A great textile-y start to 2016. Last weekend, 9 – 10th January 2016, I caught a couple of textile exhibitions in London just before they ended. In fact, I went down specially for them, as one in particular had work that I’d only seen in books.
The first one I went to was the Fabric of India at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
This was a huge show, taking up all of the galleries that the V & A use for their temporary shows. It was pretty comprehensive too, covering work from thousands of years ago to that produced by contemporary fashion designers. I watched a video about Ghandi and Khadi cloth which was interesting and I enjoyed the contemporary work too.
Then it was a 2 mile walk to St James’s to the White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard, itself worthy of a special trip, to see both the yard, which appears little changed since the time of Dickens, and the large modernist building that houses the White Cube in the middle of it. (You can Google images of it, but I wasn’t able to download an image to put here, sorry).
The exhibition, entitled ‘Losing the Compass’ featured textile work by a range of artists and included selection of quilts which were labelled as Amish and Gee’s Bend. As I have only seen Gee’s Bend quilts in the book of the same name, I wanted to see some of these in the flesh as it were. They were displayed in a very odd way, I thought and you can see it here.
Most of the quilts laid out on large steps overlapping with each other, which didn’t allow the viewer to see the whole quilt.
Amish and Gee’s Bend quilts laid out on steps
On the opposite side of the gallery three were hung from a single point on the gallery wall. I was reminded of the dormitory of one of my favourite French refuges, the Marialles, where I saw the same thing done with the blanket for each mattress in the communal dormitory. I think this is quite stylish for a fleece blanket, as each one has a large eyelet so it can go on a nail above each bed, but as a way of displaying a pieced quilt I think it is deeply flawed. Firstly the quilt can’t be seen in its entirety, because of the deep folds that are created, and secondly, and possibly more importantly, the quilt is put under a huge strain as its weight is being supported by one point.
Gee’s Bend quilt at the White Cube Gallery
Blankets hanging in a French mountain refuge
So although it was wonderful to have the chance to see these textiles overall it was a rather frustrating experience. There was no context or provenance given for the quilts and I couldn’t help contrasting both the way in which they were displayed and the lack of information with what might have been had they been shown in the gallery of the Quilters’ Guild in York. This ironically closed at the end of October last year due to low visitor numbers but was the site of some excellent displays of historic and contemporary quilts. You can see images of it here.
The third exhibition I visited is on for a while longer and that was at the Whitechapel Gallery about a movement called the Kibbo Kift. This was a display of memorabilia which included banners and costume as well as papers, photos and letters. You can see some of it here:
So lots of interesting things to see at the beginning of 2016. Please keep reading, there’s another exhibition that I’m going to post about SOON!