Categories: Cathy Breslaw, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: New Bend Exhibition Highlights 12 Contemporary Textile Artists

The Right to (My) Life by Dawn Williams Boyd, 2017 Mixed Media

Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

Through December 30, 2022

Article by Cathy Breslaw

November 3, 2022

Textiles are versatile tactile materials universally familiar and used by everyone across the globe in every practical form from clothing to a myriad of uses in the home, to cultural and political symbols like flags and banners. Fabric and thread literally ties us together as humans. The New Bend exhibition at Hauser & Wirth highlights a diverse expression of ideas among 12 contemporary artists  – whose practices use ordinary fabrics – integrating quilting and fiber arts to explore identity and socioeconomic themes.

The exhibition pays homage to the Gee’s Bend African American women quilters whose rich traditions and heritage span several generations. A small farming community in Alabama, Gee’s Bend became home to African American families after the Civil War where in mutual support to one another, and out of economic necessity women gathered to make quilts out of any materials they could find. They are the story of a women’s’ quilting collective dedicated to community and to their shared history. Previously an isolated community until recent years, improved roads made the collective accessible to visitors to show and sell their quilts. These quilters never use patterns or the same fabric so that each quilt is unique. Since the early 2000’s the Gee’s Bend quilts have gained prominence having been displayed at the Whitney Museum of Art in NYC and art museums internationally, and in 2006, with quilt images printed on U.S. postage stamps.

New Bend artists Anthony Akinbola, Eddie R. Aparicio, Dawn Williams Boyd, Diedrick Brackens, Tuesday Smillie, Tomashi Jackson, Genesis Jerez, Basil Kincaid, Eric N. Mack, Sojourner Truth Parsons, Qualeasha Wood, and Zadie Xa share a link to Gee’s Bend in terms of their use of textiles, and move in varying directions while conveying particular ideas and in the execution of their work.

Akinbola’s Majin Buu(2022) uses multiple monochromatic Durags draped in beautiful patterns across a large wood panel. Durags, close-fitting silk-satin polyester cloth tied around the top of the head to protect hair have exposed seams and elongated straps. Durags are both material for Akinbola’s art-making and as commentary on larger issues of identity and respectability of African American culture.

Using a mix of rubber, sulphur tree, paint residue, string and a found cloth quilt Aparicio created Holbein En Crenshaw (Washington Blvd, and Crenshaw, LA, CA, (2018), a free-standing sculpture that addresses environmental and social justice along with commentary about Latinx identity.

Holbein En Crenshaw (Washington Blvd, and Crenshaw, LA, CA by Dawn Williams Boyd. Mixed Media

Boyd’s The Right to (My) Life (2017) provides social commentary that stitches together pieces of fabric to tell stories. Her quilt uses both figuration and text to portray a salient tableau of three people sitting next to one another while an angry mob in the background brandishes signs emblazoned with slogans like “PLANNED PARENTING” and “STOP ABORTION NOW.”

Wood’s jacquard monumental sized weaving Ctrl+Alt+Del (2021)  is a self-portrait of the artist trapped in a digital landscape replete with clouds and computer windows. The work embodies the connection between fiber art and computation.

Curated by Legacy Russell, Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Kitchen (NYC), New Bend brings the unique diverse visual language of 12 contemporary artists in dialogue with the history and spirit of the Gee’s Bend quilters and their enduring legacy as an African American collective and intergenerational inspiration –  and to honor their heritage.

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