Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Manhattan Quilters Guild Exhibition

Twenty-one New York themed quilts by members of the Manhattan Quilters Guild are on exhibit in the lobby of 1155 Avenue of the Americas [Wall Street Journal building]. This is a small guild of full time professional quilt artists; their work is always interesting, they are very skilled and dedicated artists.

The introduction by the curator, L.L.Powers is short but makes a distinction that I think is extremely important in this day when the Gees Bend quilts have become postage stamps. When Gees Bend quilts are what many people think art quilts are -- since the Gees Bend quilts certainly aren't what their Grammas used to make. After a couple of sentences about the history of utility quilting, Powers writes ..."these quilts were not estheticallydriven art projects, but rather art embellished homee products whose primary function was still warmth." [Which is true of the Gees Bend quilts, no matter how jazzy they are on our envelope].

Power's last two sentences are: "The creativity of a new generation has lifted the form into the pantheon of fine art. Liberated from physical need, the quilt has achieved aesthetic independence." These quilts, to paraphrase Powers, belong on walls of museums, or private collectors.

Above top right: Adrienne Yorinks, Metro Babel; below it, leflt: Diane Goulston Robinson, Vacant Lots, Broklyn Waterfront
Below top right Robin Schwab, New York, Noo Yawk; bottom left Sandra Sider, New York Colors

All the quilts are 36x36, and the show will travel to seven more venues in the next two years. The pictures here are scanned from the brochure and do not do justice to the quilts. These works rely heavily on surface interest, both fabric choice, it's manipulation and the various kinds of quilting and some restrained embellishment. Sandra Sider's essay in the brochure emphasizes the effect of quilting on each quilt which I find a very narrow window through which to look at them. Obviously the uniform size was chosen with an eye to exhibition harmony but it seems to have restricted imaginations and possibilities. True the city has grid features and visual perspectives are restricted but I've seen other work by most of these women and I believe they would have produced a more varied and interesting show without size and shape restrictions.

Individually, I enjoyed the pieces, with favorites, of course, but the walls of same sized quilts looked as if spontaneity had been effectively stamped out. Perhaps this was partly because of the venue which is a very cold, dark marble lobby space. The sameness of size, and the prevalence of grid in approximately half thee quilts made me wonder if choosing NYC as a theme had been a bad idea. But, since these women are called "Manhattan Quilters Guild" although not all [probably most] do not live in Manhattan, perhaps what they are showing is a true reflection of Manhattan after all.

1 comment :

Kyra said...

Thank you for sharing this exhibit - looks marvelous!