I have written previously about how quilts have become an essential aspect of any art museum’s presentation. The Hudson River Museum quilts exhibitions this summer further prove my point.
Wall Power! Spectacular Quilts from the American Folk Art Collection
As an art form, quilts have deep roots in American life and experience. For more than three centuries, artists, primarily women, have created highly individualized expressions in this medium that are both yielding and unforgiving, challenging the maker to test the limits imposed by cutting and piecing bits of fabric. Each work on view is a graphically striking example that embodies a sense of “wall power,” packing a tough visual punch and defying the deceptive softness of its nature.
The very fine selection of quilts on view in this show is from the distinctive collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. They range across time and place from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century, from Alabama to Pennsylvania. The four sections of the exhibition highlight early twentieth-century quilts from a period of craft revival, designs developed by Amish communities, examples by African American makers, and traditional nineteenth-century patterns that formed a foundation for generations of quiltmakers to come. The exhibition will be on view through September 21, 2021.
The exhibition begins with quilts that reflect the popularity of traditional American handicrafts. Quilters moved away from the ornate designs of the Victorian era, which featured sumptuous velvets and silks, and embraced the use of cotton fabrics, clean lines, and schematic patterns. Amish communities have also produced some of the most beloved American quilt patterns and their bold blues, pinks, and purples belie common conceptions of the plainness of Amish visual culture.
The African American quilts in the exhibition are infused with stunning dynamism. Although they may draw on traditional Euro-American patterns, their asymmetry, bold colors, and outsized designs may also be linked to earlier African textile practices. Wall Power! closes with a selection of traditional patterns dating from the mid to late 1800s that illustrate the techniques of piecing and appliqué, which formed a foundation for generations of quiltmakers to come.
Collection Spotlight: Storied Quilts from the Hudson River Museum
The Hudson River Museum displays five important quilts from its own collection, on view through September 26, 2021, as well as premiere additional selections online. The quilts highlight regional pride and collaboration: Three nineteenth-century examples include a Pieced Sampler Quilt by New York tailor Adolph Schermer, an elaborate silk and velvet Crazy Quilt by couple Pinkus and Ernestine Turk, and a Chimney Signature Quilt featuring the names of forty-two residents of Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
Also on view for the first time in decades will be a Commemorative Quilt made in 1976 by Ellanora Kolb, Anna McDonough, and Pauline Ringler to present to the Woman’s Institute of Yonkers in honor of the United States Bicentennial. Among the local City sites depicted are historic Glenview, the Museum’s Gilded Age home, the 17th-century Philipse Manor Hall, and the historic St. John’s Church in downtown Yonkers, designed in 1872.