Last Thursday, I went to the opening of a small boro show at Mondo Cane in Manhattan. It’s a tiny little gallery-cum-shop, so there were only four pieces of textile on display, all bedcovers, in varying stages of raggedness.
My first impression was of the stitches–they were huge and the thread was thick. Indigo or white thread. Parallel rows. Rectangular patches. Some ikat fabrics, some stripes and lots of solids.
I found myself ambivalent about the show. Beautiful rags? Would I want them hanging on my wall at home? What did the cloth have to say for iteself?
Surprisingly, very little. A faint murmer of “oh, please. We are so ragged. Please don’t stare…” Embarrassed cloth? I think so. There is something uncomfortable in the thought of an affluent population, the New York gallery scene, staring at these artifacts of practical poverty. It’s a bit like signing on for a tour of the slums of Calcutta.
I might have felt better about meeting these cloths in a museum, studying them in their social context, appreciating them as the cloth that kept someone warm. I guess their beauty should be acknowledged, but their utility should be praised.