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For the Survey section of Art Basel Miami Beach 2019, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present, Faith Ringgold: A Family History, a focused selection of work that examines America’s racial history and politics by means of the artist’s own story. Throughout her career, Ringgold has addressed the experience of African Americans, but only rarely through the lens of the self-portrait. Here the intimacy of a personal narrative is woven together with the wider politics of her practice. The booth will offer the opportunity to see key works from the artist’s solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London this summer before they tour to Bildmuseet, Umea and Glenstone Museum, Potomac.

The presentation focuses on the three large-scale Slave Rape (1972) paintings, presented in the US for the first time in decades. Fear Will Make You Weak, Run You Might Get Away and Fight to Save Your Life, are significant as the artist’s last oil paintings on canvas and her only ‘tankas’ or quilts to use this medium: from hereon she used acrylic, which allowed her to roll the works for transport. The paintings were made at a turning point in Ringgold’s career, marking the first time she brought issues of race and gender together in the same work and being the earliest collaboration with her mother, Willi Posey, who made the fabric borders. Ringgold addresses the rape of slaves, examining the position of African American women through the lens of her female ancestors. The paintings comprise stylised portraits of the artist and her two daughters, touching on issues of motherhood and representation of the black female body. The three women, vulnerable in their nudity, yet active in pose, are urged to resist and fight. The artist depicts herself pregnant and grasping an axe, lively in self-defence and protective of her unborn child. Ringgold, who learnt the art of quilting from her mother and grandmother in turn, ties together her ancestral history with three current generations of the family.

Alongside, Ringgold further explores the bond between mother and child in The Flag is Bleeding #2 (American Collection #6) (1997). The work is a response to her American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), highlighted in the ground-breaking, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power as part of its tour in the US. A mother shelters her two naked children against the backdrop of the American flag, reconfigured with harrowing potency: the red stripes drip blood – providing an antithetical image of the freedom and rights that the flag is meant to symbolise. Ringgold explains

“Jasper Johns presented a beautiful, but incomplete idea. To complete it I wanted to show some of the hell that had broken out in the States.” Drawing a parallel between the African textile border and the geometry of the flag, Ringgold says “the flag is the only subversive and revolutionary abstraction one can paint”. While Flag Is Bleeding #1 addresses the dominance of white supremacy, the marginalisation of the black man, and the invisibility of the black woman, Flag is Bleeding #2 highlights the heroic role of the black woman in protecting her children.

The artist has adapted the tradition of the American slave quilt, a medium through which enslaved women were able to make their voice heard. That the artist's great-great-grandmother was born into slavery and produced quilts for plantation owners lends Ringgold's work a deeper, personal register.

About the artist

Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) lives and works in New Jersey. Her work is included in over 50 prominent public collections including Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; MoMA, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Smithsonian Institute of Art, Washington; Baltimore Museum of Art; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Newark Museum and St. Louis Art Museum, to name a few.

Ringgold has received more than 75 awards, fellowships, citations and honours, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship for painting, two National Endowment for the Arts Awards (for painting and sculpture) and 23 honorary doctorates. Ringgold is professor emeritus at the University of California in San Diego, California.

In 2016, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired a significant mural-scale painting American People Series #20: Die (1967) for its permanent collection and has recently published a monograph on the work. As part of the museum’s new expansion, the work is currently on show alongside Pablo Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon (1907), offering a reevaluation of both paintings and highlighting the importance of Ringgold’s practice.

Earlier this year, the Serpentine Galleries, London presented Faith Ringgold, the artist’s first solo institutional exhibition in Europe. Group exhibitions this year include Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; America Will Be! Surveying the Contemporary Landscape, Dallas Museum of Art; and Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington. Ringgold’s current projects include a commission to design a new set of windows for Grace Hopper College and Ageing-aling-aling, a series of work that addresses the issue of aging.

Ringgold is represented by ACA Galleries, New York.

For further information please contact:
Katharine Higgs
+44 207 734 7760

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