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Lehman College Art Gallery examines the aesthetic practice of artists rooted in the Gee's Bend tradition
Leola Pettway, Star of Bethlehem with Satellite Stars Quilt, 1991. Cotton and synthetics, 102 x 93 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum, New York Museum purchase made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, with matching funds from the Great American Quilt Festival 3, 1991.13.4.

BRONX, NY.- Gee's Bend is a rural, predominantly African American community southwest of Selma, Alabama, located on a peninsula created by dramatic bends in the Alabama River. This exhibition examines the ongoing aesthetic practice of artists rooted in the Gee’s Bend tradition. The quilters of Gee's Bend are widely known for the commanding visual presence of their work. Their compositions vary widely from minimalist constructions to intricately pieced geometries—often with unpredictable sequences of patterns, bold colors, and a fearless resistance to rigid grids. For many, their inventive improvisations suggest jazz riffs and bring to mind the innovations of 20th century modernism. In 2005 four of the quilters — Louisiana Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, Loretta Bennett, and Loretta Pettway — began producing limited edition etchings with Paulson Bott Press in Berkeley, California. The collaboration offered the opportunity to explore the possibilities of translating their designs in a new medium. The Gee’s Bend Tradition includes fourteen contemporary quilts, as well as eight limited edition etchings, and fabric maquettes used in the process of producing the prints.

A related exhibition, Linda Day Clark: The Gee's Bend Photographs, features the work of Linda Day Clark, who began photographing the Gee's Bend community in 2002 when she worked in the area as a freelance photographer for The New York Times. A separate study installation includes photographs of Gee's Bend from the 1930s taken by Arthur Rothstein and Marion Post Wolcott for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).
Gee’s Bend (now officially known as Boykin) has its historic roots in the plantations of the Gee family, and later their relatives the Pettways, who bought land in Alabama for a cotton plantation in 1816. Many of the current residents are descendants of the slaves who were brought to the plantation that once occupied the site. For many years Gee’s Bend remained relatively isolated by its geography, one of the factors contributing to its unique style.

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Lehman College Art Gallery examines the aesthetic practice of artists rooted in the Gee's Bend tradition

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