Rosie Lee Tompkins, Richmond, CA, "Half-Squares Put-Together," 1979
Rosie Lee Tompkins, Richmond, CA, "Half-Squares," 2000
Rosie Lee Tompkins, Richmond, CA, "Three Sixes," 1998
Gladys Henry, Butler, TX, "Strip," 1992
Laverne Brackens, Fairfield, TX, "Half-Squares Strip," 2004
Laverne Brackens, Fairfield, TX, "Medallion," 2001
Laverne Brackens, Fairfield, TX, "Medallion," 1998
Laverne Brackens, Fairfield, TX, "Restructed Bars Block with Shift-in-Scale Medallion," 1993
Laverne Brackens, Fairfield, TX, "Medallion (paisley and black)," 1992
Sherry Byrd, Richmond, CA, "Strip Medallion," 1989
Bara Byrd, Richmond, CA, "Medallion," 1993
Willia Ette Graham, Oakland, CA, "Steeplechase Medallion," 1980
Irene Bankhead, Oakland, CA, "String," 1999
Irene Bankhead, Oakland, CA, "String," 2002
Anonymous, Missouri, "Postage Stamp Nine-Patch (detail)," ND
The Shirley-Jones Gallery will present Approximate Measure, Improvisation in African-American Quilts, from January 19-March 10, 2007. It is a show of lyrically abstract geometric quilted compositions.
Monochrome, elaborately stitched quilts were brought from England to America by early colonists. The emergence of the pieced decorative quilt, however, seems to coincide with the arrival of Africans. The designs of quilts by early African-Americans, drew from traditions in African textile making which celebrated innovation, variation and improvisation. These African traditions provided an aesthetic framework that could include eccentric and asymmetric quilt compositions, a genre that continues and which is the subject of this exhibition.
Recently, two exhibitions of quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama were mounted by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas and are currently touring the country. While this body of work has received extensive press, there is another body of improvisational quilts that springs from traditions of African-American quilting in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and, as a result of subsequent migration, California. These quilts are highly rhythmic and could be seen to have a musical equivalent in Jazz while the parallel in Gees Bend quilts could be said to be the Blues.
The quilts appearing at the Shirley-Jones Gallery come from a collection assembled in the San Francisco Bay Area. In all, the work of seven quilt makers (including four generations from one family) living mostly in the greater Oakland area is being presented. Highly complex and nuanced, These quilts tempt comparison with geometric abstraction in contemporary painting. The work of one of the quilt makers, Rosie Lee Tompkins,* has been the subject of solo exhibitions and was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. When the Biennial was reviewed by the New York Times, Tompkins' quilts were cited as "the best painting in the exhibition..." One of these quilts is featured in the current exhibition at the Shirley-Jones Gallery.
* Rosie Lee Tompkins died December 1, 2006 at the age of 70. Her obituary appeared in Time Magazine, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers.
The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday 2-6pm and by appointment. For further information call (937) 767-1711.