Friday, May 27, 2016

Quilts and Color from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at SD Museum of Art

by Patricia Frischer 

The San Diego Museum of Art presents Quilts and Color from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, through September, which celebrates the vibrant color palette and inventive designs found in the outstanding array of early American quilts amassed over decades by the collectors Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy.  Over 50 quilts from the19th century to to the 1920's, have combined classic American quilting patterns with an innate and sophisticated grasp of color theory. The works in the exhibition are grouped according to visual effects, including chromatic vibrations, mixtures, gradations, harmonies, and optical illusions. 

We were lucky enough to be invited to the discussion between Ariel Plotek, Associate curator of Modern Art at SDMA and Beth Smith, director of Vision Art Museum at Liberty Station as an introduction to this show., Smith is very knowledgeable about all things to do with Quilts especially contemporary fabric creations. She was very prepared for this presentation and had communicated at length with Gerald Roy.  Paul Pilgrim has unfortunately already passed but Mr. Roy is still collecting. 

Imagine these two gentlemen, decades ago, who were both keen contemporary connoisseurs, driving down the road and spotting what they thought was a Joseph Albers painting hanging on a clothes line.  When they discovered it was a quilt, an obsession was born. 

There is a saying about handkerchiefs, "one to blow and one to show."  The same is true in quilts and Pilgrim and Roy decided to collect only show quilts, those in prime condition and not made from worn out used scraps. Instead they wanted pristine examples that focused on geometry and the sophisticated use of color, in particular the color orange in many cases. 

Beth Smith revealed many less than obvious details about the quilts on show. For example, Quaker quilts never use cotton in respect of their abolishionist beliefs. Slaves picked cotton, so no cotton even in the batting. Wool and silk were materials of choice. Shapes were very prescribed by the community. That is why we see so much geometry. But the variation in, for example, the log cabin design, are huge. It was fascinating to look close and see how many of the quilts which looked hugely different were actually log cabin patterns. 

The patterns are stunning but the color is the star of the show. Many examples especially those with tangerine orange seemed to glow on the walls.  I found out that each quilt has a specific light designation. Light meters were use to make sure that the lighting wes equally spread and just exactly the correct intensity. I have included the backgrounds for each of the quilts below as they were chosen very carefully for maximum effect. 

You don't need to be a quilt fan to enjoy this show. It is quite obvious that each one was chosen for the OMG factor. These are quilts to drool over so bring your hanky to blow.   


June 23 | Culture & Cocktails: Quilts and Color
July 3 | Family Drop-In Day: Exploring Quilts
July 28 | Painting on Tap: Quilts and Color 
August 1 | Film in the Garden: How to Make an American Quilt

Breakout: Quilt Visions 2016 at Vision Art Gallery
October 15, 2016—January 8, 2017

Opening Reception: October 15, 5-7pm


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