Today, I had a wonderful experience. I was invited to the press preview for Quilts and Color: The Pilgrim/Roy Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. We were given a tour of the exhibit of 58 quilts; just a small part of the massive quilt collection carefully curated by Gerald Roy and the late Paul Pilgrim. I had the privilege of listening to Gerald Roy speak about his quilts. I enjoyed hearing him speak so passionately about quilts as art and about quilters as artists who make purposeful design decisions in their work. The exhibit will be open to the public from April 6 through July 27. 2014. I encourage local guilds to schedule visits!
The exhibit is divided into themes. One piece of mid 20th century abstract art from the MFA collection is hung in each gallery drawing interesting parallels to the much earlier quilt designs. I really liked the way Roy and the curators decided to group the quilts in this manner.
The first theme is Vibrations. This selection of quilts is largely composed of complementary colors which, when placed next to one another, cause the edges to seem to vibrate and flicker.
In the second gallery, you will find quilts using colors of similar intensity or value. The theme here is Mixtures. The colors tend to blend together in these quilts, defying the mainstream trends at the time of contrast in fabric selection.
The third gallery displays a collection of Amish quilts with the theme Harmonies. These quilts tend to be composed of analogous colors with a pop of a complementary color.
The fourth theme was that of Gradations. This quilt is one sample from that gallery. As you can see, many gradations of color are used to achieve the pattern planned by the quilter. Roy said that this quilt was the first that got him and Pilgrim to think differently about quilts. When they looked at this quilt, they said that this quilt had nothing to do with keeping warm. It was all about the woman who made it. I love that. I have to admit that very few of my own quilts are about keeping warm but are my artistic statements so the statement rings true.
The fifth theme was Contrasts. Roy and Pilgrim typically chose quilts for their collection based on color value. They avoided quilts with white in them because as Roy explained, once white is introduced, there is contrast and then the colors don’t play against eachother. In later years, they did collect a group of more traditional quilts with white backgrounds and a few with applique made their way into this group as well. But even in these quilts, they looked for designs where the white was an equal player and not a background.
Variations is the theme of the sixth gallery. Quilts showing multiple interpretations of the versatile log cabin block are displayed. Some are quite unique!
The seventh gallery is based on the theme of Optical Illusions. You will find lots of secondary designs in these quilts. As a fan of secondary designs, I found these particularly interesting.
The final gallery theme is “Singular Vision.” These quilts were made by artists who worked outside of standard patterns and designs. Included in this group is the quilt shown above, chosen by the museum director to be the visual image that represents the exhibit.
This exhibit got me thinking, as a former curator and as a quiltmaker, who will be the collectors of quilts being made right now? Which quilts will they chose and for what reasons?
When you visit the museum to see this exhibit, you will want to spend some time checking out the re-installation of To Boston with Love in the Shapiro Gallery as well. I will share pictures of the re-installation in my next post.