Gallery  June 26, 2018  Megan D Robinson

“Ravelled Threads” Brings Contemporary Perspectives to Traditions in African Cloth

© Abdoulaye Konaté, Courtesy: Primo Marella Gallery, Milan and Sean Kelly, New York

Abdoulaye Konaté, Composition en jaune, 2018, textile, 105 1/8 x 129 1/2 inches (267 x 329)

A powerful new exhibition at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery, Ravelled Threads brings together work by ten African artists utilizing fabric in different ways. Cloth has cultural and spiritual significance throughout Africa, with a long history of use in storytelling, historical record keeping, political activism, and cultural expression. According to Gallery Owner Sean Kelly, “The artists included in the exhibition have distinct aesthetic vocabularies; what unites their work is the way in which these artists—each of whom possesses a powerful cultural consciousness—are engaged in larger conversations around social practice through their work.” The works in Ravelled Threads use fabric to celebrate the rich diversity and complexity of varied African cultures, critique unhealthy social paradigms, and explore cultural, racial, sexual and gender identities. The artists express their diverse African heritages while rejecting the post-colonial, imperialist stereotypes of African culture. The works range from abstract and geometric textile sculpture to figurative embroidery, photo-realistic tapestries, and bold, patterned quilt art.

© Igshaan Adams, Courtesy: Blank Projects, Cape Town and Sean Kelly, New York 

Igshaan Adams, Passage I, II, III, 2018, woven triptych, cotton twine, polyester rope, beads

© Zohra Opoku, Courtesy: Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle and Sean Kelly, New York

Zohra Opoku, Within Us, 2018, screenprint, cyanotype and VanDyke Brown solution, thread, 124-3/8 x 66-1/8 inches (316 x 168 cm)

Igshaan Adamsrom’s striking, earth-toned woven sculptural wall hangings look simultaneously ancient and modern. Their organic shapes could be tanned hides, Stone Age weavings or cutting edge abstract expressionist textiles. In Within Us, Zohra Opoku invokes Pop Art flavored with a feminist exploration of identity. This photo montage portrait depicts a veiled Ghanaian woman staring out from an off-white background, the silhouette of her body filled with mirrored images of palm trees and explosive ink blots. Joël Andrianomearisoa’s series of plush, deeply textured geometric wall sculptures is a study in black squares. Rich in dimensionality, they are reminiscent of minimalist abstract works, playing with and advancing these modern art traditions. When the Wicked Rule, Lawrence Lemaoana’s disquieting quilted statement, is reminiscent of sewing samplers featuring homespun wisdom. Lemaoana’s works use a medium that we associate with the comfort and security of home to question toxic cultural power structures.

Joël Andrianomearisoa, Geometry, 2018
© Joël Andrianomearisoa, Courtesy: Primo Marella Gallery, Milan and Sean Kelly, New York

Joël Andrianomearisoa, Geometry, 2018, textile, 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 inches (100 x 100 cm)

Senzeni Marasela, Waiting for Gabane, 2017
© Senzeni Marasela, Courtesy: AFRONOVA GALLERY, Johannesburg and Sean Kelly, New York

Senzeni Marasela, Waiting for Gabane, 2017, red thread on Kaffir sheet, 59 1/16 x 35 7/16 inches (150 x 90 cm)

Lawrence Lemaoana, When the Wicked Rule, 2018
© Lawrence Lemaoana, Courtesy: AFRONOVA GALLERY, Johannesburg and Sean Kelly, New York

Lawrence Lemaoana, When the Wicked Rule, 2018, embroidery on kanga, 61 x 45 1/4 inches (155 x 115 cm)

Athi-Patra Ruga, A Sight/Site for Contemplation (Feral Benga Series), 2018
© Athi-Patra Ruga, Courtesy: What if the World Gallery, Cape Town and Sean Kelly, New York

Athi-Patra Ruga, A Sight/Site for Contemplation (Feral Benga Series), 2018, wool and thread on tapestry canvas, 57 1/8 x 37 7/16 inches (145 x 95 cm)

Zohra Opoku, Within Us, 2018
© Zohra Opoku, Courtesy: Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle and Sean Kelly, New York

Zohra Opoku, Within Us, 2018, screenprint, cyanotype and VanDyke Brown solution, thread, 124-3/8 x 66-1/8 inches (316 x 168 cm)

Ravelled Threads runs until August 3 at Sean Kelly New York, 475 10th Avenue.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.