Explore the exhibition
The artists’ unique visual vernacular exists in tender dialogue with, and in homage to, the contributions of the Gee’s Bend Alabama quilters – Black American women in collective cooperation and creative economic production – and their enduring legacy as a radical meeting place, a prompt and as intergenerational inspiration. This exhibition acknowledges the work of Gee’s Bend quilters such as Sarah Benning (born 1933), Missouri Pettway (1902 – 1981), Lizzie Major (1922 – 2011), Sally Bennett Jones (1944 – 1988), Mary Lee Bendolph (born 1935) and so many more, as central to expanded histories of abstraction and modernism.
The quilts were originally produced for functional purposes and family use. Over time, cooperatives such as The Freedom Quilting Bee (est. 1966 in Rehoboth, Alabama and remaining in operation until 2012) and the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective (est. 2003) were impactful in shaping an alternative economic model that allowed for the quilters to raise funds for their community. The Freedom Quilting Bee also played a key role in political consciousness-raising by encouraging active participation in the drives for voting rights and advocates within the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Over time, a dynamic dialogue surrounding their work has expanded to international acclaim and enduring critical resonance.
The Heart Has Its Own Intelligence: Legacies of the Gee’s Bend Quilters
A roundtable discussion on the occasion of the exhibition ‘The New Bend’ featured in Ursula Magazine.
Image: Girl at Gee’s Bend, 1937. Courtesy Arthur Rothstein Legacy Project. Photo: Arthur Rothstein
While the account of modern art engages abstraction as a critical tool of experimentation, the narrative as it has been told to-date has not been inclusive of this group and the ways in which they continue to transform art history, visual culture and cultural production across localities and generations. Audrey Bennett, University of Michigan Professor of Art and Design, coined the term ‘heritage algorithms’ in 2016 to denote the goal of ‘not reducing culture to code, but expanding coding to embrace culture.’ In their co-authored essay ‘On Cultural Cyborgs’ (2020), Bennett and her collaborator Ron Eglash, Professor of Information, called to ‘decolonize cybernetics’ as a core component of ethnocomputing.
What the quilters of Gee’s Bend reveal via their transformative cooperative work is that they are both artists and technologists, contributing simultaneously to art history, as well as to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) practice. This duality exists in the work of each artist featured in this exhibition and many more beyond who continue to grow in this tradition. Thus, through their practice, the 12 artists on view in ‘The New Bend’ propose electrifying new directions, adding a promising new bend in this journey.
In Conversation: Mary Margaret Pettway with Diedrick Brackens
In conjunction with the Los Angeles edition of ‘The New Bend’, we were joined by fourth-generation Gee’s Bend quilter Mary Margaret Pettway and textile artist Diedrick Brackens and for a special conversation.
About the curator
Legacy Russell is a curator and writer. Born and raised in New York City, she is the Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Kitchen. Russell’s academic, curatorial and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, internet idolatry and new media ritual. Her written work, interviews and essays have been published internationally. Her first book, ‘Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto’ was published in 2020. Her second book, ‘BLACK MEME,’ is forthcoming via Verso Books. Russell received the Thoma Foundation Arts Writing Award in Digital Art in 2019, was a Rauschenberg Residency Fellow in 2020 and received the Creative Capital Award in 2021.
Image: Legacy Russell, 2021. Courtesy Legacy Russell. Photo: Andreas Laszlo Konrath
‘Community Lab: Threads of Connection’
A space for community learning inspired by ‘The New Bend’ that fosters social connections through artmaking. The Community Lab accompanies the exhibition to provide further historical context, as well as allowing new audiences to work with fabric and textiles, thereby connecting participants overseas through their shared appreciation for art history and craft.
‘The New Bend’ is on view now through 8 May 2023 at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. The gallery is open Tue – Sun, 10 am – 4 pm.