During Frieze New York, catch solo shows by Allana Clarke and Esmaa Mohamoud at Kavi Gupta, Chicago.
Neither of the two solo exhibitions currently showing at Kavi Gupta should be missed. Through her mixed-media sculptural works, Esmaa Mohamoud examines what she dubs ‘Black body politics’, or the interrelated personal, socio-economic and historical factors that shape the category of Blackness from both within and outside the identity. A Seat Above the Table (Angela Bassett) (2019), a 12-foot tall rattan chair, references both the titular actress and the Black Panther Huey P. Newton, who was photographed in such a seat. The work escapes the easy connotations of a domestic American symbolic vocabulary, however: the original peacock chairs were woven by prisoners in the colonized Philippines.
Allana Clarke, meanwhile, continues her signature usage of Salon Pro 30 Sec. Super Hair Bond Glue, a product used to attach hair extensions or wigs to the scalp. To make the works on view, Clarke empties thousands of bottles of the glue over mesh, then manipulates the gradually-hardening material into sculptural shapes, as if wrestling with congealed ideas of Blackness. In I Feel Everything (2023), the material has been pulled to more than six feet across; rippling, bunched, black, glossy and almost delectable, it is offset with ragged edges and gaping holes.