ExhibitionsPatterns in Abstraction: Black Quilts from the High’s Collection
Future Exhibition

Patterns in Abstraction: Black Quilts from the High’s Collection

June 28, 2024 – January 5, 2025

Maker Once Known, Untitled (Housetop Quilt with Multiple Borders), ca. 1940s, cotton, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase through funds provided by patrons of Collectors Evening 2017, 2017.183.

2017.70 Pettway O4

Lucy T. Pettway (American, 1921–2004), Birds in the Air, 1981, cotton and cotton-polyester blend, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection, 2017.70.

2022.204 Johnson Crp O4

Marquetta Johnson (American, born 1955), Nine Patch, 2016–2018, hand-dyed and hand-painted cotton fabric, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of the artist, 2022.204.

Over the past six years, the High has more than quintupled its holdings of quilts made by Black women. This collection-based exhibition will be the first to bring a number of these recent acquisitions together to answer a larger question: “How can quilts made by African American women change how we view the history of abstraction?”

Patterns in Abstraction will include about a dozen works by well-known Gee’s Bend quilters such as Mary Lee Bendolph, Louisiana Bendolph, and Lucy T. Pettway, along with works by Atlanta-based quilter Marquetta Johnson and early twentieth-century examples by artists once known. The quilts on view are mostly variations on Birds in the Air and Housetop themes, two centuries-old quilt patterns that are geometric distillations of natural phenomenon and humanmade environments, while others have deeper meanings as memorials to family members.

Presented as both objects made for use and with the artistic intent to represent people, places, and things abstractly, these quilts offer a window into how the production of nonacademic artists can transform our understanding of artistic innovation in American art. A corresponding publication through LINK, the museum’s platform for online engagement, will offer multimedia and interactive content related to the High’s expanded and growing collection of Black quilts.

This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor 

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters

Mr. Joseph H. Boland, Jr.

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters 

Farideh and Al Azadi

Generous support is also provided by  

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.