FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #15: Hide Little Children,” 1966
THE EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS and women artists half a century ago, their fight to make any kind of art they wanted and struggles to be recognized and have their work represented in mainstream institutions, has come to the fore in recent books and exhibitions. Faith Ringgold, 87, was at the center of that history, produced work that reflects the American race and gender narrative, and continues to thrive making contemporary work today.
Riggold’s first European solo exhibition opened at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London on Thursday. On view through April 28, the show features a selection of paintings from her American People Series (1963-67), a body of work that explores the 1960s era as she saw it and lived it, and examples of her story quilts, dating from the 1980s to the present.
“Throughout the 1960s, Ringgold produced politically charged paintings that shattered the notion of the American dream, highlighting racial and gender inequalities rife in society. Rendered in a style that synthesizes post-Cubist Picasso, Pop Art and traditional African sculpture and design, the figures in these paintings reflect the tension arising from interracial contact and the psychological substructure of racism in everyday life,” the gallery press release states.
“From the early 1970s, Ringgold was instrumental in the organization of protests against the predominantly male art world. Focusing her attention upon the Whitney Annual, Ringgold demanded that 50 percent of the artists should be female. In 1971, she set up Where We At, Black Women Artists, Inc (WWA), a collective of black female artists who felt neglected not only by the mainstream but also by the male dominated Black Arts Movement and the largely white Feminist one.”
“Rendered in a style that synthesizes post-Cubist Picasso, Pop Art and traditional African sculpture and design, the figures in [Faith Ringgold’s] paintings reflect the tension arising from interracial contact and the psychological substructure of racism in everyday life.”
Ringgold’s early activism is documented in Susan E. Cahan’s book, “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power,” and her work is presented in two recent group exhibitions “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85,” organized by the Brooklyn Museum, and “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” the Tate Modern show currently on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. In New York, “American People Series #20: Die,” the final painting in the series that graphically depicts a race riot, is on view in the collection galleries at the Museum of Modern Art.
FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #9: The American Dream,” 1964 (oil on canvas, 91.4 x 61.1 cm, 36 x 24.1 in.). | Courtesy the artist, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London and ACA Galleries, New York
NEW JERSEY-BASED RINGGOLD gave the 2018 Chubb Fellowship Lecture at Yale on Feb. 15 and the university used the occasion to announce she was selected by the Grace Hopper College Window Commission Committee to design new windows for the Hopper residential dining hall. In 2016, a Yale dishwasher smashed a slavery-themed stained-glass window in the space. He viewed the image as an affront and took the action out of frustration. The damage prompted the commission for a replacement.
For the lecture, Ringgold presented an overview of her 60-year career and discussed her many bodies of work, including the American People, Black Light (1967-69), and Coming to Jones Road (1999-2010) series, her story quilts, mosaic murals for the New York City and Los Angeles transit systems, and the many children’s books she has authored and illustrated.
She briefly discussed each of the 20 paintings in her American People Series. When she arrived at #15 (“Hide Little Children”), which depicts five children barely visible among a dense patch of leafy plants, Ringgold asked the audience who are they, why are they hiding, and from whom?
“Two of these girls are my daughters Barbara and Michele. Who are the other children? Well, they are kids they went to school with.” she said. “…I wanted to show them playing, trying to be friends, trying to avoid the racism that followed children, that follows, continues to follow, children everywhere.”
Ringgold shared the genesis for some of her works, pointed out the symbolism she embedded in her images, and mentioned the importance of titles and their influence on how a work of art is perceived during the lecture. She had some challenges navigating her visual presentation, but didn’t miss a beat, talking right through the missteps, conveying invaluable personal insights about her work and path as an artist.
“Art is important because you can tell what happened to people all over the world at any time in their history from looking at their art,” Ringgold said. “I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to help tell the story of African Americans in America at the time when I was living, when I was alive and I got that opportunity to do that by becoming an artist.”
The London presentation of “Faith Ringgold: Paintings and Story Quilts, 1964-2017” (Feb. 23-April 28, 2018) at Pippy Houldsworth coincides with a forthcoming public talk by Ringgold at the Tate Modern on April 19. CT
TOP IMAGE: FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #15: Hide Little Children,” 1966 (oil on canvas, 66 x 121.9 cm, 26 x 48 in.). | Courtesy the artist, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London and ACA Galleries, New York
“American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” explores some of the paintings featured in the artist’s new exhibition at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London. Ringgold’s work is also featured in the catalogs for two sweeping exhibitions documenting the experience of black women artists (We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85: “Sourcebook” “New Perspectives”), and the wide variety of ways African American artists expressed themselves in the 1960s and 70s (“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power”). In addition, Ringgold has published many books for children.
FAITH RINGGOLD, “Bitter Nest, Part III: Lovers in Paris,” 1988 (acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, 243.8 x 210.8 cm, 96 x 83 in.). | Courtesy the artist, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London and ACA Galleries, New York
FAITH RINGGOLD, “Coming to Jones Road Part II n.7 Our Secret Wedding in the Woods,” 2010 (acrylic on canvas with fabric border, 154.9 x 147.3 cm, 61 x 58 in.). | Courtesy the artist, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London and ACA Galleries, New York
FAITH RINGGOLD, “American People Series #16: Woman Looking in a Mirror,” 1966 (oil on canvas, 84 x 81.2 cm, 33 x 32 in.). | Courtesy the artist, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London and ACA Galleries, New York
Faith Ringgold delivered the 2018 Chubb Fellowship Lecture at Yale University on Feb. 15, 2018. She begins the talk about her 60-year career titled “Anyone Can Fly” at (9:30) and discusses her self-portrait (17:56), American People (19:43), Black Light (36:25) and story quilt works (48:25), among many others. | Video by Yale University Art Gallery
SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
To help offset a small portion of the countless hours and expense required to research, report, write and produce the content on this website, Culture Type participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to help sites earn commissions by linking to amazon.com. When you make ANY merchandise purchase from Amazon, and the many independent booksellers and vendors that partner with Amazon, via a link from this site, Culture Type receives a minute percentage of its price. Your support is much appreciated.