Art Exhibitions ARTS and CULTURE

FAITH RINGGOLD 6 June – 8 September 2019 Serpentine Gallery

Written by Staff Writer



6 June – 8 September 2019 Serpentine Gallery


‘I can’t get through the world without recognizing that race and sex influence everything I do in my life.’ Faith Ringgold

The ground-breaking work of Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, Harlem, New York) is celebrated in this exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, her first in a European institution. For more than five decades, Ringgold has consistently challenged perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality through the lenses of the feminist and the civil rights movements. As cultural assumptions and prejudices persist, her work retains its contemporary resonance.

Focusing on different series that she has created over the past 50 years, this survey of her work will include paintings, story quilts and political posters made during the Black Power movement including one to free activist Angela Davis.

Growing up in the creative and intellectual context of the Harlem Renaissance, Ringgold has worked prolifically since the early 1960s, and is widely recognised for her politically charged paintings, story quilts, protest posters, popular children’s books and as an influential art educator. Protest and activism have remained integral to Ringgold’s practice, she co-founded the group the National Black Feminist Organization in 1973 along with her then 18 year-old daughter, Michele Wallace and in 2016 she published We Came to America, a children’s book that celebrates cultural diversity.

Faith Ringgold, American People #15: Hide Little Children, 1966 Oil on canvas 66 x 121.9 cm Private collection, courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London © 2018 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


In her practice Ringgold draws upon a wide range of visual and cultural sources, from the traditions of quilt-making and its position within the history of slavery to early European Modernism, to tankas – richly brocaded Tibetan paintings – and the graphic symbolism of African masks.

In the 1960s, for her ‘American People’ series (1963-67) Ringgold took the American dream as her subject to expose social inequalities. By the 1970s, Ringgold, with Wallace, was leading protests against the lack of diversity in the exhibitions programme at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and in 2018 saw her work included in an exhibition there on the subject of protest. Ringgold’s quilts dating from the early 1980s weave together her personal stories and writings with the history of African Americans – a tradition passed on to her by her great-great grandmother Susie Shannon who was born into slavery and was made to sew quilts for plantation owners.

A vital figure in the canon of American art, Ringgold has also written a much-read autobiography We Flew Over the Bridge (1995):

A partnership with MATCHESFASHION.COM brings a series of activations in London and New York to celebrate Ringgold’s Serpentine exhibition. These include an in-conversation between the artist and Serpentine Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist at their 5 Carlos Place residency at Frieze New York (1 May) which can be viewed live online, and a Faith Ringgold Reading Room at 5 Carlos Place, London W1, showcasing books and music that have inspired the artist, which is open to the public throughout June.

For more information on these events please visit MATCHESFASHION.COM.

A Serpentine Big Family Weekend inspired by Ringgold’s work as educator and children’s author will explore themes of art and activism, poetry and print with artist-led workshops and performances for children and families on 29 and 30 June.

Faith Ringgold, Jazz Stories: Mama Can Sing, Papa Can Blow #1: Somebody Stole My Broken Heart, 2004, Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border, © 2018 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York


Faith Ringgold (b. 1930, Harlem, New York) is an artist, teacher, lecturer and author of numerous award-winning children’s books. She received her BS and MA degrees in visual art from City College of New York in 1955 and 1959. Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of California in San Diego, Ringgold has received 23 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. She is the recipient of more than 80 awards and honours including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award and recently the Medal of Honour for Fine Arts from the National Arts Club. In 2017, Ringgold was elected as a member into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston.

Ringgold’s work has been shown internationally, most recently in the group exhibition Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Tate Modern, London (2017), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2018), Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn and The Broad, Los Angeles (2019); We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965 – 85, Brooklyn Museum (2017), Post-Picasso Contemporary Reactions, Museu Picasso, Barcelona, Spain (2014) and American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960’s, the Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York (2011) and National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington (2013).

Ringgold’s work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums in the United States including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Brooklyn Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem all in New York; The National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; The Art Institute of Chicago; and The Boston Museum of Fine Art.


Staff Writer
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