Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Long Lost deYoung Kelim Review Surfaces: Part I&II
Author:jc
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Tue, May 26th, 2015 09:39:16 AM
Topic: Long Lost deYoung Kelim Review Surfaces: Part I&II


Detail, early Classic Period Anatolian Kelim fragment; private collection

The other day while doing an unrelated internet search we stumbled across the Sept. 2011 newsletter published by the Bay Area “Textile Arts Council” (TAC) (http://textileartscouncil.org.)

This issue has a review of the deYoung Museum’s second coming Antolian Kelim exhibition. The first, a larger one, was of course held in 1990, as many readers will remember.

Yes RK realizes this is old news, in fact for some it might be even stale.

But commenting on the complete nonsense information in this presentation is timeless, this being our reason for doing it now.

Readers can see the original text below, and then our comments.

We must though tell readers much of what appears in the TAC review has been directly copied from press releases and publicity generated by the museum.





RK is always amazed at the unabashed hyperbole so much of rugDUMB’s publicity invariably contains. No disappointments here.

Calling the 1990 deYoung Anatolian Kelim exhibition “the first comprehensive presentation of pre-19th century Anatolian Kilim to be held in the history of oriental carpets” makes it out to seem to readers, other than those who know better, there have been others.

Fact is this show was the first and the last that could be called comprehensive.

And while in Europe there have been a few museum shows since, these solely exibited examples from private collections that in no regard were as significant.

So we must question why whoever wrote this article chose to present such an untrue and totally unnecessary impression.

The first show was a great one, RK should know we attended.

However, it could have been much greater had cathrine cootner, the main organizer, listened to the advice RK gave her when the exhibition was in the initial planning stages.

Instead of her plan, which came to pass, of slapping almost 100 Anatolian Kelims, with various ages and importance or lack of it, on the museum’s walls, had she should have done as we suggested and only presented the best and most important 10 – 15 examples the aftermath would have been sensational.

But she didn’t and the show has had little effect in rugDUMB, and virtually none outside its narrow confines.

More is not necessarily better, and in this case it was definitely worse. The mish-mash mixing of a handful of great examples with far too many others not nearly as good did not do any of them justice.

Plus doing so made it impossibile for the public, who streamed in record number to see the show, to appreciate the majesty and intriguing grandeur the earliest and greatest examples possess.

Next we found bragging “the McCoy Jones Collection is the finest in the world” to be arguable, and in fact in our opinion untrue. Largest, most comprehensive yes; the finest, well, frankly we doubt it.

Again, this is nothing but additional and unnecessary self-congratulary praise.

While this second show was much smaller, likewise a number of examples could have been left out.

Again more is never better when it come to exhibiting great art next to lesser.

Another gaff concerns the reality no one really knows how the earliest Anatolian Kelim were used.

This fact is ignored and worse readers of this publicity, or those attending cootner’s lecture, surely would not have learned this thanks to ridiculous blanket statements like “…Anatolian kilims(once functioning as wall/floor covers and wall).

Reading cootner’s big worditis and say nothing opinions about the color ‘aesthetics’ of these kelim is no more enlightening or academic than her former, circa 1990, now immortalized “flying penis” statements.

“The first step is to understand slit-tapestry weave’s huge capacity for color expression. The second step is to recognize that each color has its special character.”

This is nothing but crapola interpretative curatorial verbal miasma that completely ignores the fact every textile technique is capable of delivering this type of visual experience.

What would have been far more erudite, forget correct, would have been to explain both the large size most Anatolian kelims have and the weaver’s use of primrily large scale iconography, rather than a plethora of small details, are the primary reasons responsible for the visual color bath viewers experience.

But these misplaced cootnerisms pale compared to this absurdity “Cathryn believes that it’s only by looking at individual kilims that the brilliance of these kilims is realized”.

Duhhh, really like the forest for the trees, or is it the trees for the forest ?

RK cannot help but opine cootner is just mouthing mush not fit for a kindergarten class kelim gallery walk through.

Describing figure 1, on the left shown above, cootner takes out all her big worditis artillery and says “The robust syncopated thrust of the overlaying denticulated forms make the ground color ambiguous.”

Clearly, cootner’s command of the english language is far superior to her ability to communicate with her listeners succinctly and understandably.

