In the group exhibition “Material Connections” at Jane Lombard Gallery in New York, Serge Attukwei Clottey , Shezad Dawood, Christine Gedeon, Kyungah Ham, Karen Hamptonand Eko Nugroho, six artists of varied cultural backgrounds, are redefining the universal medium of textile or other non-traditional materials, to explore socio-political issues such as race, gender, historic identity, consumerism and the environment.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo:Jane Lombard Gallery Archive
Serge Attukwei Clottey is known for his work that examines the powerful agency of everyday objects. Working across, installation, performance, photography and sculpture, Clottey explores narratives of personal, family and collective histories often relating to trade and migration, Clottey is the creator of “Afrogallonism”, an artistic concept that comments on consumption within modern Africa through the utilisation of yellow gallon containers. Through cutting, drilling, stitching and melting found materials, Clottey’s sculptural installations are bold assemblages that act as a means of inquiry into questions of form and history. As the founder of Ghana’s GoLokal performance collective, Clottey sees art as a way to transform society. With aspects of activism prevalent in his practice, his works challenge convention and advocate the importance of creativity For Shezad Dawood, textiles form a key element in his multi-disciplinary practice, serving as both stand-alone works and as formal research for later films, paintings, performances, and sculptures. Dawood uses vintage textiles fabricated by nomadic Pakistani weavers in the ‘70s. By working within and around the textiles’ pre-existing narratives, Dawood examines the dialogues generated by trade, colonization, and globalization, and questions the established binaries between cultures. His practice often involves collaboration, working with groups and individuals across different territories to physically and conceptually map far-reaching lines of enquiry. These networks chart different geographic locations and communities and are particularly concerned with acts of translation and re-staging. Christine Gedeon creates abstract maps with a sewing machine, fabric and paint on raw canvas. The intent behind her materials is to connect the dichotomy of the cold, analytical masculine subject with the appropriation of traditional feminine materials, adopting a sewing machine as a mechanically precise drawing tool. Her maps are inspired by aerial view landscape drawings and maps. Her work explores the human desire to define ourselves in relation to the environment that surrounds us. As individuals, we habitually create a narrative in response to our environment whether it is past, present, or future. Kyungah Ham’s ongoing conceptual “Embroidery Project”, has been bridging the conflicted gap between North and South Korea through the idea of secret collaboration with North Korean women artisans. Ham designed a complicated and often dangerous process where intermediaries smuggled her designs to the North Korean textile workers who would fabricate the intricate embroideries. However, these secret works were eventually confiscated, while Ham recreated their South Korean counterparts through machine embroidery. Ham envisions these designs as subtle “propaganda handbills”, inviting the embroiderers to question their meaning and intent. Ham’s clandestine collaborations and her deliberate manipulation of cross-border systems critiques the repressive division of the Korean peninsula in a delicate and intricate gesture of defiance. Karen Hampton draws on her multicultural heritage to examine the complicated history of America, replete with dreams of freedom and loss resulting from displacement. By employing the traditional arts of hand-stitching and weaving, as well as materials such as indigo, cotton, and raffia cloth that allude to African American culture, Hampton embeds her work with symbols, images, and text that chronicle the stories of her ancestors. Her incisively poignant work speaks to the broader struggle to find one’s own voice and identity in the United States today. Eko Nugroho is part of the “2000 Generation”, a generation of Indonesian contemporary artists that came to maturity during the period of upheaval and reform that occurred in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the subsequent fall of the Suharto regime and the transition to democracy in Indonesia. He is deeply engaged with the culture of his time and is committed to making socio-political commentary in his work. Nugroho grew up in Java and resides in one of the island’s major art centres, Yogyakarta. His works are grounded in both local traditions and global popular culture. In particular, he has cited the influence of traditional batik and embroidery styles, there is also a powerful inspiration from contemporary street art, graffiti and comics. Nugroho combines the influence of Indonesian craft with elements of street art, graffiti, and comics, working in mediums ranging from drawing to installation to performance, generating a subversive mix of tradition and pop.
Info: Jane Lombard Gallery, 518 West 19th Street, New York, Duration 10/1-18/2/17, Days & Hours: Tue-Fri 10:00-18:00, Sat 11:00-18:00, www.janelombardgallery.com