Faith Ringgold ‘American People,’ a retrospective opens at the New Museum

Opening February 17 through June 5, the New Museum presents the first full retrospective of artist Faith Ringgold. Showing over fifty years of work, “Faith Ringgold: American People,” is the most comprehensive assessment of Ringgold’s work.” An artist, author, educator, and organizer, Ringgold becomes “a key figure whose work links the multi-disciplinary achievements of the Harlem Renaissance to the political art of young Black artists working today.”

Civil Rights

One of the most in-depth perspectives from an artist working during the civil rights era, her work captures the tension and severity of the divisive period. Ringgold’s work spans across multiple media including works on canvas, quilts, and lithographs. Additionally in the show are documents and photographs that provide further context to the work (Art Workers’ Coalition, letters to the MOMA, and moments of protest).

This show comes at a time where race, history, and ideology are under scrutiny in America. This retrospective captures the environment Ringgold served tirelessly to question and also to provide a sense of optimism through awareness.

Some of most striking works include American People Series #1: Between Friends, 1963, American People Series #20: Die, 1967, and American People Series #13: God Bless America, 1964. These works capture a fever pitch moment in American history which aptly tie back to contextualize the present.

Interestingly, Ringgold embraced non-Western and American craft traditions substituting them for unstretched canvases with sewn fabric borders, inspired by Tibetan thangkas. This is described as Ringgold’s “attempts to transcend a predominantly white art historical tradition to find forms more suitable for the radical exploration of gender and racial identity that her work would go on to enact.”

Quilts

Additionally, Ringgold’s story quilts form a large part of her oeuvre. “Drawing on both personal autobiography and collective histories, the story quilts point to larger social conditions and cultural transformations—from the Harlem Renaissance to the realities of Ringgold’s life as a working mother, artist, and activist.”

Explore a selection of works below, courtesy of the New Museum.

“Faith Ringgold: American People” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director, and Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Curator, with Madeline Weisburg, Curatorial Assistant.

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