May 25–September 3, 2012

Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial

  • Mary Lee Bendolph. "Housetop" Variation, 1998 (quilted by Essie Bendolph Pettway in 2000). Cotton corduroy, twill, polyester; 72 x 76 in. Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photography by Pitkin Studio

  • Thornton Dial. Gulf of Mexico, 2004. Mixed, 71 x 98 ½ x 9 in. Souls Grown Deep Foundation

  • Thornton Dial. Birmingham News, 1997. Mixed, 83 x 100 x 7 in. Souls Grown Deep Foundation

  • Mary L. Bennett. “Housetop” – Four-block variation, ca. 1975. Cotton and cotton/polyester blend, 77 x 82 in. Courtesy Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photo: Pitkin Studio

  • Essie Bendolph Pettway. “Pinwheel” variation 2000. Cotton and cotton/polyester blend, 88 x 85 in. Courtesy Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Photo: Pitkin Studio

This exhibition explores parallels and intersections in the works of the world-famous Gee’s Bend quilters and the self-taught master of assemblage art, Thornton Dial.  Quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend, a small rural community southwest of Selma, Ala., feature a sophisticated orchestration of color and eccentric quasi-geometric shapes composing what the New York Times has said are “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”

The 82-year-old Thornton Dial has earned international recognition as one of the most compelling and original voices of our time.  Rich in allusion and metaphor, Dial’s dynamic assemblages weave together memories of his own life with reflections on universal experiences of struggle and triumph.  He shares with the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend a debt to African American aesthetic traditions, most notably the cemetery constructions and yard art of the rural South, as well as an inventive approach to the reconstruction of found materials in the creation of an extraordinary visual poetry.  The Wall Street Journal writes: “The works in Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, are tough, beautiful, disturbing, seductive, improvisatory, unignorable, fierce, exhilarating, ambiguous—and much more.”

This exhibition has been organized by the Frist Art Museum and Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Atlanta, Ga.

Image: Steve Pitkin, Thornton Dial, 2012. Courtesy of Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

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