A guide to weird and wild contemporary-art quilts by conceptualists, code-breakers, feminists, fashionistas, Afrofuturists, and street artists
From the Log Cabin quilt Rauschenberg chose to make his Bed to the glorious abstractions of Gee’s Bend to the communal, elegiac, and now digitized AIDS Memorial Quilt, quilts have been around the contemporary-art world for decades. Now, as the border between art and craft continues to dissolve, quilts are coming front and center.
A current exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and an upcoming one at Boston’s MFA, which showcase the labor and artistry behind traditional quilts in different ways, suggest the reasons that a growing number of artists are drawn to this typically American medium.
Rigorously mathematical; narrative; intimate; made of found materials, often salvaged from treasured garments of their makers; portable; diaristic; and usually made by women, including a significant number of African Americans, “quilts have always lent themselves to giving a voice to the unheard,” says Stacy Hollander, curator of the American Folk Art Museum’s recent show alt_quilts, which featured three contemporary artists who stray far from the original definition of the quilt, even as they remain fixated on its structure and patterns. From Chelsea galleries to major museums and beyond, here’s where to find some of the edgiest art quilts out there.
Anton Kern Gallery, New York (through February 15)
Whether in her epic fabric structures–a sampling of which is currently at Anton Kern–or her fierce costumes for dance, her performative collaborations with My Barbarian, and her jumpsuits for Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea, Lara Schnitger has channeled all manner of textile arts. The Dutch, Los Angeles-based artist excavates text and image by removing color from dyed fabric, creating a stenciled effect that conveys her all-caps urgency.
Now Schnitger is bringing her post-patchwork esthetic to a new couture line, Sister of Arp, which launches in a runway show at Kern on February 8. The collection, called Never Alone, is dedicated to the working (and breastfeeding) mom.