His most famous efforts in this regard are his narrative quilts – in effect, paintings on quilted fabric – which relay both real and fictional aspects of his life and memories, as well as allusions to black history. and women. The quilts cover a wide range of both political and personal topics, from the depredation of black neighborhoods to women’s bodily issues.
Ringgold learned quilting from her mother, who in turn learned it from her mother, a former slave, forging a line of matriarchal wisdom that resonates through the quilts. Indeed, their artisanal quality makes it easy to confuse them with the efforts of a foreign artist.
Despite their folkloric appearance, Ringgold’s works are rich in references to the history of art. In fact, the MoMA twinning Pass away with The ladies doesn’t seem so wrong when we learn that Ringgold cites Picasso as a major influence, especially on Pass away himself, which was modeled after Picasso Guernica (1937). Ringgold’s admiration for Picasso, as well as Matisse, was such that eulogies both appear in his exuberant cycle of quilts, The French Collection Part I.
With all due respect to Ringgold quilts, previous Pass away is undoubtedly his masterpiece. Part of a provocative group of canvases that shares its title with the exhibition, Die measures an impressive six by twelve feet and features a jagged, blood-splattered composition of a black and white populace (men in black pants, white shirts and neckties; women in yellow-orange dresses) killing each other with guns and knives as their mutually assured destruction unfolds against a grid of gray blocks. A veritable chart in the history of social disintegration, this vision would have seemed extreme a few years ago, but not anymore.