Saturday, February 26, 2011

Textural Rhythms at the Museum of the African Diaspora

 Dr. Edward M. Bostick's black, white and red tribute to Billie, "Lady Day's "Strange Fruit"

Well, I am still working on a longer piece on Bali but, not for the first time,  I got distracted. I have been meaning to see this show since it first opened and today was a good day to do it. My upstairs neighbors did their usual endless noise in the middle of the night so I was groggy and grouchy and needed something to pep me up.  I made the right decision for the show is awash with color, craftsmanship and joy.

Bisa Butler's cubist inspired homage to Satchmo

Textural Rhythms. now on display at the Museum of the African Diaspora, unites two of the most well known and popular artistic forms in African American culture, jazz and quilts. The exhibition includes work from some of America’s best known African American quilters, Michael Cummings, Edjohnetta Miller, Tina Brewer, and Jim Smoote as well as quilts by top Bay Area quilters, Marion Coleman and Alice M. Beasley. 

Curated by Carolyn Mazloomi, the MoAD showing is part of a two-and-a-half-year-long national tour involving the work of the artists of the Women of Color Quilters Network, whose mission is "to foster and preserve the art of quilt making among women of color."
 Viola Burley Leak, "Jazz Montage II (Back)" (2006) applique, silk, cotton, lurax, machine-quilted

In one of her more famous songs, Ella "the Great" Fitgzerald sang "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." Well, you could actually say she bopped, hopped, swayed and seduced us with her lively rhythms. A similar seduction is going on at the exhibit, through what curator Carolyn Mazloomi calls "visual soul food."  The song sung here is in fabric and thread, not musical notes but it's equally vibrant. Throughout the show, the background music and the wall text pay tribute to jazz, an utterly American music, created out of African rhythms and inspired by the myriad of experiences, both tragic and joyous, of African-American life.

Alice M. Beasley. Miles Ahead. 2006 appliquéd and machine-quilted cotton, ca. 48 x 24 in.

For anybody who saw the exhibit at the De Young of the Gee's Bend quilters, the ingenuity, artistic eye and unique use of fabric will not come as a surprise. But these are not your traditional quilts. Unlike Gee's Bend - or Amish quilts for that matter - these masterpieces of fabric are not structured blocks of color but complex riffs on the interweaving of jazz with African-American traditions of quilt making.  There are sequins interspersed with beads, metallic threads combined with applique and gold accents on vibrant colors; these quilts are not made from the usual used scraps pierced into bed coverings for everyday use but art pieces, rich, joyous, lyrical and unique.

The show runs through April 24th

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