Artist Pacita Abad’s trapuntos on immigrant experience to be exhibited at the Frieze London 2019

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Migration has always been at the heart of artist Pacita Abad’s works (and of the artist herself), which continue to travel and find their homes all over the world 15 years after her death.

Just this month, three of Abad’s tribal mask trapunto paintings were acquired by the Tate in the UK, two of which were part of a collection of Bacongo masks, referring to the Bantu ethnic group in Central Africa. The third, a European Mask, is described by the gallery as “Abad’s reversal of the co-opting of so-called primitive art by Western artists within the history of modern art.”

“If my friends could see me now” 1991. Acrylic, painted canvas, gold yarn on stitched and padded canvas. Photo courtesy of the Pacita Abad Art Estate

Another series of Abad’s trapunto paintings (quilted fabric translated into artworks of depth and expression) is participating at this year’s Frieze London happening at the Regent Park on Oct. 4 to 6.

This will also mark Silverlens Gallery’s debut at the Frieze with Abad’s solo show. The life-sized trapunto paintings from the Immigrant Experience series, a selection from the 1990s, will be part of the fair’s woven section.

Abad’s process, which is true with most of her works, begins by painting a canvas. She then quilts and hand sews embellishments onto fabric. Silverlens Gallery describes her body of work as produced by “cutting up, collaging, and repainting her older social realist paintings that focused on issues of global minorities.”

korean shopkeepers pacita abad
“Korean shopkeeper” 1993. Photo courtesy of the Pacita Abad Art Estate

The pieces from the series call to mind various locales and the story of people who live in it, some of which she had known through her travels. It also tells of their struggles, their dreams of a better future, which they hope to achieve by migrating. Thus, each of these paintings is aptly named after each encounter, such as “I thought the streets were paved with gold,” “If my friends could see me now,” “Korean shopkeepers,” and “How Mali lost her accent.”


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Welcome to America! L.A. Liberty by #pacitaabad #trapunto #womanofcolor #immigrantexperience #socialrealism

A post shared by Pacita Abad (@pacitaabad) on

One piece made out of acrylic, cotton yam, plastic buttons, mirrors, old thread, painted cloth on stitched and padded canvas called “L.A. Liberty,” is a cacophony of colors with a brown woman in the center posed as the Lady Liberty, an amalgamation of the elusive American dream.


Header photo courtesy of the Pacita Abad Art Estate

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