For NADA Miami 2020, Parts & Labor Beacon will exhibit a solo presentation of quilts from the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, descendants of the Pettway family plantation’s enslaved laborers and the subsequent sharecroppers and “tenant farmers” in Gee’s Bend—a remote, rural Black community southwest of Selma, Alabama—have made richly textured quilts using diversely sourced materials. These artists extend the legacy of their predecessors by continuing in the practice of repurposing salvaged cloth and fabric scraps—feed sacks, faded denim, work clothes, and remnants alike—and stitching them together in singular, transformative geometries. In his review of the Whitney Museum’s 2002 blockbuster exhibition The Quilts of Gee’s Bend (organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman wrote: “The best of these designs, unusually minimalist and spare, are so eye-poppingly gorgeous that it’s hard to know how to begin to account for them. But then, good art can never be fully accounted for, just described.” Long admired by out-of-towners—including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who visited Gee’s Bend on his way to Montgomery in 1965; Lee Krasner, who touted the quilters’ works to curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art following a visit to Gee’s Bend in 1967; and Diana Vreeland of Vogue magazine—the quilts of Gee’s Bend are regarded as masterpieces of American Abstraction.
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