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The Philadelphia Museum of Art Presents Jesse Krimes: Rikers Quilt

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is proud to host the first institutional presentation of Jesse Krimes’ Rikers Quilt (2020)
Prominently presented in the Williams Forum
March 23 – July 15, 2024
Williams Forum

March 18, 2024 - Philadelphia-based artist and social justice activist Jesse Krimes (b. 1982, US) uses his art to generate dialogue around the US penal system and help humanize those most impacted it. Working across painting, textiles, sculpture, and installation, Krimes draws on his own experiences of incarceration and re-entry into society, bringing attention to the racial injustices and adversities faced by many in the US criminal justice system.

Rikers Quilt was produced in response to ongoing abuses at Rikers Island, New York City’s largest and most notorious jail, and serves as a poignant metaphor for the underrecognized and continued mistreatment of people imprisoned by the US legal system. This monumental work is composed of individual prison bedsheet squares, and was created using a technique Krimes developed while incarcerated, in which .  hand sanitizer is used to transfer images from printed media onto the fabric’s surface.

Beneath the quilt’s surface lies a concealed layer containing 3,650 images of abuse inflicted by police and corrections officers at Rikers—one for each day of harm inflicted at Rikers over the course of ten years—that are revealed only when incisions are made to a square. Should the underlying images be fully exposed, the quilt’s exterior depiction of the jail would be irreversibly destroyed, offering a symbolic representation of the potential of prison abolition and transformation within the penal system.

“We’re honored to be working with Jesse again to show this incredibly important work,” said Sasha Suda, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “The museum has a long relationship with Jesse, who uses his voice as a talented artist and a dedicated activist, to lead pressing conversations. We welcome our audience to take part in these conversations through Jesse’s work.”

In 2022, Krimes founded the Center for Art and Advocacy, an artist-led organization supporting and amplifying formerly incarcerated artists through fellowships, residencies, and mentorship programs. This organization is an outgrowth of the Right of Return Fellowship, cofounded by Krimes in 2017.

Rikers Quilt functions as both a conceptual and material reminder of the harsh realities faced by the incarcerated, and sensitizes the public to the cruelties inherent in the prison-industrial complex. The work speaks to Krimes’ larger mission of using art to generate dialogue around oversimplified and harmful narratives regarding issues of the penal system, and serves to humanize those impacted by the criminal justice system.

Jesse Krimes: Rikers Quilt is curated by Katie Lee, Penn Medicine Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art and Elisabeth Agro, The Nancy M. McNeil Curator of Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts.

Media Contact:
Maggie Fairs:
E: Maggie.fairs@philamuseum.org
T: 215.684.7862
M: 267.768.1163

About the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a national and international destination for art, but first, we are Philadelphia’s Museum of Art—for all the many diverse communities of the city. Through our collections, exhibitions, events, educational activities, celebrations, and more, the PMA is a storyteller, and we welcome everyone to be part of the story—our doors are wide open. To learn more, visit www.philamuseum.org.

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