A lot of Quilting Going On


Three interesting exhibits are on view, here in LA and in Boston, with quilting at the center. As someone who loves the textile arts, I want to share links to each of the exhibits.

Hank Willis Thomas at Kayne Griffin

Hank Willis Thomas
Land of the Free, 2021
Mixed media including U.S. prison uniforms
80 x 139 x 2.5 inches (203.2 x 353.1 x 6.4 centimeters)

Kayne Griffin is pleased to present Hank Willis Thomas’ second solo exhibition at the gallery, Another Justice: Divided We Stand. Comprising large-scale sculptures and mixed media quilted works, the exhibition of new work continues Thomas’ exploration of American iconography, color theory, and language. Another Justice: Divided We Stand. will be on view from November 12, 2021–January 8, 2022. 

Thomas’ recent works investigate the fabric of our nation—literally and figuratively—through the deconstruction and reconstruction of U.S. flags and striped prison uniforms. In drawing attention to the similarities of these materials, the artist navigates the complexity of distinguishing patriotism from nationalism. The work is part of Thomas’ negotiation of an enduring conundrum of the United States of America: Can “the land of the free” also be home to the largest prison population in the world?

Sanford Biggers in Los Angeles

For more than two decades, Los Angeles native Sanford Biggers has been developing a singular body of work that is deeply informed by African American history and traditions. Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch, the first survey of quilt-based works by the New York-based interdisciplinary artist, features nearly fifty pieces that seamlessly weave together references to contemporary art, urban culture, sacred geometry, and more. 

Biggers’s engagement with quilts dates to 2009, when he was commissioned by Hidden City Philadelphia to produce a work for the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a stop on the Underground Railroad. As the artist researched the history of the Underground Railroad, he was intrigued by the long-debated narrative that quilts doubled as signposts along escape routes throughout the nineteenth century. Inspired by those stories, Biggers created his first quilt-based works. 

The exhibition’s title, Codeswitch, refers to both the artist’s quilt series, known as the Codex series, as well as to the idea of code-switching: shifting from one linguistic code to another depending on social context. The Codex series includes mixed-media paintings and sculptures done directly on or made from pre-1900 antique quilts. This process, like linguistic code-switching, recognizes the plurality of language, as the quilts signal their original creator’s intent as well as the new layers of meaning given to them through Biggers’s artistic interventions.

Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Tickets are on sale for the MFA’s newest exhibition Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories. The exhibition upends expectations about traditional quilt displays and tells inclusive, human stories that articulate a rich story of our shared history. Made by an underrecognized diversity of artistic hands and minds from the 17th century to today, including female and male, known and unidentified, urban and rural makers; immigrants; and Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and LGBTQIA+ Americans, the quilts on view range from family heirlooms to acts of political protest, each with its own story to tell.

The MFA created a slide show for students to understand how art forms, such as quilting, can be an agent of social change. Here it is.