Hartford Art School professor Carol Padberg's interactive quilts at the New Britain Museum continue her exploration of encoded abstraction. In this rich new series, Padberg uses layered colored papers, scraps of fabric, a sewing machine and paint to construct each piece. "The quilts synthesize the influences of African textiles, American crazy quilts, and European modernism with my family's own sewing tradition," Padberg told me when we walked through the show this week. Riffing on the textile tradition of incorporating narrative and symbolism in handmade quilts, Padberg uses barcode software to develop the patterns for each quilt. Like the barcodes on packaging and products, information is embedded in the codes and can be accessed with a Microsoft Tag Reader smart phone app. Locking into each barcode takes viewers to a website that explains the symbolism and wide ranging ideas behind each piece.
Padberg's work both demonstrates and comments on how information technology has shaped the contemporary world. It bulges uncomfortably with a multitude of ideas, yet information overload is perhaps the most salient characteristic of our time. Whether Padberg celebrates or laments this irreversible reality isn't clear, but any surfeit of ideas will provide a cache for her next body of work.
Carol Padberg, 'Interactive Crazy Quilts," installation view.
"Carol Padberg: Interactive Crazy Quilts," a New/Now Exhibition, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT. Through April 24, 2011.
While you're at the museum, don't miss these unexpected gems from their collection, which includes sixty works by members of the Ash Can School and a five-panel Thomas Hart Benton mural, "The Arts of Life in America."
Barbara Kassel, " Flowers in February," 2006, oil on panel, about 30" x 60"
James Montgomery Flagg, "San Francisco--Treasure Island Salad," 1939, oil on canvas, about 24 x 24."
Balcomb Greene, "Blue World," 1938, oil on Masonite, about 30" x 50."
Jack Ogden, "Jay's Parade, 2001, oil on canvas, 50 x 63."
Albert York, "East Hampton," 1960, oil on canvas, about 10 x 10."
Jackson Pollock, "T.P.'s Boat in Menemsha Pond," 1934, oil on tin, about 5 x 7." Pollock made this painting for Thomas Hart Benton's young son T.P. when Pollock served as Benton' studio assistant and sometime babysitter. T.P. donated the painting to the museum in 1973.