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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Bisa Butler: Portraits


Art Institute / Chicago / Art

Likes so many contemporary Black artists, Bisa Butler uses textiles to make her art. She trained as a painter at Howard University, where many of her professors were part of a collective called Africobra, which developed an aesthetic, a color palette, that reflected the experience of Black Americans. Butler turned to fabric in 2001, when she was pregnant with her first child and worried about the toxicity of oils, and took on the humble tradition of quilting—with thrilling results. Michael Gitlitz, executive director at the Katonah Museum of Art, has described her wall-sized works as “quilted collages of stunning virtuosity. She uses vivid and conceptually complex West African textiles to paint narratives, and I use the term paint in quotation marks because it is all sewn.” Each work takes over 1,000 hours to create. Each is a tour de force. This is the first solo museum exhibition of Butler’s work and it includes over 20 portraits. —L.J.

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