Kukje Gallery is pleased to present Référence à Elle a solo exhibition of new works by Ghada Amer. This will be Amer’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. Ghada Amer embodies an artistic practice characterized by her use of multiple mediums and is celebrated internationally for her visionary work.
Référence à Elle refers to one of the artist’s most enduring themes: exploring gender roles and the perception of women. Not content with merely critiquing inequality, however, Amer’s work is at once pointed, funny, and profoundly erotic, exploiting these competing emotions to dig deeper into the audience’s own views and experiences. For this third solo exhibition the artist will show major new paintings as well as her first fully realized series of large-scale sculptures. These sculptural forms, resembling ovals, confront the viewer directly occupying about the same space as an average human body.
Amer’s newest sculptural work is in keeping with her multidisciplinary philosophy exploring themes of politics and sexuality, alongside formal concerns of line and color. Embracing both the body and language as twin avenues to explore the human condition the sculptures shift between a narrative space and a physical one, sometimes occupying both simultaneously.
What makes the artist’s sculptures so unique in her oeuvre as well as the history of sculpture is the way she engages both inside and outside. She does this by literally fabricating forms that exist to be looked at and to be looked through. They are completely open and capture the eye as well as the imagination allowing imagery to emerge in both the fore, middle and back ground. These forms are especially innovative as Amer has continued to explore themes of figure and abstraction in three dimensions thereby creating objects that defy easy categorization and consistently challenge the viewer’s interpretation.
In many ways Amer’s mastery of the line in her paintings has informed her new sculptures. In works such as The Blue Bra Girls, the viewer’s eyes trace the content of the object continuously, a restlessness that gives the work tremendous power. The artist began this series with the sculpture 100 Words of Love wanting to in her words “make a hollow sculpture where shadow is as important as the object.” This desire to conflate inside and outside, private and public frames Amer’s strong interest in social relationships and the way culture and popular imagery governs social norms.
The Blue Bra Girls is a powerful response to the current social upheaval in Egypt. Racked by months of violent protest and the eventual collapse of the Mubarak government, Egypt’s women came to place a significant role in advocating for change, often risking physical violence. One such activist was filmed being beaten and stripped of her clothes leaving her blue bra exposed—footage that shocked the world. Amer wanted to make a work that honored this women’s bravery.
In other works in the exhibition the artists explores softer themes of love and longing, in The Heart her deft filigree seems to detail the delicate strands of two lovers in embrace and again reference the paintings and their use of complex and multi-layered threadwork that is the artist’s hallmark.
The paintings in the show reveal a mature style as developed by Amer and her “unofficial” collaborator Reza Farkhondeh. Incorporating popular cultural motifs, appropriated images of anonymous women and complex arabesque and floral arrangements, these multilayered compositions provoke a visceral emotional response. What is so unique about the paintings and their making is the way they investigate beauty, as an experience of pure emotion. As the artist has stated, “all my work is almost about a specific emotion that I have, either about the world, a person, a friend, a lover, or politics, etc. It is very important to transmit that emotion to the viewer in a way that he/she can feel it because she/he can relate to the same experience. This in a way becomes "beauty". This is for me when a work is successful ... The emotion has to be retained, otherwise it becomes too expressionist and we get more drama than beauty.”
The artist’s emphasis on this balance is perfectly illustrated in the painting Sindy-RFGA where the embroidery has been integrated so delicately that it appears to flow like paint over the canvas. It is this spontaneity and lightness of touch that Amer is determined to achieve and that is so powerfully embodied in her work.
The artist is able to provoke and sustain this emotion through her uncompromising craft and mastery of line, in both two dimensions and three. Référence à Elle offers a unique opportunity to see both Amer’s painting and sculptures together and to chart their interrelationships in a stunning installation.
Ghada Amer was born in Cairo in 1963.
She moved to France with her parents in 1974, and began her artistic training ten years later at Villa Arson, Nice, France. She currently lives and works in New York. Amer's work has been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennale, the Brooklyn Museum, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma, and Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv. Her works are included in many prestigious collections, such as the Art Institute of Chicago; Israeli Museum, Jerusalem; Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among others.