The small town of Boykin, Alabama, also known as Gee’s Bend, has a population of less than 300 people. But within the tight-knit African American enclave, in which many residents are descendants of slaves, a rich tradition of quilting has made the community world famous.
The colorful, patterned, hand-sewn textiles of Gee’s Bend, associated with quilters like Sarah Benning (b. 1933), Missouri Pettway (1902-1981), Lizzie Major (1922-2011), Sally Bennett Jones (1944-1988), and Mary Lee Bendolph (b.1935), tell the stories of community, family, tradition, and art in vibrant style. Today, building on and referencing the textile-art inspirations of Gee’s Bend, a new cohort of contemporary artists is taking quilting in new directions.
In a new show at Hauser & Wirth curated by Legacy Russell, artists embrace the history of quilting and apply contemporary considerations of gender, class, and technology. Twelve individuals—Anthony Akinbola, Eddie R. Aparicio, Dawn Williams Boyd, Diedrick Brackens, Tuesday Smillie, Tomashi Jackson, Genesis Jerez, Basil Kincaid, Eric N. Mack, Sojourner Truth Parsons, Qualeasha Wood, and Zadie Xa—comprising Russell’s presentation of “The New Bend” use textiles to continue the tradition of storytelling in art history.