Nicelle Beauchene Gallery (New York) will feature four historic quilts by artists, Rachel Carey George and Mattie Ross at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 (December 2 to 4, 2021). The two artists were part of the group known as the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers.
The gallery is not simply showing these pieces but acting in a broader sense to spread the word of "craft" as fine art. Inside the art world curators, collectors, historians and gallerists have accepted at least some "craft" into the discussion, into the pantheon, of what is considered fine art. This is by no means the universal view, nor is it the view of the general public. The use of quotes around craft is with intent; how are these disciplines NOT regarded as art? Why isn’t craft considered art by some?
"It is paramount for us to include the centuries-long tradition of quiltmaking (and “craft” more broadly) within discourses of modern and contemporary art. As a result of the wider exposure the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers, in particular, have received in the past 20 years, many artists working today have acknowledged the indelible influence the quilts have on their current practices," says Patrick Bova, Director at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery. "We hope younger artists in both Gee’s Bend and beyond feel encouraged to keep the tradition alive."
Sweep consists of six quadrants. Mismatched fabrics are organized in radiating angles while two sections are added to make the quilt longer. Feed sacks and Red Lion Middlings are also incorporated. Quilts are often made of what we might considered "odds and ends" but the trick is HOW this is done. My Way is a bit misshapen and incorporates corduroy and denims in a number of colors. It is even more improvisational than the other and is illustrative of the style of many of the Gee' Bend artists. This may be made up largely of surplus fabric from Sears that was shipped to Alabama.
Ross, born in 1903, was a founding member and treasurer of the Freedom Quilting Bee, a quilting cooperative established in 1966. It was a local nonprofit that seems to have blended the notions of the Civil Rights Movement with a labor union. Ross, in some ways, sounds like the quilting version of Hans Hoffman. Many learned their art from her.
Monkey Wrench and Diagonal Four Block (both from the 1960s) demonstrate a precision and mastery of composition as well as an expertise in hand sewing. Both show the artist's love of pattern and are more formal than Carey George's work.
The two artists are a fascinating juxtaposition of styles within a genre.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE QUILTS OF GEE'S BEND HERE
When these quilts were made the artists and the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers were not recognized as artists necessarily.
"At the time, they were utilitarian. Today, they are recognized both as a broad group of makers as well as individual artists with distinct styles of their own. It is necessary to identify and honor women—especially Black women artists—for their artistic labors rather than grouping hundreds of them together under one name," says Bova. "Quilts are indeed typically pieced together by one artist, but all of the elements of a quilt—top, lining, and backing—are often quilted together by a group of women, making them both individual and collective labors."
Nicelle Beauchene Gallery will show these pieces at booth S4 at Art Basel Miami Beach.