Submitted by Liz M.
Fifty years ago in July 1971, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City displayed 62 quilts. The quilts were hung on the large gallery walls where paintings and other art had been shown. It marked the first time textiles, and quilts in particular, were offered as precursors to abstract art.
The curators, Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof, shared their collection of mainly 19th century, pieced quilts. The quilts were graphic in nature and the couple recalled a moment when they realized an Amish bar quilt they found in an antique store reflected the art Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman were creating.
Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof continued to collect quilts and donated their entire collection to The International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. The museum is currently displaying the original quilts in the exhibit Abstract Design in American Quilts at 50. The button to the right provides details about the exhibit. The last topic takes you to a virtual tour of the quilts as they are showcased at the Nebraska museum. Use your cursor or touch screen to move to the circles on the floor and navigate through the room. You can turn or pivot to view the quilt and description on the wall. Similar to a virtual tour through a house!
The YouTube Textile Talk “Raising the Profile” continues the story of abstract quilts as part of the quilt revival.
I did not grow up with quilters in my family (that I knew about at the time). I was in high school home economics learning garment sewing when I read about this exhibit. It was not the fabrics, but the design of these quilts that drew me in. I love the graphic quality of the quilts and the color, asymmetric designs!
Which quilt is your favorite in the exhibit? Do you feel they reflect abstract design? Do you consider them to be art? Let us know in the comments below.