For my last post about the museums in Chicago, I want to show you what to me was a revelation. Being a teenager in the 1960s and 70s, I thought I knew batik, that ubiquitous dorm room decorator fabric. It was cotton with designs painted in hot wax to make a resist, then dipped in indigo. So I was not prepared for the range of colors and designs on exhibit in the textile galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The process of dying batik is not terribly old, dating only to the early 19th century. It was developed on the island of Java, located in Indonesia, and used in traditional Javanese garments.
Because this was so new to me, my time spent looking at the batiks was one more of discovery than of learning, and my post will be pretty much the same – a visual introduction to some of the most beautiful fabrics I’ve seen in a while.
The fabric above was dyed in the early 20th century by Eliza van Zuylen. It was fashioned into a sarong, which is still intact.
These pieces are huge, as they were intended to wrap the body. This piece is a ceremonial hip wrap called a dodot.
The closeup shows that this is a forest scene, with all the universe of Java.
This stunning hip wrapper was made in the early 20th century.
This sarong was one of my favorites. Made around 1930, this piece is unusual in that it was stamped using a copper plate, rather than drawn by hand. The printing process was developed in order to speed up the production time, but it also meant a drop in the quality of the design.
The topic is that of a moonlit garden; the artist is Obin, who has been working to re-establish traditional batik techniques since the 1970s.
At first look I thought this hip wrapper was patchwork, but no, it is entirely hand drawn and dyed. Made in the mid 20th century, it symbolized the afternoon garden. Note the difference in pattern on the two halves. That meant the wearer could change the direction of the wrap for a whole new look.
This early 20th century shoulder wrap shows the influence of the large Muslim community in Cirebon, on the north coast of Java.
On display until September 17, 2017.