Contemporary Art

Fabrics of Power and Sensation: An Introduction to Basil Kincaid

Iolanda Munck 8 April 2024 min Read

Basil Kincaid (b. 1986) is an American contemporary artist. His multimedia work showcases the potential of repurposed materials while reflecting on both traditional art forms and contemporary issues like racial identity, materiality, and mental health.


Kente Cloth

Themes of community, tradition, and heritage are central to Basil Kincaid’s work. The Kente cloth, a handwoven fabric from Ghana, is one of the materials Kincaid utilizes to animate these ideas. Kente used to symbolize royalty; it now makes up garments and accessories worn day-to-day, on special occasions, and during traditional ceremonies. How Kente becomes an identity marker is a question Kincaid is concerned with, particularly after he received artistic training in Ghana.

Basil Kincaid: Basil Kincaid in his studio. Hauser & Wirth.

Basil Kincaid in his studio. Hauser & Wirth.

African-American Quilt

African-American quilts encapsulate a culture of resilience. Kincaid approached it from a socio-economic perspective and from his family tradition, which has stretched over seven generations. “Quilting, within the Black cultural tradition, has always served as a revolutionary space of joy, courage, and community in direct contrast to social and financial subjugation.” He also noted, “It’s a way to honor my predecessors while addressing the questions and concerns of where I am—we are—today. It’s a way towards restoring and reconstructing with the resourcefulness born within us.”

Quilting was remarkably significant for Black women. Traditionally practiced by women with no formal training, the activity composes a unique artistic expression, helps establish Black feminism, and is sometimes a means for women to maintain economic independence. Kincaid reintroduced the rich tradition as a male artist from academia. He reaffirmed the crucial role of women in it while letting that broader scope of culture interface with his own life experience.

River, Frog and Crescent Moon

River, Frog and Crescent Moon pays homage to the men and women who influenced Kincaid’s artistic journey. In the center of the vibrant piece is Kincaid’s self-portrait. It is flanked by stylized figures on either side, with the one on the right seemingly more feminine and others more supernatural. The central figure, seemingly genderless, extends one arm towards the feminine character as they confront some darker figures surrounded by iridescent patches of quilts. With magnificence, the piece conveys how Kincaid understands human experience as it delves into the intricate interplay of gender dynamics and many more.

Basil Kincaid: Basil Kincaid, River, Frog and Crescent Moon, 2022, quilt, Albertina Modern, Vienna, Austria.

Basil Kincaid, River, Frog and Crescent Moon, 2022, quilt, Albertina Modern, Vienna, Austria.


Basil Kincaid’s quilting practices respect traditional methods and utilize only repurposed materials, not only due to ecological concerns. To reuse is to add layers to storytelling. Kincaid himself emphasizes this narrative element, likening the process to sampling in music production, where each material carries its own symbolic weight. By incorporating discarded materials into his creations, Kincaid weaves together a tapestry of diverse lived experiences, each scrap contributing to a new narrative thread.


Basil Kincaid’s artistic repertoire extends far beyond textile work, encompassing a diverse array of mediums. His collage pieces, for instance, blend original photographs with fragments sourced from magazines and newspapers to explore themes of self-evolution. Drawing serves as Kincaid’s primary avenue for uninhibited self-expression. On the other hand, his performance art pieces fuse bodywork techniques, visual and auditory elements, and textiles to address internalized trauma. In his installation works, Kincaid produces multimedia compositions that underscore the transient nature of existence. These temporal creations are made to embrace change and cultivate gratitude as they emphasize the potential to shape new realities amidst societal conditioning.

Basil Kincaid himself describes this temporality: “The impermanent nature of these ephemeral monuments is a reminder that we can create new realities around us instead of perpetuating those we’ve been conditioned into – and that change is positive and inevitable. Gratitude is a leading force in these works, as nothing lasts as long as you think.”

Dancing the Wind Walk

An exemplary installation by Kincaid is Dancing the Wind Walk, featuring an airplane enveloped in his signature quilts. This artwork serves as a poignant symbol of aviation’s capacity to transcend boundaries, commemorating journeys, transitions, and transformation. Simultaneously, it celebrates the historical trajectory of African-American quilting traditions and the contemporary voyage undertaken by the fabric fragments, originating from West Africa and converging in the United States, to fuel Basil Kincaid’s artistic expression.

Basil Kincaid: Basil Kincaid, Dancing the Wind Walk, 2023, quilt, Frieze, Los Angeles, LA, USA.

Basil Kincaid, Dancing the Wind Walk, 2023, quilt, Frieze, Los Angeles, LA, USA.

Recurring Themes: Leisure

Kincaid seamlessly integrates various mediums to complement his different works. This versatility is vividly demonstrated in his treatment of quilts. While some are showcased in formal gallery settings, others become integral components of performative artworks like the evocative Dancing the Wind Walk. A striking instance of this performative approach is Kincaid’s recurrent staging of his quilts as picnic blankets, offering a poignant commentary on Black leisure activities. Reflecting on this, Kincaid affirms, “I’m interested in Black people having leisure time and feeling valuable. We are innately valuable at all times, even if we are luxuriating on a hillside.”

The Lullaby

The theme of leisure and rest as revolutionary acts is a recurring motif in Basil Kincaid’s body of work, epitomized by pieces like Lullaby. Here, a Black figure reclines on a quilt amid a field of flowers, watched over by a looming, monstrous presence. This composition underscores the essential nature of rest and sleep, often overlooked in contemporary society, yet vital for personal fulfillment and autonomy. It also highlights the significance of dreams, both in Kincaid’s creative process and in his broader artistic journey. Kincaid draws inspiration from his dreams, with his decision to focus on quilts as an artistic medium originally sparked by a dream.


In the context of both Lullaby and River, Frog and Crescent Moon, it is necessary to highlight the black, supernatural figures as a recurring motif within Kincaid’s artwork. Rather than comparing these figures to something monstrous, the artist sees these monster-like beings as protective and creative reflections of the inner self. In his own words: “I’ve been thinking a lot about monstrosity. What may seem like a monster to somebody else—well, maybe it’s good that it’s scary to some people because it is meant to protect someone else.”

Basil Kincaid: Basil Kincaid, Lullaby, 2021, quilt, Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL, USA.

Basil Kincaid, Lullaby, 2021, quilt, Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL, USA.

Basil Kincaid’s work investigates the role of tradition in our contemporary experience. With an assortment of mediums, he carefully balances artistic expression with a keen eye for social sentiments and a love of creativity.



Annie Armstrong, “Meet Basil Kincaid, the Artist-Quilter Making a Splash in Miami Beach,” artnet, December 5, 2023,


Basil Kincaid, “Art,”


Ebony O. Lumumba, “Patchwork Politics: Black Women Stitching Their Own Identities in Eudora Welty’s Writing,” Women’s Studies 53, no. 2 (2024). 169-185.


Julie Schneider, “Art in Focus: The Symbolic Nature of Basil Kincaid’s Quilt-Based Work,”  The Center Magazine, April 26, 2023,


Klaus Albrecht schröder and Angela Stief, “Basil Kincaid; The River,”  in The Beauty of Diversity, edited by Klaus Albrecht schröder and Angela Stief. Vienna: Albertina Modern, 2024.


“Now Playing: Basil Kincaid, “Dancing the Wind Walk”,” FRIEZE, February 16, 2023,

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