Every museum has something to say to its collection. Imagine Santiago Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion and Reiman Bridge in Milwakee, WI with it’s high wires, wings, and wind swept contours housing the Gee’s bend collection. Years ago this is, yet completely unforgettable.
As if walking among the quilts and bed things of Gee’s bend you felt the museum it’s self was a huge clothes line. The weather and elements of the bay pouring through the windows and sweeping up the sentiments of an artistic community… Gee’s Bend, one of the most impoverished towns in America, creating some of the most jazzy, heart felt, and visceral art that you wanted to literally wrap yourself up in.
These quilts created during a period of history (1962-2006) when ferry’s were ended between the isolated black town and the more affluent white town, of course, just as voting was opening up and being encouraged by activists in the government. No doctors or professors lived in the bend, it was home to sharecroppers just a generation from living on the plantation down the road. Thus you feel the jazz radiating off of the mix of African and European that swirls together creating the quilts.
Calatrava who with swiss precision and a spanish flare for feeling often creates structures that will take you somewhere. And this exhibition was a perfect match. A structure burning for light feeds the flames. These echoes of design licking the edge of understanding.