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The Radical Quilting of Rosie Lee Tompkins (NYT)


By Roberta Smith, June 29, 2020, NYT. 

D54C4789-F08D-43EB-881A-C812098F720DIn 1997 I walked into the Berkeley Art Museum to be greeted by a staggering sight: an array of some 20 quilts unlike any I had ever seen. Their unbridled colors, irregular shapes and nearly reckless range of textiles telegraphed a tremendous energy and the implacable ambition, and confidence, of great art.

They were crafted objects that transcended quilting, with the power of painting. This made them canon-busting, and implicitly subversive. They gave off a tangible heat. I left in a state of shock — I knew I had been instantly converted but I didn’t yet know to what.

Tompkins’s work, I came to realize, was one of the century’s major artistic accomplishments, giving quilt-making a radical new articulation and emotional urgency. I felt I had been given a new standard against which to measure contemporary art.

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