"Roman Stripes" variation

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
c. 1975
94 x 76 inches
Collection of
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Corduroy's coexisting qualities of weight and manageability give it a character that would literally provide an artistic catalyst to several of Gee's Bend's most accomplished and inventive artists. Somehow, this material inspired a remarkable style from which an otherwise diverse group of artists seemed to play off each other's conceptions. Taken together, the corduroy quilts constitute a set of artworks whose diversity within a unified language is comparable to an ingenious theme and its variations in music.

Sometimes bold, even reductive, patterns work perfectly in corduroy when they might not in other materials. Two basic ideas in particular—the slightly variegated vertical strip and the freely interpreted "Housetop" form the armature for corduroy quilts whose simple grandeur is incomparable. A more complex rendition of the rectangular block structure—twenty, now, rather than nine—is turned into a spectacular, heraldic triumph here by "Ma Willie" Abrams.