by Manu SharmaMar 24, 2022
The American painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher and lecturer, Faith Ringgold’s over fifty years of work is being featured at the New Museum in New York. The New Museum is presenting the first full retrospective of the American artist, providing the most comprehensive assessment to date of Ringgold’s immaculate vision. Ringgold challenged the accepted hierarchies of art and craft through her experimental quilt paintings and unique style of figurative art. During the 1960s, she created some of the most indelible art of the civil rights era with a bold, transformative approach to the language of protest. Her immense focus and zeal led her to undertake a deeply studied reimagining of art history to produce narratives that bear witness to the complexity of the American experience.
The contemporary artist received her B.S. and M.A. degrees in visual art from the City College of New York in 1955 and 1959. She’s a Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego and has received 23 Honorary Doctorates. Ringgold has also participated in the notable exhibitions The Decade Show (1990) and A Labor of Love (1996); and in 1998 was the subject of the celebrated solo exhibition titled Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts.
The exhibition that began February 17 and is on view until June 5, 2022, features works from Ringgold’s best known series. Elaborating on the exhibition, the press statement mentions: “The first section provides an extensive look at Ringgold’s early paintings, including the American People and Black Light series. Using what the artist described as a “super-realist” visual language, Ringgold captured the racial and gender divisions in 1960s American society with searing insight. Her three large-scale “murals”— including the celebrated American People Series #20: Die (1967), recently juxtaposed with Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at The Museum of Modern Art and American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding, which was recently acquired by the National Gallery of Art—are being shown together for the first time in New York since 1984. They are presented alongside her iconic political posters, which advocated for collective causes like support for the Black Panther Party and freeing activist Angela Davis, and photographs and ephemera related to Ringgold’s extensive activist pursuits. Ringgold’s 1971 mural painting, For the Women’s House, created for the women’s prison at Rikers Island will also be on view.”
The art exhibition will examine the development of her figurative style and thematic vision that complements her approach on political art, expanded to meet the urgency of the political and social changes taking place in America during her lifetime. The works demonstrate Ringgold’s attempts to transcend a predominately white art historical tradition to find forms more suitable for the radical exploration of gender and racial identity that her work would go on to enact. The visual artist’s story quilts are the most influential artworks in the past 50 years. They have drawn on both personal autobiography and collective histories, the story quilts aim at larger social conditions and cultural transformations—from the Harlem Renaissance to the realities of Ringgold’s life as a working mother, artist, and activist.
The contemporary retrospective exhibition at the New Museum includes the artist’s quilts, incorporating formative pieces created with her mother, important early series like The Bitter Nest and Change, selections from other notable bodies of work including The American Collection and Coming to Jones Road, and, in a landmark display, the first complete presentation of her series, The French Collection, in nearly 25 years. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director of the New Museum, and Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Curator, with Madeline Weisburg, Curatorial Assistant, Faith Ringgold: American People will make its West Coast debut at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))