“Garden of Memory”

Musée Yves Saint Laurent | Marrakech
Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Majorelle
May 14–September 16

View of “Garden of Memory,” 2018.

Weaving together poetry, sound, and sculpture, “Garden of Memory” styles itself as a conversation à trois between artists who are bound by friendship and love. Poet and painter Etel Adnan serves as the link among her longtime collaborators Robert Wilson and Simone Fattal, both of whom she met for the first time in the summer of 1972 in Beirut. Her poem Conversations with my soul (III), 2018—here read aloud by Wilson over speakers and heard by Fattal’s sculpted angels—folds into another dialogue, this time between the poet’s different selves.

Fitted with a gray carpet that dulls the sound of footsteps and, from the outset, solicits the sense of touch, the gallery feels like an anechoic chamber, one that invites visitors to turn inward. Wilson’s looped, nearly ten-minute reading is set to Michael Galasso’s string music and punctuated by silences that contribute to an overall mood of contemplation. Galasso’s wistful composition, written for Wilson’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1888 play The Lady from the Sea—which resonates with the marine imagery of Adnan’s verse—adds yet another layer to the polyphonic whole.

Visually, the show is dominated by Fattal’s sculptures. Inspired by the encyclopedic writings of the thirteenth-century Sufi mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi and, in particular, by his discussion of angels in The Meccan Revelations, these works take many forms: hollow terra-cotta stelae inscribed with Arabi’s texts, displayed on plinths in sets of two and five; small and large humanoid figures resting on pillar-like legs; and a row of five glazed angels mounted on the circular wall diagonally, as if to convey their flight. Fattal considers the stuff of her sculptures—clay and mud—as living material, and thus a conversation partner in its own right.

Agnieszka Gratza

“Pulling at Threads”

Norval Foundation
4 Steenberg Rd, Tokai
April 28–August 20

View of “Pulling at Threads,” 2018.

Framed as a meditation on craft in contemporary artistic practice, this exhibition marshals works by eight artists—including Nick Cave, Abdoulaye Konaté, and William Kentridge—to stage an argument about the postdigital “return to the haptic.” Beading, collage, sewing, and weaving feature prominently. Many of the selected works invite what film theorist Laura U. Marks, in her 2002 book Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media, described as “a small, caressing gaze.” They include Igshaan Adams’s Oorskot, 2016, a fragile columnar form made from beads, fabric, rope, and wire; and Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, 2012, a wearable costume featuring an elongated dome made from a pleated-wood basket—the suit is decorated with bugle beads and buttons. An accompanying video, Gestalt, 2014, presents a selection of Cave’s outfits being worn during a performance. Their quivering and jingling sound engulfs the exhibition.

The selection is evenly split between abstract and figurative works, although Maria Nepomuceno’s three untitled sculptures (all 2016) made from beads, ceramic, rope, and resin hover between—they vaguely suggest human and plant reproductive organs. At least half of the works on view are the product of collaboration. For instance, Marguerite Stephens and a team of Johannesburg weavers helped produce Kentridge’s City of Moscow, 2009, a mohair tapestry featuring a large cartoon of a rearing stallion overlaid onto a collaged map of the Russian capital. Both Konaté’s Composition Bleue avec Orange et Jaune, 2016, an ombré drapery with symmetrical rows of predominantly indigo fringes, and Liza Lou’s Axis Defeat, 2007–08, an engrossing depiction of a dissolving Persian rug made from tubular glass beads, were produced with the aid of assistants in their large studios. Even the used jute sacks orchestrated by Ibrahim Mahama into the square drapery TECHIMAN AFRAM, 2017, bear vestigial traces of their past owners.

Sean O’Toole

Nargess Hashemi

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Unit 17, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1
May 12–July 26

View of Nargess Hashemi’s “I will build a tall city interconnected by cul-de-sacs,” 2018.

Nargess Hashemi believes in the possibility of a utopian ideal city. Her vision of its untapped potential is manifested through the exhibition “I will build a tall city interconnected by cul-de-sacs,” where unlabeled imagined blueprints in the form of abstract geometrics are veiled and revealed by her large, undulating, crocheted curtains hanging throughout the exhibition space. While at first the Iranian artist's complex compositions all read similarly, subtleties render Hashemi's idealistic visions meticulously varied.

These untitled works envelop. Meters-long loose knits recalling craft-oriented techniques, or small works on paper reminiscent of Persian mosaic, are rife with gridded patterns, colors, squares, stars, and circles that only disclose their hand-drawn nature upon closer inspection. Though the works are visually cacophonous, masterful tonal manipulation soothes the eyes with gentle gradations of retro pastel hues. A symbol legend appears at the tail end of the exhibition, unexpectedly clarifying that the configurations are concrete plans: Shapes and myriad colors symbolize proposed placements of residences, cul-de-sacs, medical centers, or green spaces. One begins to appreciate the busy hanging, its invocation of crowded metropolitan life.

While Hashemi’s works are elegantly restrained pleas for interconnectedness, diversity, and peace, the exhibition risks falling short because of the very elements that hold it up. The emphasis on formal qualities—which allow the works a firm, stand-alone visual impact—belies the fortitude of Hashemi’s weighty civic subject, prompting questions of whether her work needs a stronger social grounding. Still, through a refreshed creative proposition for utopian dwelling—regardless of whether an aesthetic ideal is enough—Hashemi offers a starting point to rethink accepted modes and formats of living.

Katrina Kufer

Sara Facio

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba)
Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415
March 8–July 30

Sara Facio, Cierre de campaña de Hector J. Campora, Avellaneda. 08.03.1973, 1973, giclée printing on cotton fiber base paper, 11 8/10 x 15 8/10.”

This exhibition comprises one hundred and fifteen mostly never-before-seen photographs concerning Juan Domingo Perón, one of the most famous—and polemical—populist leaders in Latin American history. The works in this show differ from other photographs of the political leader because, firstly, they were taken by a female photographer. Sara Facio was a photojournalist working for the French agency Sipa Press in the early 1970s, a time when there were virtually no Argentinian women working in photojournalism. Secondly, these pictures were chosen from thirty-one rolls of film that were left in the bottoms of boxes in the artist’s archives for decades; Facio eventually grew more interested in portraiture and photographic essays than in journalism and documentary.

She did not bring these photographs to public attention sooner in order to not “take advantage of the country’s political context”—the most recent period of Peronist governments in Argentina came to an end in 2015. Facio is reluctant to engage politics head-on: She does not consider herself an activist or a Peronist. She simply sensed that what she witnessed in Argentina in the 1970s was historic and worth documenting. Although an insightful distance makes itself felt in these images, her point of view is sympathetic to the people; unlike the aerial views of the masses taken by the press photographers covering politics and the Casa Rosada, Facio’s vision of the marchers near the Plaza de Mayo is captured on the ground, up close.

Peronism has been born, has died, and has been reborn over the course of decades. These works portray the fanaticism occasioned by a political leader’s return to his country in 1972 and the wails unleashed upon his death in 1974. Chaos, violence, resistance, utopia, struggle, hope, bloodshed, sorrow, darkness—those are the words that describe Argentina and South America as a whole in the years immediately before the long night of military dictatorship set in.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.

Mercedes Pérez Bergliaffa