Rosie Lee Tompkins
African-American Quiltmaker

September 21 – November 23, 2002
at Peter Blum SoHo

Peter Blum is pleased to announce the exhibition, Rosie Lee Tompkins: African- American Quiltmaker, opening on September 21st, 2002 at the Peter Blum Gallery, 99 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10022.

Quilting lends itself to layered, complex and contradictory themes by the very nature of the medium which combines pieces of cloth that have been cut and reshaped and then reassembled. African-American quilts, in particular, are characterized by improvisation and irregular patterning. Unpredictability is the quality that sets these works apart.

The fertile interplay between New World quilting and the rhythms of music making and jazz dance have been recognized, as has the historic similarity to geometric accents in the woven raffia textiles from the Congo. However in the case of Rosie Lee Tompkins, increasingly it has been acknowledged, there is a correlation between her work and Modernist painting at its most pure expression. To quote Lawrence Rinder, from the catalog that accompanied Tompkin's solo show at the Berkeley Art Museum in 1997:  

"In front of Tompkin's work I feel that certain Modernist's ambitions may in fact be achievable. Here are feelings of awe, elation, and sublimity: here is an absolute mastery of color, texture, and composition: here is inventiveness and originality so palpable and intense that each work seems like a new and total risk, a risk so extreme that only utter faith in the power of the creative spirit could have engendered it."

Rosie Lee Tompkins is a pseudonym for a northern Californian quiltmaker who wishes to remain anonymous. One of 15 children Tompkins, born in 1936, grew up helping her mother "piece" quilts in rural South East Arkansas.

The ongoing recognition of this remarkable artist culminated in her solo show at the Berkeley Art Museum in1997 and more recently in her inclusion in the 2002 Biennale at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.