Critics’ Picks

Serge Attukwei Clottey, American Lottery, 2015, plastic, wire, oil paint, 51 x 94".

San Francisco

Serge Attukwei Clottey

Ever Gold [Projects] | Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street Suite 105
March 18 - April 30

Serge Attukwei Clottey’s plastic tapestries bring to light one of the paradoxes of environmental intervention: creating a new problem while attempting to fix an old one. To address the drought in Clottey’s native Ghana in the early 2000s, then-president John Kufuor had water dispersed across the country in brightly colored jugs that came to be known as Kufuor gallons. Since discarded, thousands of these plastic containers now pollute the Ghanaian landscape and serve as the artist’s primary sculptural material. After cutting the jugs into rectangles and arranging the pieces into a kind of patchwork quilt threaded with wire, the artist draws on Ghanaian folk aesthetics for his compositions—floating simple white, red, and blue shapes in a mostly yellow field. With ten of these works on view here, their similarities are broken up only by marks in paint or ink on the surface of some. In American Lottery, 2015, scrawled phrases such as “We Trust” and “Yes We Can” provide a social dimension to these mostly abstract works. Simultaneously optimistic, and ironic, with these words, Clottey underscores the complicated symbiotic relationship between people and their environment.

The artist amplifies this political message with works from his series “Common Man,” 2014–16. For these, he has taken the tops from the plastic containers and mounted them on supports made from traditional Ghanaian textiles. With the handle of each flask now resembling a nose and the spout a mouth, the objects read as portraits, or African masks. Some of the mouths are distorted, gaping holes that, when paired with a lack of eyes and the roughed up surface of the plastic, convey anguish and suffering. In this way, these works become totems of both salvation and devastation.