And as for those “thrusting overlaying denticulated forms”?

Sound to us she is revisiting her flying penis memories, or is it that she just needs some time between the sheets with a capable partner of the opposite sex?

Reading the rest of her similar 10 dollar word description for fig.1 RK had to wonder who is she trying to impress with her high falutin’ prose?

Surely not the average museum goer who probably couldn’t pronounce let alone understand the words she is using. Forget them getting the drift of what she’s supposedly trying to convey.

Actually RK understands why she is using this type of language most people cannot understand.

It’s so she can impress them, and in doing so hide the fact she is really saying nothing.

RK knows her well, having first met her in 1973/4 in San Francisco, long before she got her emeritas butt kicked out of the deYoung Museum and the curator job McCoy Jones bought her.

In the end descriptions like she has offered for figs.1 and 2 remind us of the effusive and pseudo-scholastic noise and fluff that fills contemporary art magazines and publications.

Trying so hard to impress the public to make a sale, frankly we are sure it turns off more people than it turns on.

As far as we are concerned the deYoung has failed miserably to achieve any real success in getting fine art lovers to look up and at the Anatolian kelim as equal to a Rembrandt van Rijn, a Vincent VanGogh or a Jean-Michel Basquiat.

One more thing, her quoting Matisse to try and bring some cred to these kelim is so old hat and tres droll.

Hasn’t someone like cootner, who has been around great oriental rugs and kelim for decades, figured out these weavings don’t need Matisse as much as Matisse needed them.

Author: jc
email:
Tue, May 26th, 2015 09:39:16 AM

In the same issue of the TAC newsletter another mention of the deYoung 'second coming' kelim exhibition also appeared.

It, too, contained questionable information about Anatolian kelim.

We reproduce it in its entirety below, and comments from RK follow.



RK knows the back-story how the deYoung Museum acquired the Anatolian kelims.

McCoy Jones was lying on his deathbed with cathy cootner at his side rushing to ink the deal before he passed away and could not sign the checks.

The 125 pieces belonged to gary muse, an American carpet dealer who spent time in Turkey. The unexpurgated tale of how muse went from buying and selling airport-art quality woven trinkets to big time carpet dealer is an interesting and convoluted one.

We should know, as RK was intimately involved.

We are not going to tell the tale here and now, but suffice it to say when cootner was overheard saying “I had to make the deal with McCoy to stop Jack Cassin from getting them from muse” she was not talking out of her hat.

Truth of the matter is we were surely not interested in 125, only the best four.

But by the time, circa 1887, we had patched up our on and off relations with muse, which had been ended on our say so some years before, he had already been swiveled by cootner into the deal with McCoy.

We find it totally amazing the de Young has refused to publicly tell the story and continues the charade that McCoy Jones and his wife Caroline “acquired…(the kelims)…over the course of several years.”

While this is basicly true, it is completely misleading as it presents a picture that is completely different from reality.

OK so much for the important issue of provenance.

What also needs to be recognized is prior to his collection going to the deYoung McCoy Jones tried without success for several years to get more famous museums, like the Met in NY and the textile museum in DC, to accept it as a gift.

This is how the deYoung ended up with it, but their acceptance was predicated on the inclusion of a large mulit-million dollar financial bequest from McCoy to among other things pay for the conservation and storage of his collection, and to pay for the museum hiring cathy cootner as curator which was one of McCoy’s stipulations.

McCoy then died right after donating some millions and the collection went to the de Young with “flying penis” cootner hired as curator of the textile department.

She remained in that position for several years until, finally, the museum had had enough of her and booted her out the front door.

OK; so much for a bit of Anatolian kelim social history, let’s take few peeps at the rest of what is written in the TAC newsletter.

“…the weavings obtained their rich, earthy hues from natural dyes…with the exception of indigo(which is imported).”

This is nonsense, as there was both indigenous indigo in Anatolia and other imported, non-indigenous, dyes found in certain kelims made there.

Plus there has been no scientific testing to determine if the indigo in any Anatolian kelim in the collection was dyed with indigenous or imported indigo.

This brings up another point: If RK has any one complaint about the deYoung, and how they have handled the Anatolian kelim collection, it is the complete inaction over the past 25 years to broaden knowledge about the collection.

