Yesterday Filiz, and I did Art Walk, and although we saw a lot of interesting work,the one exhibit I really loved is Ghada Amer's " Color Misbehavior" at Cheim & Read gallery. The art must be seen up close. Erotic motifs are stitched and therefore blurred by the embroidery technique she uses on her canvas. Stitching in small point, she leaves the long, lose threads after knotting them on the front of the canvas, then uses a transparent gel to glue the threads on the surface. This effect is similar to paint dripping, a mass of abstract lines from far away that only reveals her erotic figures on close inspection.
Ghada Amer was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1963. A peripatetic childhood led her to art school in Nice, France, where she graduated with an MFA in painting in 1989, and then to New York, where she now lives and works. Her work has been included in several important national and international exhibitions, and was the subject of a Brooklyn Museum survey show in 2008, titled Love Has No End.
Though Amer’s trademark material is brightly-colored embroidery thread, she primarily considers herself a painter. Her use of embroidery as paint intentionally confronts the traditional, male-dominated terrain of the medium and its academic equivalent in art history. Widely associated with femininity and domesticity (darning, sewing, needlepoint), the act of stitching is redefined by Amer’s less tidy compositions. She often leaves excess threads and knots dangling; this additional layer of “mark-making” abstracts and obscures underlying imagery. Her technique also gives an organic, fluid sensibility to the meticulousness of the embroidery process. Amer reclaims lost territory: the skeins of thread accompanying her embroidered lines echo the drips and gestural brushwork of the Abstract Expressionists, and insists on an intimate reading of her work.
Expanding the boundaries of painting to accommodate her exploration of the stitched canvas, Amer’s methodology demands a more feminine dialectic, and questions the classifications of sexuality, beauty, gender and abstraction. She reappropriates images from soft-porn magazines, often repeating or overlapping her subjects, the explicit imagery veiled and revealed by webs of thread. Her source material, originally produced to titillate, still has elements of longing and desire, but by guiding its reception to a new audience, Amer rejects the implied male gaze inherent in its origins as pornography. Though easily pigeonholed as making a political statement against the Muslim culture of her upbringing, Amer argues that the issues in her work are universal. Her critique of cultural conventions extends to all women, including in the United States, where sexuality has long been defined by a puritanical attitude.