Pacita Abad at the SFMOMA

Portrait of Pacita Abad in front of one of her colorful quilts

Vibrant works by a daring artist who traveled the world.
The first retrospective of Pacita Abad features more than 40 works including her signature trapunto paintings: stuffed, quilted canvases Abad adorned with materials and methods she investigated during her lifetime.

Over a 32-year career, the prolific artist made a vast number of artworks that traverse a diversity of subjects—from colorful masks to intricately constructed underwater scenes to abstract compositions—revealing visual, material, and conceptual concerns that still resonate today.

Abak and San Francisco
When Abad left Manila in 1970, she stopped to visit her aunt in San Francisco where she found a city thrumming with radical political and creative activity. This context of Bay Area progressiv­ism formed the crucible of her growing engagement with art, and her extensive world travels, beginning in 1973, solidified her commitment. Abad, who became a U.S. citizen in 1994, spent time in more than 60 countries across six continents, including Sudan, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Afghanistan, with longer stays in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. Through her travels, she interacted with myriad artistic communities, incorporating diverse cultural traditions—from Korean ink brush painting to Indonesian batik—into her expansive practice. The portability of these works and use of textiles Abad collected on her travels further reflected her peripatetic existence.

Abad’s embrace of quilting and other kinds of needlework confounded critics, who dismissed her works as naïve, childlike, and ethnic. In fact, Abad’s multifaceted practice articulated a powerful material politics, reflecting her vision of a nonhierarchical world. This exhibition celebrates Abad’s bold self-determination, commitment to social justice, and radical artistic experimentation.

On display through January 28th.

Purchase tickets at the SFMOMA website.

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