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The history and the art and the allure of a famous blue dye on show at Albuquerque Museum
Rowland Ricketts (Indigo Cloth), Norbert Herber (Sound); Mobile Section; 2016.



ALBUQUERQUE, NM.- Albuquerque Museum is presenting Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe. The exhibition opened at Albuquerque Museum on January 8, 2022.

Indelible Blue explores the history, techniques, and movement of indigo, tracing the different varieties of plants back to the regions and cultures that have utilized this elusive dye for millennia. Indelible Blue features artists from around the world currently working with indigo as well as historical objects from Asia, South Asia, Africa, The Americas, and New Mexico. The exhibition considers how artists are reflecting on the cultural and geographical significance of the color blue and traditional ways of dyeing as well as contemplating the social and cultural narratives that impact the present and the future.

The chemical compound (indican) required to produce indigo dye is present in various levels in several different plant families and hundreds of different plant species. Individuals around the globe have ingeniously developed and utilized various methods for extracting and applying indigo dye for at least the last 6,200 years. While many diverse local techniques and uses of indigo have existed, the allure of the famous blue dye has made the story of indigo inseparable from the history of trade, colonialism, slavery, globalism, and cultural exchange. The labor-intensive process of growing indigo plants and extracting blue pigment from them combined with the value of indigo products led colonial powers to establish indigo plantations in the Southeastern United States, The Caribbean, Latin America, and India. The Indigo Revolt in India and the legacy of slavery are examples of the complex and sometimes violent history of how and why the plant has been grown, traded, and used. The exhibition also focuses on local traditions and practices that persist outside of indigo’s existence as a global commodity.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the history and art departments at Albuquerque Museum. Curators Josie Lopez and Leslie Kim worked together to pull objects from the Museum's permanent collection and to reach out to lenders from around the globe. “By collaborating between departments, we can create a deeper narrative connecting art and history in ways that the museum hasn’t in the past,” says Lopez.

Indelible Blue includes works by contemporary artists working with indigo who blur the boundaries between tradition and innovation and between the classifications of fine art and craft. While the story of indigo is entangled with its value as a product, the artworks in the exhibition offer alternative perspectives and ways of engaging with indigo dye that reflect on its historical, ecological, and spiritual significance. Artists featured in the exhibition include Rowland Ricketts, Chinami Ricketts, Nikesha Breeze, Gasali Adeyemo, Laura Anderson Barbata, Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, Hiroyuki Shindo, Yukiyo Kawano, Scott Sutton and more. Historical objects included in the exhibition demonstrates the versatility of indigo uses from dyed prestige garments to household objects and includes Navajo serapes, woven frazadas from the Rio Grande Valley, Zuni diamond twill manta, and more. The ties between the history and artistic output of indigo reflect the influence of this most desirable dye across the globe.

“The exhibition shows how people have used the material, and it also how it comments on social, political, and cultural issues that are relevant today,” says Lopez. “Indelible Blue tells a story of the past, connecting it to today.”

Indelible Blue is on view at Albuquerque Museum from January 8 through April 24, 2022.










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