Ros Cross was born in England and studied at the Royal College of Art before moving to California in the early 1970s. She has worked in a variety of media over the years, from sculpture to drawing, painting, and monoprints. Early in her career, her art practice involved working with textiles in various ways, and for a few years, from 1973–1976, she evolved into making quilts, having become fascinated with the American quilt tradition, which was previously unknown to her. Her work with quilts
was a a journey of discovery and exploration into unknown territory, testing the formal and conceptual boundaries of quiltmaking practice, with almost no reference to the conventional forms, methods, and history of the traditional American quilt movement. It was almost as if she was looking to connect the worlds of contemporary art practice to the the more traditional world of quilts, with results that in hindsight can be seen to be not only a successful and innovative merging of these hitherto different worlds, but that also point to the beginning of what has come to be known as the Art Quilt movement.
The first quilts Cross made after arriving in California were in part a reaction to the commercial consumer abundance she encountered and also show a strong interest in the Pop Art movement. In particular, quilts such as Pancakes, Butter, and Syrup Quilt (1973), relate to the soft sculpture work of Claes Oldenburg with the accompanying tropes of transposition of materials (hard/soft, food/fabric) along with the enlargement of object scale. Cross also had been deeply impressed and influenced by Robert Rauschenberg's 1955 combine Bed, and her early quilts Pancakes and Broken both work with the notion of bed as art object, particularly with their use of accompanying pieces and rugs that are part of the work though physically disconnected from the main quilt.
Cross later moved away from pictorial work, encompassing influences as diverse as minimalism, arte povera, Japanese fabrics and aesthetics, the use of chance variations, and the use of unbleached muslin, binding tape, and cotton threads, which connect to the modernist maxim of truth to materials. Her later quilt work also emphasized the actuality of materials—cloth as physical cloth and sculptural object—rather than cloth as neutral base for narrative or pictorial representation.
Influences seen in these works include Robert Morris, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, and the concept of wu wei, using chance and gravity in the appearance of the final work.
Pancakes, Butter & Syrup Quilt
with Bacon Rug SOLD
The scope of Cross's experimentation within the quilt genre in a three year period is remarkable: In Pancakes and Broken Quil , we have quilt-as-conceptual-
bed-object. In Flags Quilt and Cottons Quilt, we have quilt-as-nonrepresentational image-on-wall, with chance and gravity playing parts in the final form/image.
All were conceived within the broader field of an art practice, rather than a quilting practice, and therein lies their significance. After having explored the artistic possibilities of the quilt form, from Pop Art object to minimalist textile statement to abstract wall sculpture, Cross maintained her interest in material investigation, though that work soon took her outside the quilt medium.
Although Cross only worked in the medium for a few years and has made no quilts since Peeling Quilt in 1976, the significance of the works made during this brief period attest to the perspicacity and innovation of her approach, and her work holds a significant and influential position in the early history of the Art Quilt movement.
Available Quilts by Ros Cross