Ghada Amer: ‘QR Codes Revisited—London’
Egypt-born New York-based artist Ghada Amer is celebrated across two continents this autumn, holding four concurrent gallery exhibitions in North America, Europe and the UK.
The occasion sees Goodman Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Tina Kim Gallery, and Kewenig in collaboration with Ana Serratosa Gallery offer an unprecedented opportunity to experience new and historical works. And follows Amer’s 2022-2023 retrospective at MUCEM which spanned three venues in Marseille, highlighting painting, ceramic and sculpture, as well as iconic garden works.
In London, one of Amer’s earliest installation pieces – a highlight from the artist’s 2022 French retrospective, and never before exhibited in the UK – is brought together alongside early embroideries and new appliqué paintings created during a recent visit to her home country. The exhibition spans decades of practice through to 2023.
In New York, significant new bronzes premiere at Tina Kim Gallery while new appliqués are exhibited at Marianne Boesky Gallery.
Valencia hosts a major new outdoor garden installation developed for the City of Valencia, presented by Kewenig in collaboration with Galeria Ana Serratosa.
‘QR Codes Revisited—London’ at Goodman Gallery, 26 Cork Street, Mayfair, finds the artist using language to ask what it means to communicate across cultures and to truly understand the Other.
Working for the first time with the traditionally male-dominated Egyptian textile craft, Amer deploys Eastern and Western voices within a series of large-scale abstract appliqué works: transforming statements by Simone de Beauvoir – “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” – and Amina Sboui – “my body belongs to me and it does not represent the honour of anyone” – into bold geometric formations that reference the ubiquitous QR code form, a recent visual language that has replaced printed text. The exhibition expands on Amer’s career-long commitment to pushing against the exploitation of women around the world and to inspire all women to reclaim agency.
Amer’s iconic embroidered wall sculptures ‘Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie’ (1995/2002), previously exhibited as part of the artist’s survey exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2008 and now for the first time in the UK, consist of two life size straitjackets bearing the phrase: “Ken aime Barbie Barbie aime Ken” [Eng. Ken loves Barbie Barbie loves Ken]. The work reflects on the obsessive nature of love and the impossible beauty standards that define Mattel dolls which are absorbed by young women. A recent article in Hyperallergic, timed to the cinema release of ‘Barbie’ (2023), highlights the work as one of the earliest artist critiques of the doll.
Since the 1990s, Amer’s Definition paintings have questioned the power of words to capture individual and shared realities. The Arabic dictionary definitions embroidered in the works featured in ‘QR Codes Revisited—London’ explore meanings for: “Freedom”, “Love”, “Security” and “Peace” with the intension to challenge audience assumptions around Islamic culture and remind us that these qualities are integral to Arab societies. The work invites viewers to appreciate the overlooked riches of language, highlighting how easily one can become lost in translation.
Ghada Amer (b. Cairo, 1963) has a wide-ranging practice spanning painting, cast sculpture, ceramics, works on paper, and garden and mixed-media installations. Amer’s work is featured in public collections around the world, including: The Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; the Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Samsung Museum, Seoul; among others. Among invitations to prestigious group shows and biennials—such as the Whitney Biennial in 2000 and the Venice Biennales of 1999 (where she won the UNESCO Prize), 2005 and 2007—she was given a mid-career retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York in 2008 and an even wider retrospective by the MUCEM across three venues in the city of Marseille (France) in 2022-2023.
Ghada Amer: ‘QR Codes Revisited—London’ continues until 22 December 2023 at Goodman Gallery, 26 Cork Street, Mayfair