Pioneering artist, activist and educator Faith Ringgold is best known for her richly referential, painted story quilts, which combine piecework quilting, acrylic painting and written stories to recount African American histories as well as narratives around her own family life. Born in Harlem in 1930, Ringgold grew up surrounded by the creative and intellectual ferment of the Harlem Renaissance and went on to become actively involved in the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s. This experience of “coming up in a period where great changes were being made” has informed a career spanning more than five decades.
Protest and activism still underpin all of Ringgold’s activities—from her politically charged oil paintings of the 1960s, to soft sculptures, performance and public art projects, as well as the often more affirmative story quilts. Her work was included in Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at London’s Tate Modern in 2017, touring to Crystal Bridges in Arkansas, the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Broad in LA, where it closes on 1 September.
Ringgold is also a prolific author—she has written more than 20 children’s books. All these different strands come together in Ringgold’s survey exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery this summer, her first solo show in a European institution.