Tarsila Do Amaral

I saw this show back in December and I am only now getting around to writing about it. The theme for this month is discipline and follow-thru, that means burning the end of some braids before they unravel completely. 

When I walked into the show I was struck by the outlines of the figures. The first peice on display for familiar to me from the advertising for the show. I always look for the image I saw on fliers when I get to the show because I'm a basic art hoe. In my head it's this magical moment where I imagine what I look like looking at the peice. Galleries are my favorite place to photograph.  

I was captivated by the consistency within the show. She drew the same shit over and over but never the same thing twice. I had never considered how many times an artist draws the same still life for practice. Maybe I had but I don't get to see all the iterations in museums often.  

The curves and fullness made her work feel embarrassingly approachable. We had a genuine ”i think I can do this” moment.  My son and I sat right on the floor and tried to recreate what we saw. I thought he would die of embarrassment at first but we got through it  I still have our quick sketches in a pile of other work on the long wooden table in my office. 

The articles I read about Tarsila and the show have faded and it seems dishonest to look it up but the lines in her pencil work are visible in my memory still.  

This is great if your looking for inspiration to pick up a pencil and just draw but you will have to catch it outside of Chicago because it's run at the Art Institute is over. My bad. 

Backstroke of the West: Reflecting on Demanding Memory

I was able to experience Backstroke of the West by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I have been wanting to experience the exhibit since seeing this description:

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"Also on view are Spoils (2011), a project that saw the artist serve Iraqi date syrup and venison on Saddam Hussein’s very own china, and The invisible enemy should not exist (2007–ongoing), a lifelong project to fabricate at full scale every single item looted from the Iraqi National Museum."

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I am fascinated by the idea of fabricating what as lost, to scale. So you know what was lost then? Imagine that. About 2 or 3 month's ago I asked my mother to record a conversation with me. "I need to capture your story." She flat out refused. "I have no interest in that" and continued playing solitaire.

I wonder if it is the DNA of capitalism to preserve and catalog for no other reason than to prove its existence. Black people know all too well the horrors of a lost (pre)history. So I have to see these for myself, all the while wondering if my mother's inclination is the truer to my (pre)colonial self. What is our attachment to these relics of the past and how does Rakowitz's work interact with that attachment in light of the cultural genocide we know as the afterwords of their destruction.

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Rakowitz's work reclaims the dialogue and holds a place marker for the culture while still allowing it to move forward, to acknowledge the connection between the past and the present. I distinctly Iraqi present even if fingered by the west.

Michael Rakowitz is also responsible for Enemy Kitchen (2003–ongoing), a pop-up food truck that serves Iraqi dishes by the way.

 

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