There has been no detailed, forensic, testing of the materials or the dyes by utilizing the scientific tools that now exist to ascertain this essential information.

Nor has there been any effort to engage competent expert art historical analysis or other cross-disciplinary study.

When the collection first entered the museum Harry Parker was the director and RK had a number of long and involved conversations with him when he professed his interest and desire to work with us to begin forensic testing and other means to enlarge the Anatolian kelim knowledge base.

A number of events took place to sideline this plan, not the least was the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the damage it caused to the deYoung Museum.

Parker then became overly involved in the planning and building of a new museum and any kelim projects were put on permanent hold.

In fact, as soon as the new museum was opened Parker retired and our plans for scientific study of Anatolian kelim retired with him.

It is no secret RK has been ostracized from having any influence at the deYong Museum, and the now second textile curator since cootner was dismissed, ms. jill d’alessandro, knows absolutely nothing about oriental rugs or Anatolian kelim.

She is totally ill-equipped to champion any further knowledge gathering about them.

It is truly a shame because with the strong high quality weaving collection donations – Turkmen rugs and Anatolian kelim – the decidedly second tier deYoung museum could catapult itself into first tier museum-world status by devoting the resources necessary to scientifically research them.

Of course this would someone to plan and organize this venture, but alas cootner, her immediate successor Diane Mott and now d’alessandro do not, and did not, have the level of expertise or intellectual curiosity to initiate such an effort and were in the end incapable of doing anything.

This is perhaps one of the greatest missed opportunities in the museum world for the past century.

Regrettably, it continues unabbated with RK doubting anything will ever get done in our lifetimes.

Back to the TAC article, we would like to ask the rhetorical qustion: Who translated the Anatolian kelim’s “…bold abstrract designs that have been translated as symbolic renderings of architectural, human, animal and floral motifs tracing back to Neolithic times.”?

This is nothing but more nonsense curatorial verbal miasma that has no place in any competent museum publication, as it is just blatantly untrue.

Also, there is no real documentation or proof any Anatolian kelim older than end of the 19th century “…serve as expressions of group identity, a representation of wealth and source of curency.”

More hogwash.

Likewise, no one knows the uses the earliest weavings fulfilled, and prior to that time there is not one shred of evidence they functioned as “…floor and table coverings, room dividers, door flaps, prayer rugs, and burial cloths.”

There are some indications certain 19th century groups used kelim to honor the dead but surely this is also impossibile to confirm for any made prior to that time period.

But this next sentence takes the cake for ignorance “Many were given to local mosques to be used as floor coverings – layers one on top of the other they lent warmth and comfort.”

Hello, earth to space dwelling ms d’alessandro, kelim and carpets were donated to Anatolian Mosques not to lend warmth and comfort but for still yet unknown but suspected religious and honorific purposes.

“The surviving examples, in their fragmented states, show the passage of time.”

In this article we recognize some information was taken directly from former DeYoung Museum publicity but the previous sentence had to have been written by d’alessandro, a complete Anatolian kelim know-nothing.

The damaged and fragmented kelims don’t show the “passage time”. This is a ludicrous explanation for their present condition.

It was hard use, poor conservation and often careless treatment they were subjected to that has caused this unfortunate circumstance.

And the first 1990 deYoung kelim exhibition was not a “breakthrough in appreciation of this weaving tradition”.

That occured a more than a decade before in Dublin at the 1979 Whitechapel Art Gallery’s “Undiscovered Kilim” exhibition and publication.

Naturally, a neophyte like d’alessandro would not know anything about facts like these, but at least she could have conferred with someone who does before scribbling such foolishness.

Oh, yeah,right, because d’alessandro fraternizes with cootner, and other less than knowledgeable pseudo-kelim pundits, she has in the now almost decade as curator not increased her abilities or expertise.

The sands of time are slipping away and the chance for the deYoung, its Anatolian Kelim or Turkmen weaving collections, to ever reach bedrock and begin true scientific study, as well as expertly done art historical analysis, looks bleak.

RK is not a pessimist but past performance usually determines future preformance, and the deYoung’s now proven inability, or is it just its desire, to implement and foster the necessary research bodes extremely poorly for any future action.

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