Serpentine Galleries to Showcase work of Faith Ringgold

The ground-breaking work of Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, Harlem, New York) will be celebrated in an 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, soft sculptures and political posters made during the Black Power movement including one to free activist Angela Davis.

Faith Ringgold,The Flag is Bleeding #2 (American Collection #6), 1997 Acrylic on canvas, painted and pieced border 193 x 200.7 cm Private collection, courtesy Pi

Faith Ringgold’s The Flag is Bleeding, 1997 Acrylic on canvas.

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, soft sculptures 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.

Ringgold early works 16 a man kissing his wife 1964-press page5

Ringgold’s early works, A man kissing his wife, 1964.

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.

 The exhibition will go on at the Serpentine Galleries, London from June 6 to September 8, 2019.

Pic courtesy: Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York