A tapestry that depicts a violin fractured by vibrations as it produces a sonata, a printed fabric that illustrates the bright experimentations of jazz, a gift-wrapping cloth that portrays graceful and elegantly attired dancers moving in a procession—each of these works offers a small window onto the various ways visual artists engage with, interpret, and express rhythms. Understood here as a repeated pattern of sound or movement or a harmonious sequence, rhythm invites cross-disciplinary artistic ventures, and Music and Movement: Rhythm in Textile Design explores how textiles can suggest a multisensory aesthetic.
Featuring a selection of 17th- through 20th-century works made in countries including Brazil, Finland, France, Japan, and the United States, the exhibition highlights the global nature of the Art Institute’s collection and invites visitors to consider how rhythm informs textile design. Channeling the hurried pace of modern life, Sonia Delaunay’s Jazz is composed of forms suggestive of musical notes and notations. Rendered in black, white, red, and gray, pointed angular forms abut smooth short curves, and the undulations punctuated by strong diagonals convey syncopated sensations indebted to music and dance popular in the 1920s. In contrast to the sharp visual rhythm of Delaunay’s design, the furoshiki, or gift-wrapping cloth, featured in the exhibition conveys a gentler sense of motion, presenting dancers in a receding, curved line emphasized by the fluidity of the performers’ limbs and costumes. These two dramatically different works, along with others in the exhibition, exemplify the various and complex ways in which textile designers and producers have communicated sound and movement through their work, using rhythm to connect artists and art forms.
Top image: Faith Ringgold. Bessie's Blues from the series American Collection Number 5, 1997. Robert Allerton Endowment.