© 2019 All rights reserved
Walter Van Beirendonck
Clémence Van Lunen
January 29, 2020 – March 21, 2020
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge takes its name from one of the memory devices printed in Barrada’s broadside poster series, Mnemonic Phrases. The ten phrases in the series were collected, each referring to a different body of information to be remembered; the first letter of each word in the exhibition’s title easily recall the sequence of musical notes, E-G-B-D-F, on the lines of the treble clef. From verbal phrases to sewing lessons to Montessori toys, Barrada’s new works engage with her extensive collection of found material to celebrate various forms of self-directed learning. Here as before, Barrada employs wit, playfully subversive humor, and the concept of collage, to subtly navigate the space where dominant historical narratives intersect with the grammar of the home, the factory, the schoolhouse and the atelier/workshop. Here again, photographs, paintings, drawings, prints, textile work, sculptures and videos and found objects are installed in novel relationships which enable new levels of logic and interpretation.
The main gallery wall is transformed by a wallpaper installation, in which Barrada repurposes vintage rolls of “transfer paper,” used in the textile industry in the 1960s or 70s to absorb excess ink from the printing process. These abstract forms acquire a new life when juxtaposed with Barrada’s paintings, made using a technique called “paste paper” traditionally used to create decorative end-papers for the inside covers of books. Barrada handmade these paste paper works as part of her 2019 Casa Barragán commision, in which the artist was invited to produce works that were exhibited in the studio (now a living museum) of Mexican modernist architect Luis Barragán (1902-1988). She was inspired by end-papers found in Barragan’s book collection.
In a new body of work, the artist has hung two series of photographs, made with paper sewing lesson exercise sheets found by the artist in her hometown of Tangier. These paper lessons are designed for learning to make lines in various patterns with a sewing machine before the student advances to working with fabric. The lessons recall the pedagogical toys Fröbel, a series of play-centered exercises that incorporated kinaesthetic activities such as building with blocks, folding paper, sewing and weaving. Fröbel’s pedagogy nurtured an autonomous relationship to invention and creativity, whereby the parts that constitute the whole are made transparent and accessible, easy to play with and rearrange.
The themes of construction, reconstruction and collage return in an architectural context with Barrada’s photo-collages and her film ‘Agadir Anagram.’ The Moroccan coastal city of Agadir was destroyed by an earthquake in 1960; in these works, part of Barrada’s 2018 commission for The Curve at the Barbican Center (London), she examines the traumatic demolition and rebuilding of the city. Barrada’s collages include paintings made by now-forgotten textiles designers as concept sketches for textile or wallpaper designs; press photographs and telegrams.
Barrada’s work, After Stella (Sidi Ifni II), continues her series of After Stella textiles, which riff on Frank Stella’s series of paintings from 1964–65, inspired in part by, and named after, the Moroccan cities he visited on his honeymoon. Inverting the other works in the series, After Stella (Sidi Ifni II), is displayed with the back of the textile facing out. We see the construction of the piece, with pencil notes and exposed seams. Barrada recalls artist Simon Nicholson’s 1971 essay in Landscape Architecture journal, “How NOT to Cheat Children: The Theory of Loose Parts,” which describes children’s experience of a restricted world: “they cannot play with building and making things, or play with fluids, water, fire or living objects, and all the things that satisfy one’s curiosity and give us the pleasure that results from discovery and invention.” This reversal at once affirms the value of rendering visible the “loose parts” that make up the art object, at the same time that it disrupts the seamless surfaces often found in the institutional display of art.
In the artist’s fourth exhibition with the gallery since 2007, Barrada invites fellow artist, Bettina, to Hamburg.
Bettina Grossman (b. 1927, New York), known simply as “Bettina,” is a legendary artist whose prolific body of work includes sculpture, photography, painting, printmaking, film, drawing, and text. Bettina is a longtime resident of the Chelsea Hotel in New York, storied home of famous artists and writers from Dylan Thomas to Yves Klein to Sid Vicious. But the American abstract artists’ own unique oeuvre was rarely seen and largely overlooked by the art world until 2019 on the occasion of her two-woman show with Yto Barrada in New York. Barrada is also overseeing Bettina’s first catalogue raisonné. After living and working in Europe for ten years between the 1950s and 60s, Bettina returned to New York. Following the loss of her work in a fire that destroyed her studio in 1968 she moved to the Chelsea where she still lives and works in her original apartment. Based on the observation of the city’s daily activities, her work transforms movements and gestures into form in an effort to apprehend the elusive, transitory energies of urban life. Many of Bettina’s series are made within a set of rules, seeking out pattern and distortion, play and discipline, within form. Patterns and shapes appear and disappear across sculptural, drawing and photographic series, referring to a circular and mystical internal logic.
She has been the subject of several films, including Bettina (S. Bassett, 2008) and Girl with Black Balloons (C. van der Borch, 2010). Her most recent exhibition The Power of Two Suns was on view at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Governor’s Island exhibition space in New York, Fall 2019.
Originally presented at the American Academy in Rome and expanded for the Neuberger Museum of Art, Yto Barrada: The Dye Garden features recent work by Barrada, whose artistic practice weaves together family history and broader sociopolitical narratives, employing a variety of media, including photography, film, video, installation, sculpture, books, and hand-dyed textiles
© 2019 All rights reserved