Fondation des États-Unis | November 3-30 : Exhibition « The Crazy Quilts, or the Fabric of Disobedience » | Opening on November 2
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November 3-30 : Exhibition « The Crazy Quilts, or the Fabric of Disobedience » | Opening on November 2

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The Crazy Quilts, or the Fabric of Disobedience
An exhibition of quilts from the collection of Charles-Edouard de Broin

Patchwork has not always followed the rules. For a time, crazy quilts were all the rage, leaving behind the classic, often geometrical, patterns and renewing the bold inventiveness of American quilt-makers.

To understand these genuine showpieces, we must consider how the country started. American independence, or even resistance, has often expressed itself through patchwork, in particular during the 19th century when “Protest quilts” were used to defend major national causes, such as the abolition of slavery, the temperance movement or women’s suffrage.

Quilters drew inspiration from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, a big event in Victorian society, where visitors could marvel at the Japanese pavilion with its silk screens and crazed ceramics.

Crazy quilting rapidly grew in popularity among upper-class women, who pieced together single quilts from hundreds of different, usually luxurious, fabrics.

The crazy quilt, with its creative figures suggested by women’s magazines and further embellished by the infinite imagination of quilters, allowed significant freedom of expression. What emerged from this magnificent era was a textile universe featuring stars, fans, owls, daisies, spiders, horseshoes and butterflies, and incorporating names, dates, and other symbols with pure poetic license.

The crazy was also an opportunity to showcase one’s heritage: from the vast variety of fabrics made available by the newly industrialized 19th century textile industry to one’s skills. In an over-the-top fashion that gives it all its charm, velvet and silk blend with taffeta, satin and brocade in overcrowded compositions, embellished with lace, ribbons, beading, andsequins, and embroidered in a wide range of stitches. Less wealthy but equally imaginative, quilters of rural areas recycled sturdier, more affordable fabrics for their personal compositions, often to be deciphered as a riddle.

Crazy quilts were already falling out of fashion around 1910.

It is an immense privilege to have here some specimens on loan from Charles-Edouard de Broin, a very wise but also crazy collector, crazy about his crazies, and for good reason. The magnificent gallery of the US Foundation serves as a perfect showcase for them. I’d like to extend our sincere appreciation to him for offering us such a kaleidoscope of grace, color and beauty.

~ Geraldine Chouard, Curator

Charles-Edouard de Broin, Collector

“My interest in folk art began when I was a boy. I discovered the world of patchwork while working in oil exploration, first in Sydney and afterwards in Houston, Texas, the Mecca for patchwork fans, and my home for many years.

My esthetic fondness for these quilts and my fascination with their geometry and graphic impact quickly turned into a passion for their historical and cultural relevance. This is now the main purpose of my interest in the practice.

Of course, my tastes have changed over the 30 plus years that I’ve been collecting quilts. I’ve collected everything from the ‘Log Cabins’ and their variations to more audacious and/or abstract quilts, as well as the vibrant ‘Amish’ quilts. Today, I’m particularly interested in ‘Crazy’ quilts.”

Géraldine Chouard, Curator

Géraldine Chouard is a Professor at the University of Paris-Dauphine and a specialist in American visual culture. She has a keen interest in patchwork, which has fascinated her for over 20 years. Her research is based on the historical and cultural aspects of art practice. She has collaborated on several exhibitions such as “Quilt Art: l’Art du patchwork”, at the Centre Mona Bismarck Center in 2013.

She has produced two documentaries about contemporary patchwork artists with Anne Crémieux (University of Paris-Nanterre): Riché Richardson: Portrait of an Artist. From Montgomery to Paris (2009) and Gwendolyn Magee, Mississippi. Threads of History (2012).

She was a member of the editorial board of L’Amérique des images (Hazan/Paris-Diderot, 2013), a book dedicated to the history and visual culture of the United States. She has also been a member of the editorial board of Transatlantica since 2001, where she directs the “Trans’Arts” section about the American visual arts. Read her detailed biography here.

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday from 10am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 6pm.
Evenings or weekends by appointment only: culture@feusa.org

Guided tours: Tuesday, November 8, 15, 22 and 29 at 4pm

The exhibition will be closed on the 30th of November !

The vernissage will take place on Wednesday, November 2 at 7pm as part of Art-Hop-Polis, art hopping at the Cité internationale. Seven other residences – Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, India, Brazil, Portugal and Tunisia – also invite you to discover their exhibitions. The detailed program is available on CitéScope.

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