Printed, Painted and Dyed: The New Fabric Surface. Renwick Gallery, 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. July 4 through October 15. Daily, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free.
Man's "urge to decorate surfaces" probably dates back to his origins, asserts the Renwick's associate curator Michael Monroe, and fabric is one of the most popular of these surfaces. Imprinting cloth with color designs has been practiced by countless craftsmen using traditional dyeing methods like batik, ikat and fold-dye. But technology has brought to this art of fabric design new processes such as photo-silkscreen and color Xerography. Monroe has chosen, for a Renwick show opening this week, a sampling of the art of "surface design" from an exhibition presented this year by the Surface Design Association. The fabrics on display are as diverse as cotton and velvet, and their designs are derived from both and old and the new dye processes. There are functional items such as quilts and clothes, whimsical objects like soft sculpture, and expressionistic pieces in which the artists have used fabric as a "canvas" on which they created designs with paint and dye. One of the most unusual pieces was made by placing a bolt of cloth in a color Xerox machine. Thus technology lends its uses to art.