found/made : titillating
By Patricia Belyea
SAN JOSE CA The unexpected installations of quilts at Found/Made, the current exhibit at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, sends a message to visitors: “Hang onto your hats! This is no traditional quilt show.”
I visited the exhibit with quilting pal Joe Cunningham on a sunny California day. The Museum’s curator of collections Nancy Bavor kindly gave us an enthusiastic tour. Starting in the outside hallway, a hodgepodge of quilts and flimsies hung—pinned up on a clothes line.
Jammed together, the rowdy collection exuded an air of naive wackiness. Imperfect blocks, mismatched seams, sloppy stitches and a brash polyester number introduced the show’s divergence from the ordinary.
Guest curator Roderick Kirakofe put a spotlight on the disenfranchised era of quilt history—the last half of twentieth century—with his latest book: Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar. Quilts from Roderick’s book as well as from the collections of Julie Silber, Allison Smith and Marjorie Childress peppered the exhibit with their candid beauty.
For the Found/Made show, Roderick hung quilts around corners. Others he let fall into a rumple.
At the end of one hall, Luke Haynes’ Flag, 2010, from The American Context series, created a backdrop for Virgie Walton’s Stripes, circa 1950 -1975, artfully rippled on a low pedestal.
Sarah Nishiura’s Untitled #5 , 2009, a quiet subversion of zigs and zags, stretched across one corner of a gallery.
Juxtaposed with the quilts, a selection of contemporary artwork talked the same language. Unruly (History Series), 2008-12, by Amy Trachtenberg echoed the improv graphics of “Abstract” Crazy Quilt, circa 1930-1950, by Unnamed Maker.
Roderick paired Joe Cunningham’s Circular Logic, 2007, with “8,” circa 1960 -1970, a quilt attributed to Regina “Reggie” Jarvis or Jervis. Joe made the signature linework on his quilt with bias tape while Reggie machine stitched her octo-numerals.
Star, variation, circa 1960 – 1980, by Unnamed Maker, takes us to the far-out reaches of our understanding of bed quilts.
The duo of Whole Cloth “L”, circa 1940 – 1960, by Unnamed Maker and Bed Clothes, 2010, by Luke Haynes, were bound together by their original quilting approaches—the former with its plethora of complementary orange ties on a blue denim field; the later with its orange plastic price tag fasteners shot through old clothes.
Bowties? Bandaids? Cigars? Aptly named Bow Tie, variation, circa 1960 – 2000, by Unnamed Maker, (right) and adjacent P #31, P#32, P#334, P#33, P#43, 2009, by Jonathan Parker (left) present appealing compositions while concealing their obtuse backstories.
An undercurrent of anarchy lurks in this display of material culture. For instance, Joe Cunningham cut up oil and acrylic paintings for his Bed, after Rauschenberg, 2013, quilt.
Piercing social commentaries emanated from Ben Venom’s framed t-shirt art: L to R, Attack!, 2015; I Carry The Flame, 2013; and War Bird West, 2012.
On the floor, Ben’s denim quilt, No More Tears, 2013, referenced hard rocker Ozzy Osbourne’s song not gentle baby shampoo. Above hung Original, circa 1950 – 60, by Unnamed Maker, a cacophony of pockets sewn to a crazy quilt back. In the background, Strip and String, circa 1955 – 1975, by Unnamed Maker, added to the energy of the grouping.
It’s wasn’t hard to see the outright danger in Clay Lohmann’s Ear of the Horse, 2014, with a saber-toothed cat raging across an assemblage of lacy linens and found objects.
Three generous galleries showed more works that thoughtfully explore the comfort and discomfort of quilts—from the found ones with no lofty goals of hanging in the public eye to the ones made by today’s artists.
I’m thrilled I flew to San Jose to see the Found/Made exhibit—just before it closes on November 1! How far would you travel to see an exhibit like this?
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