collectors and scholars of Indonesian textiles. The double-ikat silk patola textiles of Gujarat have been influential prototypes for prestige textiles woven in Indonesia over the past five hundred years or more. They were highly prized and easily transported trade goods exchanged to get access to the natural and human resources of the Indonesian archipelago. The patola influence is so pervasive in Indonesian textiles as to be almost ubiquitous. Whenever a distinctive patola turns up, it is avidly inspected by collectors and scholars to ascertain whether the pattern may have been a precursor or inspiration for specific patterns of Indonesian textiles.

Balinese geringsing double ikat textiles, and cepuk weft-ikat textiles both directly quote patola motifs and have done so for centuries. Some of the more unusual types of geringsing and cepuk show variations on the patola theme with origins that remain elusive. So every patola that we have a chance to study and appreciate, may represent a meaningful piece of the jigsaw puzzle which helps us to better understand geringsing, cepuk, and many other textile traditions in Indonesia.

Both geringsing and cepuk, by the way, are regarded by the Balinese as objects with “magical” powers, and are used in a variety of rituals, to this day.

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