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Pace opens a solo exhibition of new and recent work by Moroccan-French artist Yto Barrada
Yto Barrada, Untitled (After Stella, Sunrise III), 2020. Cotton and dyes from plant extracts, 57-1/2" × 57-1/2" (146.1 cm × 146.1 cm). © Yto Barrada, courtesy Pace Gallery.

EAST HAMPTON, NY.- Pace Gallery inaugurated its second summer season in East Hampton with a solo exhibition of new and recent work by Moroccan-French artist Yto Barrada, who is known for a body of work built over the past two decades which mines historical figures, sites and situations for artistic material. This exhibition brings together over 25 works by Barrada: recent pieces created with a reappropriation of Frank Stella’s “Moroccan paintings”; a selection of collages using naturally-dyed velvets, part of Barrada’s ongoing deep dive into natural dyes; a series of photograms of candy wrappers which explore the idea of the void; a selection of paper collages that respond to the aftermath of the catastrophic 1960 earthquake in the Moroccan city of Agadir; and furniture sculptures that revisit the 18th century facing-bodies “conversation chair” using traditional Moroccan wicker weaving techniques.

The artist’s series of new large-scale works continues her exploration into natural dyeing history and techniques, and irreverently alludes to Frank Stella’s 1964–65 Moroccan painting series titled after cities in the country. Barrada’s series adds cities from his honeymoon travels that he did not feature. Barrada’s works present luminous tones in alternating diagonal bands of color that starkly contrast with Stella’s industrial alkyd fluorescent paintings. Alongside Stella, this series references the history of African abstraction. Following Morocco’s independence in 1956, a group of painters including Mohamed Chebaa, Farid Belkahia, and Mohamed Melehi, known as the Casablanca School, pioneered a North African modernism with integrated materials and motifs from folk art and pop culture.

The series of velvet collages included in this exhibition are inspired by the color chart sampling systems historically used in master dyers’ workshops. These samplers describe the botanical, insect, or mineral sources of various colors with a special interest in the history of this lost science and art. Barrada is currently building a botanic forest garden and color research center in Tangier that connects her research into natural dyes to her practice of interventions in the city. Color, education, and abstraction are also important themes in Barrada’s series of photograms. Untitled (Bonbon series), from 2017, are produced using a cameraless photographic process that turns light and shadow into positive and negative images. These works gesture to the themes of absence and presence—what remains in history and what is hidden—prevalent throughout Barrada’s practice.

In the gallery’s back viewing room, Barrada has also installed a group of collaged works on paper together with pieces from her series of conversational furniture handcrafted using traditional Moroccan wicker weaving. Created for her 2018 commission for the Barbican Curve Gallery in London, these works are inspired by the novel-play Agadir (1967) by Moroccan writer Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine, which reflects on the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that destroyed most of the city of Agadir in 1960. The city’s destruction coincided with a time of decolonization and the Cold War, as well as modernist ideas of rebuilding and reinvention. Shown together, the Agadir collages and furniture sculptures explore the ways in which cities and people address the process of rebuilding following a disaster. In a time where social dynamics are in flux following a year of distance in the pandemic, Barrada’s exploration of trauma is particularly poignant.

Concurrently, the Museum of Modern Art is presenting the latest edition of its Artist’s Choice exhibition series by Barrada. On view from May 8, 2021 to January 9, 2022, Artist’s Choice: Yto Barrada—A Raft brings together over 60 works selected by Barrada from the museum’s permanent collection across two galleries. For this iteration of the series, Barrada gathers works that resonate with the ideas and work of the French social work pioneer and writer Fernand Deligny (1913–1996) who attempted to create a way of living “outside language” for mute children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Barrada’s work is also being presented alongside pieces from MoMA’s collection.

In Europe, Barrada’s work is highlighted in Moroccan Trilogy 1950-2020—a sweeping survey of the culture of Morocco from the 1950s to the present day—which is currently on view at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid through September 2021. Forthcoming exhibitions include a mid-career presentation at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam opening in October 2022.

Yto Barrada (b. 1971, Paris) is a Moroccan-French artist recognized for her multidisciplinary investigations of cultural phenomena and historical narratives. 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. In 2006, Barrada founded the Cinémathèque de Tanger, North Africa’s first cinema cultural center and community-facing art house cinema, in Tangier.

Her work has been exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Renaissance Society, Chicago; The Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis; Secession, Vienna; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Sao Paulo Museum of Art; American Academy in Rome; and the 2007 and 2011 Venice Biennales.

Barrada has received multiple awards, including the Roy R. Neuberger Prize (2019); the Tiger Award for Best Short Film at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2016); the Abraaj Group Art Prize, UAE (2015); Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography (2013); and Deutsche Guggenheim Artist of the Year (2011).

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