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American Folk Art Museum presents large-scale works by three Contemporary artists
Arts and Crafts, Sabrina Gschwandtner (b. 1977), New York City, 2012, 16 mm film and polyamide thread, 23 x 23". Collection of Jerrie Whitfield and Dick Motika, Los Angeles. Photo by Matt Suib, Greenhouse Media, courtesy Philadelphia Art Alliance.

NEW YORK, NY.- Opening October 1, 2013, at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square in New York City), the exhibition alt_quilts: Sabrina Gschwandtner, Luke Haynes, Stephen Sollins will feature works by three contemporary artists who are inspired by the history, meanings, and structures of American quilts and who explore this in their oeuvre. The exhibition features 23 contemporary works alongside 10 masterpiece quilts from the Museum’s renowned collection. The works on view proffer meaning within their formal concerns and substance—the geometries, remnants, piecing and threading—especially when seen through the lens of contemporary art. The exhibition will be on view through January 5, 2014.

Dr. Anne Radice, Director of the Museum, commented: “Since its inception the American Folk Art Museum has celebrated a distinctly American phenomenon—the pieced quilt. Our spectacular exhibition Infinite Variety opened the eyes of so many to the power of these pictorial splendors. Now the boundaries between artistic disciplines are even more blurred, and the contemporary works of art on view in this exhibition are especially illuminating.”

Quilts were among the nation’s largest-scale works of art through the 19th century, and they were also the predominant form of artistic (visual) expression for women until the 20th century. Bastions of memory, reflections of and responses to events both personal and public, indicators of economic status and aspirations, and transmitters of narrative, information, and data, quilts have secured a footing in art history and continue to evolve as aesthetically and historically valuable works of art.

alt_quilts explores this tradition-bound idiom in the post-modern era. The contemporary works on view display the balance between randomness and structure, unlimited flexibility within rigid parameters, and the highly controlled use of materials sought by the artists. The artists are also drawn to the terms of specific quiltmaking patterns (Tumbling Blocks, Log Cabin, Sunshine and Shadow, and Double-Wedding Ring, for example) and their visual currency. But the conceptual trajectories of Gschwandtner’s, Haynes’s, and Sollins’s works diverge dramatically from convention. Only one of the three uses fabric. And the artists incorporate the detritus of modern living—used envelopes, discarded film footage, worn clothing, for example—because of the commentary and meaning they convey.

Six works by Sabrina Gschwandtner are on view in alt_quilts. Each is made of 16 mm film sewn together in strips and displayed on a light box.

Gschwandtner explained: “The source of the historical footage is the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which recently de-accessioned the 16 mm films in their library. These short, educational documentaries, dated 1952 through 1982, focused on textile crafts such as crocheting, knitting, sewing, fabric dyeing, and quilting, and celebrated the women who made them. After watching the movies many times, I cut them up and sew[ed] them together with my own, personal film footage. In processes that reference both painting and experimental filmmaking, I bleach, dye, scratch, and paint onto some of my film.”

Luke Haynes began his career as an architect. He is interested in series and how individual works within a series expound upon an idea or visual sequence. As an architect, he is also fascinated by volume and perspective and by the logistics of finding creative solutions within a finite set of constraints. In several of his series he incorporates the appearance of threedimensions through anamorphic perspective. This is a technique in which a flat, seemingly distorted arrangement of shapes, colors, and shading assumes a veristic three-dimensionality when viewed from a specific angle. This illusive device was already well known by the Renaissance and was used intentionally to add subtext and reality to works of art. In one work, which incorporates this perspective, Haynes superimposes the figure of Benjamin Franklin on a field of Tumbling Blocks. Haynes’s monumental hybrid portrayal of Kanye West and Jay Z—an image appropriated from a photographic hybrid of the two rappers—is among the works on view, as is a spectacular work depicting a blood-red crown—a gift to the artist’s dentist. Haynes’s anamorphic self-portrait, which he has donated to the Museum’s collection, is also on view.

Stephen Sollins has said: “Source materials have always been very important in my work. I have used worn household linens, television schedules, camping supply catalogues, and the daily newspaper. All have to do with …the symbolic economy of love and affection, as well as the collision of overt sentimentality and high modernist ideal, while evoking loss, elements of time, and the process of handiwork.”

His meticulous, analytic compositions are made from used envelopes and other mailing materials. One of his works on view employs the exquisite use of the otherwise ubiquitous Fedex logotype. He is interested in filtering the geometry, grids, and symmetries of quilts through the mathematical, and systematic approaches of high modern, minimal, and conceptual art. His work also explores ideas about intimacy and exposure.

American Folk Art Museum Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions, Stacy C. Hollander, is the curator of the exhibition.

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