art me africa

InReview: Grace Ndiritu and Poetics of the Cloth African Textiles/Recent Art

Posted in africa, art by artmeafrica on November 23, 2008

On exhibit at NYU’s Gray Gallery Poetics of the Cloth African Textiles/Recent Art is an awkward shot-gun marriage between shiny trash turned fine art and yet another conservative, banal stab at curating African work. There is El Anatsui, the renowned Ghanian bad ass of scrap metal and and golden bottle tops; Sokari Douglass Camp, a Nigerian politial practitioner of recast scrap metal; and other textile imaginators who weave ‘n torque patterns out of anything but their grandparent’s sewing kits. Standing outside the cloth-metal crowd is Grace Ndiritu, a video cloth temptress extraordinaire hailing from the U.K. and immigrant parents. Whether training her lens on women’s blue scarfed heads in slowmo that make lonely planet traveler home videos look like a sham or recording herself defiantly wrapping and unwrapping herself into a temptpress in the Nightingale (2003), Ndiritu becons our voyeuristic desire to glaze over and gaze.

Sadly, the wall scribblers tacked up the interesting details in a small font, letting the oversize letters discourse like its 1999 all over again: really, how many more times does a university gallery need to reiterate that art is everywhere in baby-step language? While wall text shouldn’t leave the art impaired shipwrecked in jargon, the show’s curators over did it. And to make matters worse, The New York Times‘s Karen Rosenberg butchered it further. Opening her review with “to the casual Western eye “African art” equals “African sculpture” [and as this] exhibition makes clear, this picture is laughably outdated,” Rosenberg ironically opted not to mention that minus the wall hangings and a tv, the exhibit is sculptures. And as if Rosenberg hadn’t already sewn herself into a rhetorical quagmire, she later laid the misinformation down by penning “One of the show’s discoveries, Grace Ndiritu…” as if Ndiritu work hadn’t been reviewed in Frieze in 2007 or  given a shout out in Holland Cotter’s (i.e. NYTimes ole man of art reviewing) April ’08 review of Flow, which showed at the Studio Museum of Harlem. Apparently writing for The New York Times doesn’t necessitate reading it anymore.

But trash talk aside, catch the show: it‘s on view ’til December 6th.