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Yto Barrada: The Dye Garden

Work by Yto Barrada, an internationally-acclaimed, Moroccan-French, multi-media artist and winner of the 2019 Roy R. Neuberger Prize, will be on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art, September 25 through December 22, 2019 in Yto Barrada: The Dye Garden. This will be the first time that the exhibition, which originated at the American Academy in Rome, will be seen in the United States. The exhibition includes film, video, photography, sculpture, and hand-dyed textiles that are inspired by the artist’s family history, Islamic tradition, and the legacy of Western colonialism.

Barrada has long investigated gestures and grammar of resistance to structures of power and control. Says Barrada: “All my work explores strategies of survival – of resistance and constraint [which can be] oppression or domination…The central question remains, disobedience and insurrection. How does one acquire and transmit political courage?”  Barrada’s interest in resistance is amplified by her explorations of cultural concerns and historical accounts, with a focus on Morocco. “It both personal and political,” notes Helaine Posner, Chief Curator at the Neuberger Museum of Art, “[and] is informed by postcolonial thought, subaltern histories, and society’s ‘hidden transcripts,’ which are the secret discourse of the powerless, spoken behind the backs of the powerful.”

This presentation of Yto Barrada: The Dye Garden is co-organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art and the American Academy in Rome, and is co-curated by Ms. Posner and Peter Benson Miller, Curator and former Andrew Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy.  The exhibition will be accompanied by a co-published catalogue with contributions by the curators and by artist Yto Barrada. Generous support for the Roy R. Neuberger Prize has been provided by Jim Neuberger and Helen Stambler Neuberger.

The title of the show relates to Barrada’s interest in the geology and botany of North Africa in the context of the colonial and postcolonial eras; and her explorations – the foraging and extraction of natural pigments, and dyeing of fabric. Six of her recent hand-dyed and -sewn textile works are patterned on (and re-appropriate the forms and hues of) Frank Stella’s series of fluorescent striped paintings from 1964-1965 that were inspired by the geometric forms and brilliant hues of Arabic tiles that he saw during his honeymoon in Morocco, at a time when he sought inspiration and self-discovery in North Africa. The striped patterns refer to the fabrics worn by Moroccan farm workers (red and white stripes are a symbol of Tangier) and those in works by painters Mohamed Chebaa, Farid Belkahia, and Mohammed Melehi, artists who pioneered a North African modernist abstraction and were founders of the Casablanca School in the 1960s. Ms. Posner suggests, however, that “Barrada’s re-appropriation of Stella’s work serves as a witty feminist riff on modernist abstraction, and is a pointed contemporary critique of the orientalist tradition.”

Mr. Miller notes that the fabrication of textiles, which the artist collects, and the dyes used to color them allow her to weave together the interests and anecdotes of her family with intertwined colonial histories and vernacular practices: “Many of Barrada’s projects highlight ‘women’s work’ in the broadest sense. Far from insisting on any kind of simple dichotomy of gender, Barrada proposes a paradigm shift in a field in which the discourse remains dominated by men. Her subtle use of these sources is leavened by playfulness, a wry sense of humor, and an inventive use of children’s games and toys – the basic syntax of idea formation.”

Included in the exhibition is a 16mm film and large-scale, hand-dyed curtain, Tree Identification for Beginners (2017), commissioned for Performa 17 in New York and developed during the artist’s residency at the American Academy in Rome. In this signature work, the artist recounts a trip in 1966 by her mother, Mounira Bouzid, to the United States as part of Operation Crossroads Africa, intended to impress young African students (future leaders). “[She} resisted the …message, responding instead to the revolutionary spirit of the civil rights, black power, and anti-Vietnam War movements,” writes Ms. Posner. “Tree Identification embodies themes that are central to Barrada’s work. She is interested in highlighting the accomplishments of strong, unconventional women… and cheerfully exploits the subversive power of play.”

Yto Barrada, who was born in Paris and raised in Tangier, had her first solo exhibition in 2003 at the Galerie Polaris, Paris. Since then, her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume, Paris (2006); Venice Biennale (2007, 2011); and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009), among other venues. In 2011, she received Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year Award. According to Ms. Posner, “Barrada’s wide-ranging intelligence and global perspective inform her work in a variety of media including photography, film, sculpture, and hand-dyed textiles. She creates aesthetically compelling images and objects and tackles serious sociopolitical and cultural issues leavened with humor.” Barrada now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Special Events in conjunction with this exhibition:

Fall Exhibition Opening Reception

Wednesday, October 30, 4:30 – 7:00 pm

A special evening to share with friends from the community and Purchase College campus. Browse the galleries filled with incredible works from the fall 2019 exhibitions and engage in conversation with artists, curators, and fellow art lovers. There also are light refreshments and live music.

Free with museum admission. No registration required.

Panel and Workshop: Fostering Empathy and Social Transformation

Through the Arts

Friday, November 1, 2:00-4:00 pm

A collaboration with the school of Art+Design, this panel and workshop will address how art and museums can help alleviate prejudice in our society. The focus is on Islamic-centered art. Speakers include author and historian of Islamic art Elif Gokcigdem and School of Art+Design director Christopher Robbins.

Free with museum admission. RSVP appreciated: [email protected]

Art Talk: Art Sandwiched-In

Friday, December 6, 12:30-2:00 pm

RSVP: [email protected]

Bring your own lunch and, in the first 30 minutes, socialize with other art lovers.

Then, join a curator for an hour-long tour of Yto Barrada: The Dye Garden

Free with museum admission