“The Power of Two Suns” exhibition tour
Led by artist Yto Barrada and curator Omar Berrada
Saturday, October 19th, 10:30 AM*
at LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island | Upper Gallery
110 Andes Rd, New York, NY 10004
*Note: Ferries to Governors Island depart October 19th at 10am or 10:20am from the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan.
Yto Barrada and special guest artist Bettina
The Power of Two Suns
Curated by Omar Berrada
On view September 19–October 31, 2019
Gallery Hours: Thursday–Sunday from 12pm – 5pm
Governors Island has been metamorphosing – from a military base into a popular gathering place for education and leisure. Taking a cue from the site that hosts it, this project is a meditation on the challenges of proximity and distance, of isolation and hospitality.Isolation comes in many guises. Yto Barrada’s hometown of Tangier, Morocco, sits at one end of the Strait of Gibraltar, at the northwestern tip of Africa. Once a gateway to Europe, the strait has become a symbol of forced isolation, as crossing is allowed in one direction only. Barrada’s work has repeatedly highlighted such social constraints, by playfully tracing the forms of people’s resistance to them.Tangier, Virginia is a small island slowly sinking into the Chesapeake Bay. Its inhabitants –many of them crab fishers– are hoping for a sea wall to insulate them from the coming flood. Crab traps piled up on the docks like three-dimensional minimalist grids provided inspiration for Barrada’s imposing sculpture: a chimerical, incomplete gabion wall.
This exhibition ponders human reactions to the onset of disaster. It acknowledges the temptation of insularity as protection, yet proposes hospitality and care as a counterpoint. If environmental catastrophe stems in part from the magnified solar radiation known as the greenhouse effect, can solace be found in amplifying the power of solidarity? Barrada materializes this wager by sharing the exhibition space with an artist she admires. Born in 1927, Bettina lost most of her work to a fire in 1966. She remade it and built upon it over the following decades, from the solitary confines of a room in the Chelsea Hotel.
The exhibition presents a small selection from Bettina’s remarkable body of work: a set of long wooden pieces, floating like the ghostly remains of an ancient ship, an array of sculptural experiments in wood and marble. Each of these belongs to a larger series developed out of self-imposed constraints from which gesture and accident subtly emerge.Two-dimensional works by both artists engage in a conversation around clear lines, simple shapes and a dramatically reduced palette – as though to convert the ominous sense of an ending into the primordial forms of quieter beginnings. With her land and water forms, her leaf shape drawings, and her photograms of sewing exercises, Yto Barrada invites us to learn the grammar of our world. With her marble egg posters, her keys looking for locks, and her hair photographed in a sink, Bettina shows the combinatory powers of simple forms. For the artists, the point is not to exhaust the possibilities of a given situation, but to experience how generative a set of simple constraints can be when you arm yourself with rigor, humor, and imagination.
About Yto Barrada
Yto Barrada was born in Paris in 1971. Her work, which began by exploring the peculiar situation of her hometown Tangier, Morocco, combines the strategies of documentary film with a metaphorical approach to imagery in her photographs, installations, and sculptures. Engaging with the performativity of archival practices and public interventions, Barrada’s installations reinterpret social relationships, uncover subaltern histories, and reveal the prevalence of fiction in institutionalized narratives. Her work is held in the collections of Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Tate Modern, London. She was the 2011 Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year, the 2013 Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography (Peabody Museum at Harvard University), the 2015 Abraaj Group Art Prize winner, and the 2019 Roy R. Neuberger Prize winner. She is the founding director of the Tangier Cinematheque.
Bettina was born in New York in 1927. Starting in the 1950s, she produced a remarkable body of work that includes photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, film, drawing, and text-based art. Following the loss of her work in a fire that destroyed her studio in 1966, she lived and traveled in Europe for ten years before moving back to New York and settling in the Chelsea Hotel where she still resides. 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. She has been the subject of several films, including Bettina (Sam Bassett, 2008) and Girl with Black Balloons (Corinne van der Borch, 2010).
About Omar Berrada
Omar Berrada is a writer and curator, and the director of Dar al-Ma’mûn, a library and artists’ residency in Marrakech. His work focuses on the politics of cultural translation and intergenerational transmission. Currently living in New York, he teaches at The Cooper Union where he co-organizes the IDS Lecture Series.