Ramekon O’Arwisters: Flowered Thorns
From the Collection of Roderick Kiracofe: American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000
Exhibition Dates: September 11 – October 23, 2021
Reception: Saturday, September 11 from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
☞ Zoom Event: Thursday, September 23rd, 4:30 pm PDT/ 7:30 EST. In Conversation with Curator Glenn Adamson & Ramekon O’Arwisters. Watch online here.
Glenn Adamson is a curator, writer and historian based in New York. Co-host of the online interview series Design in Dialogue, he has previously been Director of the Museum of Arts and Design; Head of Research at the V&A; and Curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee. Adamson’s publications include Thinking Through Craft (2007); The Craft Reader (2010); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion (2011, co-edited with Jane Pavitt); The Invention of Craft (2013); Art in the Making (2016, co-authored with Julia Bryan-Wilson; and Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018). His newest book is Craft: An American History, published by Bloomsbury.
PATRICIA SWEETOW GALLERY is pleased to present San Francisco artist Ramekon O’Arwisters in a one-person exhibition, with sculpture from two series, Cheesecake & Flowered Thorns, along with rewoven quilt tops from the Eli Leon Estate. In our second gallery we will present an installation of quilt tops from the collection of Roderick Kiracofe.
Ramekon O’Arwisters new sculpture, Flowered Thorns, dives into the abyss with large, sharp ceramic shards strapped and knotted together, embellished with shredded fabric. They stand as cultural totems, embodying the couture of drag, along with the rich history of African American quilting. This series has been brewing in his studio the past two years as Covid, racial injustice, climate change and political chicanery were normalized. While there are numerous parables about thorns and thistles, one learned very early is the origin story of Adam and Eve. The telling of this parable posits thorns didn’t exist prior to Adam succumbing to an eroticized Eve, the original “dangerous woman”. That Eve changed the course of nature is astounding, but beyond Eve, there’s the issue of thorns. Let’s face it, thorns have a bad rap, they’re stand-ins for sin, illegitimacy, threat, exclusion – wars wage over “thorns.” Thus, we circle back to Flowered Thorns, as O’Arwisters adroitly turns prevailing orthodoxies on their ear with his compelling communion of opposing materials that cohabitate with elegant grace. His sculpture amplifies an alternative message, the thorns that bite are not the threat, but the liberating difference that bestow purpose and meaning.
Cheesecake, completed in 2019, are diminutive and glamorous. Each sculpture is densely wrapped and draped with decorative fabric, interspersed with small ceramic shards. The moniker Cheesecake is subverted from its intended reference of objectifying a man or woman, to a fully embraced description referring to his glammed-up ‘objects’.
Ramekon O’Arwisters is the 2021 recipient of the McLaughlin Award for The Project Space at The Headlands Center for the Arts, Artist-in-Residence program. In addition he received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for 2020/21. Past artist-in-residence programs include the de Young Museum Artist in Residence, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Recology San Francisco Artists-in-Residence Program and the Vermont Studio Center. Grants and Awards include Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue, NY, the San Francisco Foundation, the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Program, Black Artists Fund, Sacramento, and the Eureka Fellow awarded by the Fleishhacker Foundation in San Francisco. His work has been featured in Sculpture Magazine, the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, 7×7 Magazine, Artnet, and the San Francisco Examiner. Born in Kernersville, North Carolina, O’Arwisters earned a M.Div. from Duke University Divinity School in 1986. O’Arwisters is the founder of Crochet Jam, a community arts project infused with folk-art traditions that foster a creative culture in cooperative relationships.
Upcoming exhibitions include Untitled Miami 2021, and Queer Threads at the Textile Museum, San Jose in 2022.
*Thanks to contributors Tony Marsh, Christopher Miles and Dino Capaldi for saving their ceramic shards.
On Thursday, September 9th at 4pm, Elaine Y. Yau, Associate Curator at BAMPFA, led a virtual Zoom conversation with artist Ramekon O’Arwisters & collector Roderick Kiracofe. Elaine Y. Yau is Associate Curator of the Eli Leon Living Trust Collection of African American Quilts at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), where she is organizing an exhibition from Leon’s historic bequest of approximately 3,000 quilts. She co-curated Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective in 2020 with Larry Rinder, an exhibition deepened her long-standing engagement with art at the intersections of craft, vernacular culture, and modernism. She has published on artists such as Gertrude Morgan and Minnie Evans, and her critical essay on folk art was included in The Routledge Companion to African American Art History in 2019. Her research has been supported by the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art; and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In our back gallery, renowned quilt connoisseur and collector Roderick Kiracofe will be sharing his storied collection of quilts. Shrouding our 12 x 12 foot gallery in quilt tops, along with finished quilts cascading from various containers, the environment promises an immersion in the stories and tradition of quilt making. His authoritative book, Unconventional & Unexpected, originally published in 2014 is now in its 2nd edition, and can be preordered through Quiltfolk.
We’re so pleased that Roderick has agreed to share this important collection with us. His collection is primarily from unknown makers, hailing from Texas, Alabama and other locations in the South and Mid-West. The beauty and creativity of pattern, color and technique radiate with or without origin stories. We are privileged to view a truly American art form, the collective lens shared by diverse communities of mostly women, conserved by the Kiracofe collection.
PDF catalogs will be available for both exhibitions.