Allana Clarke and Esmaa Mohamoud in Chicago Lowdown: Best Exhibitions Over EXPO ART WEEK and Beyond

Casey Carsel , Ocula, May 2, 2023

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Esmaa MohamoudLet Them Consume Me In The Light


Near the reception area of Kavi Gupta's Elizabeth Street space, viewers may notice a few black dandelions on the ground. Entering the space more fully reveals a field of metal renditions of the plant, dusted in places with the yellow and red sunset colours of the lights above them.


The flowers are a part of the artist's installation Darkness Doesn't Rise To The Sun, But We Do (2022), which memorialises victims of police violence. The artist takes the 'weed' status of the dandelion and their hardiness, despite continued attempts at eradication, as a metaphor for the resilience of the black community in the face of oppression.The resultant work is a strong, powerful field of rest and contemplation.


Further into the gallery space are three more works by the artist, including a set of three busts atop Italian marble plinths, collectively titled Gluttony, Gluttony, Gluttony (2023). The busts are carved from shea butter referencing the faces of those who harvest shea-butter nuts in Ghana under exploitative conditions. The three figures face away from the entrance; refusing to easily meet the viewer's gaze.


In the gallery's booth at EXPO CHICAGO, another of these busts faces a wall, her face almost impossible to look upon—a jarring and effective gesture in a space where so much asks for the viewer's gaze.


Allana Clarke: I Feel Everything


From a distance, the works of Allana Clarke's latest exhibition at Kavi Gupta look like soft folds of fabric, but as one gets closer, the plastic hardness of these black, organic, large-scale reliefs reveals itself.


Made from hair bond glue, the artist manipulates the material with her hands and feet over the course of weeks, smoothing, roughing, and kneading until she has built worlds, fossils, and tar pits out of the substance.


Subverting the material's role as a product designed to bond extensions to the hair, the work dives into the worlds of meaning contained inside the colour black and meditates on the poetics of black space.

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