Michael C. Thorpe: Nonsensical Formalism at the Paul R. Jones Museum

Michael C. Thorpe, Censored Nude, 2022, pigment on canvas, quilting cotton, batting, thread, 46 x 35 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Paul R. Jones Museum is proud to present Michael C. Thorpe: Nonsensical Formalism, March 3 – April 28, 2023. There will be an artist’s reception on Friday, April 7, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., during Tuscaloosa’s First Friday Art Walk.

Brooklyn, New York-based textile artist Michael C. Thorpe creates art quilts and fabric collages of bright, dream-like scenes and highly personal “meandering thoughts,” as one of his early solo shows was titled. For Thorpe, the quilt has become a canvas for dreaming up alternate pasts and exploring potential futures. The young artist sold all eighteen pieces at his first solo exhibition in 2020.

Thorpe writes about his work in this exhibition: “‘Nonsensical Formalism’ is my own ideology about art and art-making. Studying the likes of David Hammons, Adrian Piper, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce Nauman, and Francis Picabia, I began to understand that art is nonsensical to everyone except the artist. Creating art is an unbelievably personal act, and the only one the artist needs to satisfy is themselves.”

LaiSun Keane, the owner of the gallery that represents Thorpe, writes, “Michael is unique as he stands out in a practice traditionally dominated by women and minorities, as well as being a former college basketball player. Through his quilts and paper collages, found objects, soft sculpture, digital prints and even wood, he tells stories that are near and dear.”

Daniel White, director of the Paul R. Jones Museum, who organized the exhibition, said, “Working from a deeply personal narrative, Thorpe brings a fresh voice to an age-old tradition and he is breaking new ground visually with the medium. As the Gee’s Bend Quilters took their work to the Whitney Museum in 2003 and elevated quilts beyond their craft identity, a new generation of textile artist brings his work back to the Alabama Black Belt. Thorpe’s work brings the Southern quilt tradition full circle as we celebrate how that tradition inspires contemporary artists working today.”

Thorpe’s solo exhibitions include Forum Gallery and Soho House in New York, NY; Louis Buhl & Co. in Detroit; and LaiSun Keane Gallery and All Too Human in Boston. He held a Manship artist residency, and his works are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Mass., and the Birmingham (Ala.) Museum of Art, and in many private collections. Find his website here.

Michael C. Thorpe is represented by LaiSun Keane Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts. Nonsensical Formalism has been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Paul R. Jones Museum is an essential part of the education and development of UA students and our community. Admission to the museum is free. The museum is located at 2308 Sixth Street, in downtown Tuscaloosa, one block from the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and First Fridays 12 noon-8 pm. Have questions or need assistance? Call (205) 345-3038 or go to their website.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.