FAITH RINGGOLD at Serpentine Gallery

Image credit: Faith Ringgold, Jazz Stories: Mama Can Sing, Papa Can Blow #1: Somebody Stole My Broken Heart, 2004, Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, © 2018 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York

I can’t get through the world without recognizing that race and sex influence
everything I do in my life.’ Faith Ringgold
The ground-breaking work of Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, Harlem, New York) is
celebrated in this exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, her first in a
European institution. For more than five decades, Ringgold has
consistently challenged perceptions of African American identity and
gender inequality through the lenses of the feminist and the civil rights
movements. As cultural assumptions and prejudices persist, her work
retains its contemporary resonance.
Focusing on different series that she has created over the past 50 years,
this survey of her work will include paintings, story quilts and political
posters made during the Black Power movement including one to free
activist Angela Davis.
Growing up in the creative and intellectual context of the Harlem
Renaissance, Ringgold has worked prolifically since the early 1960s, and
is widely recognised for her politically charged paintings, story
quilts, protest posters, popular children’s books and as an influential art
educator. Protest and activism have remained integral to Ringgold’s
practice, she co-founded the group the National Black Feminist
Organization in 1973 along with her then 18 year-old daughter, Michele
Wallace and in 2016 she published We Came to America, a children’s book
that celebrates cultural diversity.
In her practice Ringgold draws upon a wide range of visual and cultural
sources, from the traditions of quilt-making and its position within the
history of slavery to early European Modernism, to tankas – richly brocaded
Tibetan paintings – and the graphic symbolism of African masks.
In the 1960s, for her ‘American People’ series (1963-67) Ringgold took the
American dream as her subject to expose social inequalities. By the 1970s,
Ringgold, with Wallace, was leading protests against the lack of diversity in
the exhibitions programme at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art,
and in 2018 saw her work included in an exhibition there on the subject of
protest. Ringgold’s quilts dating from the early 1980s weave together her
personal stories and writings with the history of African Americans – a
tradition passed on to her by her great-great grandmother Susie Shannon
who was born into slavery and was made to sew quilts for plantation
owners.
A vital figure in the canon of American art, Ringgold has also written a
much-read autobiography We Flew Over the Bridge (1995): ‘I have always
wanted to tell my story, or, more to the point, my side of the story.’
A partnership with MATCHESFASHION.COM brings a series of activations in
London and New York to celebrate Ringgold’s Serpentine exhibition. These
include an in-conversation between the artist and Serpentine Artistic
Director Hans Ulrich Obrist at their 5 Carlos Place residency at Frieze New
York (1 May) which can be viewed live online, and a Faith Ringgold Reading
Room at 5 Carlos Place, London W1, showcasing books and music that have
inspired the artist, which is open to the public throughout June. For more
information on these events please visit MATCHESFASHION.COM.
A Serpentine Big Family Weekend inspired by Ringgold’s work as educator
and children’s author will explore themes of art and activism, poetry and
print with artist-led workshops and performances for children and families
on 29 and 30 June.
Biography
Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, Harlem, New York) is an artist, teacher, lecturer and
author of numerous award-winning children’s books. She received her BS
and MA degrees in visual art from City College of New York in 1955 and
1959. Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego,
Ringgold has received 23 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. She is the
recipient of more than 80 awards and honours including the John Simon
Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; The American Academy of
Arts and Letters Award and recently the Medal of Honour for Fine Arts
from the National Arts Club. In 2017, Ringgold was elected as a member
into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston.
Ringgold’s work has been shown internationally, most recently in the group
exhibition Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate Modern,
London (2017), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2018),
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn and The Broad, Los Angeles (2019); We
Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965 – 85, Brooklyn Museum
(2017), Post-Picasso Contemporary Reactions, Museu Picasso, Barcelona,
Spain (2014) and American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of
the 1960’s, the Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York (2011) and National
Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington (2013).
Ringgold’s work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums in
the United States including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of
Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum, The Brooklyn Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem all in
New York; The National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; The Art
Institute of Chicago; and The Boston Museum of Fine Art.

When: 6 June – 8 September 2019

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