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Red & White Quilts at the Armory

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday March 29, 2011

If you thought orthographic projections and Op Art were something new from the 1960s, think again – and get to the the Park Avenue Armory before Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Qui ends tomorrow at 5:00 pm.

A collection of 651 American quilts has taken over the cavernous Wade Thompson Drill Hall, suspended from invisible wires like hundreds of heraldic banners frozen in space. Their owner, Joanna Semel Rose, who describes herself as a treasure hunter, not a collector, says, “ When my husband asked what I would like for my eightieth birthday, I said, ‘Something I’ve not seen before and something that would be a gift for New York City.’ Seeing all of these quilts at the same moment would be the ideal gift.”

Mrs. Rose goes on to say that she began picking up quilts at flea markets during the 1950s, paying 5 to 10 dollars apiece for these hand sewn bedcovers before they came to be seen as collectible items. Created over a span of 300 years, the designs range from traditional motifs to strong graphic designs to playful optical illusions. There is even one that looks like monster-scale ric rac (detail, below right and below left, bottom row, center).

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As fascinating as the quilts - and the story behind the color red - is the installation by the New York City design firm, Thinc. The quilts rise to the rafters of the eight-story hall that is usually seen filled with booths for art and antiques shows. To experience this 55,000 square foot interior space unimpeded is another treat not to be missed.

Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts continues through Wednesday, March 25 at the Park Avenue Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, NY. NY. Tuesday, March 29: 11am-7pm. Wednesday, March 30: 11am-5pm. Admission is free.

The exhibition was organized by the American Folk Art Museum and guest curated by Elizabeth V. Warren, who is currently producing an illustrated catalog of the collection. Click to view the installation in process. Currently on view at the museum is Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum, a two-part exhibition. The first installation can be seen through April 24, 2011 and the second from May 10 to October 16, 2011. At the museum's branch location at Lincoln Square is the exhibition Super Stars: Quilts from the Collection, through September 25, 2011.



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