Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Praises for Gee's Bend!

Before my recent visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was familiar with the stories and reproductions of the quilts of Gee's Bend. As a quilter myself, I thought I knew what I was talking about. Seeing them in reality, however, was a completely different story.

These are not traditional, geometrically symmetrical quilts that I have been exposed to in the past. These quilts have an edgy, unpredictable quality. They defy the typical logic imposed on art students in art schools because they are not the work of "art school artists." The quilters of Gee's Bend have not had the "rules" imposed on them, so their work is unhindered by any legacy or ego except their own. These quilts stand as a testament for the human need for visual expression, further evidence that art is not only something we do for baseless decoration, it is a necessary impulse of the human condition.

The patterns and shapes have an energetic, almost musical feel. Another thing to appreciate is their use, or re-use, of material. Jeans, corduroy, scraps and fragments of their lives merge into quilted narratives. In the exhibition text, several women are quoted, saying that despite their success and ability to purchase unused fabrics, they prefer to make use of material that would otherwise be thrown away. To paraphrase the exhibition text, they state that such material has a greater spirit, a sense of soul, and this presence is reborn in their quilts.

Whatever their secret is, Gee's Bend, The Architecture of the Quilt, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art till December 14, offers viewers a chance to see magnificence. More than anything, it is a portrait of humanity. The quilts reveal to everyone our basic need to tell our stories, to express ourselves, and to transcend all logic and reason to unveil soul.

Above Photo: Blocks and Strips Quilt, 2003
Ruth Kennedy, American
86 x 75 inches (218.4 x 190.5 cm)
Collection of the Tinwood Alliance
Photo: Steve Pitkin, Pitkin Studio, Rockford, IL

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Philly Book Artist Thoughts on New York

Amanda D'Amico, the Philly Book Artist, recently attended the Contemporary Artist Book Conference in New York. Her post here contains some quotes, both entertaining and true, from that series of events.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Global Warming at the Icebox -- Curator Response to the Graphic Conscience

Dear GC,

I am deeply appreciative of all the effort you put into your comments and observations on our exhibition. It is very rewarding to get this kind of thoughtful response, especially since the majority of the other written commentary has been brief and fairly superficial. I also appreciate your photography, which has so far represented the best images I have seen.

You have been the only writer who has addressed the actual theme in depth. I personally share most of your views, if not all of the specific critiques. When we reviewed the submissions for the juried part of the show, we too were hoping that we would see more in the way of solutions. I think Ralf Sander's piece "World Saving Machine 2" does at least postulate a direction for a solution, even if we perceive it as more whimsical than practical. What we realized after seeing the artists' responses to the theme, was that artists are first of all, artists. That ended up meaning that as much as we would like to think that artists can solve the world's problems through our gifts of creativity and imaginative thinking, what artists are really better at is to provide diverse and unpredictable ways of seeing. From them, perhaps people will walk away with questions, new lines of thinking, and an appreciation for both the art itself and the issues that inspired it.

We did have lofty goals for this show, and in reading what you wrote, it seems like we did accomplish some of them. We had put a lot of thought into it, including commentary and possible contributions from non-artists concerned about global warming, but ultimately decided that since this was a show sponsored by Philadelphia Sculptors that we needed to focus on the art. I think we made the right decision.

Leslie Kaufman

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Registration is now open for THE HYBRID BOOK

In 2009, the MFA Program in Book Arts and Printmaking will celebrate its twentieth anniversary by hosting THE HYBRID BOOK, INTERSECTION AND INTERMEDIA. This international event consists of a conference, exhibition series, and book art fair.

Registration is now open for this series of events. To find out more, visit THE HYBRID BOOK.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Global Warming at the Icebox, Final Thoughts

In fourteen days, the exhibition Global Warming at the Icebox comes to a close. I strongly urge anyone to make sure they don't miss it. Props go to Philadelphia Sculptors for putting on one of the best exhibitions in Philadelphia in 2008.

Of all the exhibitions in the Icebox Gallery, Global Warming was the best use of the space in a group exhibition that I have seen so far. Typically, group shows in this space display the artwork so that the Icebox dwarfs and overwhelms it. By breaking the space up into separate sections, the work on display was undiminished, and viewers were able to fully appreciate each individual piece.

My main criticism of this exhibition is that none of the work on display suggested any solutions for global warming. Many pieces provided evidence of climate change, some expressed the poetry of environmental issues and loss.

However, I wonder, like any exhibition, how many people left the opening, got into their cars, and went home to make changes in their lives that contribute to a resolution? Was it an exhibition only for believers? It is clear now that there is no single solution to climate change; the way this problem will be resolved will be through multiple approaches, small changes made by large numbers of people. We do not just need artists to raise awareness of the issue; we need artists to reveal to others how simple it can be to reduce their carbon footprint.

To end this thread, I suggest to all readers to consider changing a light bulb. If 110 million Americans switched out one sixty watt bulb in their homes with a compact florescent bulb (at an approximate cost of $3), it will be the equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads (source: EnergyStar). Like I said, simple changes, when magnified by millions, have a powerful affect.