“Pretty Birds Peer Speak Sow Peculiar,” is Candace Hill-Montgomery’s first show in the five boroughs of New York City since the 1980s. The exhibition is organized by Lawrence Kumpf and Tyler Maxin and is currently showing at Blank Forms in NY.
Over the last ten years, Hill-Montgomery (b. 1945) has largely worked with weavings made on homemade looms, cunningly fusing an assemblage of techniques and materials including sheep’s wool, mohair, linen, paper yarn, and other fabrics, often augmented by found objects. The exhibition includes a spread of weaves produced between 2016 and 2023.
Raised in suburban east Queens, she grew up with the pre-fame Ronettes and babysat Count Basie’s daughter. From her late teens to early twenties, she did runway and print modeling for designers such as Jacques Tiffeau, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta, before enrolling in the studio art program at Fordham University. In 1979, she was in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and presented an artwork inter-rogating public space, dually installed at Artists Space and a tenement on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. She soon intermingled with the bustling downtown arts scene of the ’80s, presenting a work responding to the FBI raid against Fred Hampton at Colab’s “The Times Square Show,” staging a performance at Franklin Furnace, exhibiting at the New Museum in a 1982 solo show, producing a number of artists’ books, and collaborating closely with figures such as Ntozake Shange, providing sets (“built-poems”) for theatrical performances, and Lucy R. Lippard, with whom she co-curated the 1983 exhibition “Working Women/Working Artists/Working Together,” at Gallery 1199, operated by a local of the Service Employees International Union representing hospital workers. For roughly three decades, Hill-Montgomery worked as a high school art and journalism educator. Since her retirement in 2011, she has lived full-time in Long Island.
Hill-Montgomery continues to produce artwork and poetry prolifically; her latest publications include the collection Muss Sill (Distance No Object, in 2020) and Short Leash Kept On (Materials, 2022), a long poem inspired by detective fiction and the writing of Lloyd Addison and Russell Atkins.