January 21 – April 1, 2023

Ornamental Gestures

Works by Virgil Baruchel, Millie Chen, Ruth Cuthand, Soheila Esfahani, Ed Pien, Tazeen Qayyum & Shaheer Zazai
Curated by Sandy Saad-Smith

Ornamental Gestures brings together artists who work in beading, calligraphy, wallpaper, visual motifs, and rug design and production. They take contemporary approaches to artmaking methods traditional to their cultural heritages, and push their mediums into new territories that play with scale, context, process, and material. Their works challenge the distinction between art and craft, and occupy a space between contemporary art and cultural tradition. The exhibition is an invitation to slow down, observe, and contemplate artworks that are at once decorative, fantastical, and critical.  

The artists in Ornamental Gestures engage with and practice crafts as a means to connect to their heritage and push back against the way it has been historically represented. They reclaim their cultural traditions and embrace the creative practices that remain on the periphery of objects, spaces, and critical theory. The tangible manifestations of their cultures speak to a connectedness and longing for one’s ancestry through material object. The luminous works in the exhibition, painstakingly created by the artists, go beyond the notion of ornament to confront colonial and capitalistic mindsets. Through nuanced approaches to engaging with processes and materials that have been historically referenced as ornamental, they produce a new visual vernacular.