The late 1950s and 1960s saw a revolutionary re-defining of textiles in the United States. The first groundbreaking exhibition to show work of the nascent world of fiber art was Woven Forms (1963) held at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (now the Museum of Arts and Design), New York, and was followed by Wall Hangings (1969) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Deliberate Entanglements (1971) at the UCLA Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Dorian Zachai was included in the first and last of these exhibitions, surprisingly, she is rarely discussed in critical analyses and art historical scholarship on the topic.
Despite her lack of inclusion in the conversation, Zachai was one of the earliest innovators of mixed-media in weaving, and weaving for the creation of three-dimensional forms and figures, as well as an early adopter of the re-conceptualization of traditional craft as fine art sculpture.
Zachai was included in the historically important exhibition Objects: USA, which was co-curated by Paul Smith, former director of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (MAD) and it was from this exhibition the Museum acquired its first work by the artist, Allegory of Three Men (1962-65). In 2015, after Zachai’s passing the Museum acquired two additional works: Lady Performing (1971) and Emancipated Woman (1960), the latter of which was included in Woven Forms.
MAD’s Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio is currently engaged in research to reintroduce Zachai to the history of fiber art in the United States, illustrating her unique contributions to the field. The Museum has already taken steps to share this work with the public, including all three of its Zachai works in the exhibition MAD Collects: The Future of Craft Part 1 (September 6, 2018 to March 31, 2019), and De Tillio will share her research at the 2019 CAA conference.
It’s the Museum’s hope to become a repository for Zachai’s works and as such seeks to acquire additional pieces of artwork for safe guarding and inclusion in a future exhibition.
KFI acquired seven pieces from Zachai’s niece Christine Zachai. All of the work needed extensive conservation treatment. Frank Connet from Textile Restoration and Meghan Mackey carefully cleaned and repaired the damaged pieces. In 2020, the textiles were gifted to the Museum of Arts and Design (NY).