Image: Tina Williams Brewer, Energy to the West - Life Manifested in Stitches (detail), 2020. Cotton, wax batiks, mud cloth, shibori, rayon, parachute fabric, and silkscreen; surface design is hand and machine quilted, with beads, sequins, and French knots.
The longstanding separation between craft and fine art has ostracized many Black artists from the art historical canon, disregarding their cultural impact and significant contributions to visual culture. Nonetheless, craft remains a cornerstone of Black artistic production, serving as a tool for liberation. In her online show, Textured Histories: From Weaving to Collage, hosted by the largest online database of Contemporary art - Artsy - Adeola Gay examines how trailblazing artists, both established and emerging, have pushed boundaries through their use of texture.
Image: Faith Ringgold, American People #15: Hide Little Children, 1966. Courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London © 2018 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Many of the works featured in the show demonstrate how the artists harness materiality to create experimental pieces that contrast sharp details with soft fabrics. The contrasting elements work in tandem to communicate narratives of love, resistance and survival. In her pioneering quilts, Faith Ringgold tells stories of lives lived as African-American women and men in a culture constructed from their blood, sweat and tears, and often neglectful of their needs and aspirations. By sewing soft pictures, with narrative imagery and colourful motifs, she persists in making a strong and memorable impact. Likewise, Tina Williams Brewer’s practice focuses largely on quilting, weaving and embroidery; through this array of craft techniques she creates allegorical quilts, rich in texture and meaning that act, through the utilisation of the medium, as an exploration of cultural identity.
Image: Murjoni Merriweather, Sosa, 2020. Ceramic, Hand Braided Synthetic Hair.
In their innovative approaches to visual representation, the featured artists also reject the Western gaze through abandoning more traditional art mediums, such as oil on canvas. Instead, they render figures with braided textiles, confetti, and imitation gold leaf, among other materials, resulting in bold celebrations of Black identity. Murjoni Merriweather uses non-traditional materials such as hand-braided synthetic hair, combined with hair jewellery, ceramics, and colourful headwraps to create her graceful sculptures, magnificently portraying and celebrating black people, while also advocating for self-love and self-acceptance.
You can view all the works in the online show by visiting the exhibition page: Textured Histories: From Weaving to Collage.
Read more about Faith Ringgold in our article in Selvedge Issue 4: Celebrate.