January 20, 2024 - September 15, 2024 | Textile Gallery

Quilting has always been a means of creative expression, uniting color and pattern to form an object of purpose. Just as paint on canvas functions, the fabric pieces work as practical art, stitched together to form beautiful abstract creations. The impression of quilts as simple craft or “women’s work,” began to shift in the early 1970s. The 20th century modern art movements had changed the perception of textile art, and quilts were no longer viewed as simply bed coverings designed for warmth, but as art in their own right.
(left) Scrap Quilt, 1934<br>(right) <i>Untitled</i>  (Abstract) by Sallie Frost Knerr, ca. 1970s (left) Scrap Quilt, 1934
(right) Untitled (Abstract) by Sallie Frost Knerr, ca. 1970s
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Today, the work is divided into categories: traditional quilts that are functional and follow historic patterns, art quilts designed as wall hangings for decoration, and modern quilts created from newly invented patterns that may serve as blanket, decor, or both. Despite these relatively recent distinctions, creativity has never been limited by theory.
The Charleston Museum’s 180+ historic quilt collection includes many examples of scrap quilts, crazy quilts, and quilts in traditional patterns executed with abstract coloring. Presented alongside modern works from the Gibbes Museum of Art, including paintings by Robert Rauschenberg and Sallie Frost Knerr, these quilts showcase the creativity and ingenuity of their makers. Enter the exhibit to see how they approached color, texture, and stitchwork with the same painterly expressiveness found in modern art.

“If modernism be a vital thing it must needs have roots in the past and be an essential expression of humanity: in short, it can only be a tradition.”

-Edwin Muir, “What is Modern” 1918