The Artist Ghada Amer Looks to the Future With New Works


the artist Ghada AmerThe work of which will be this view Freeze Seoul In the booth next week Tina Kim Gallery, is hardly the first artist to be angry — or to channel that emotion into his work But few artists talk about it so openly and even cheerfully.

“My paintings are angry,” said Ms. Amer, 60, referring to her embroideries that depict women.

During a lively chat in the large, storied studio in New York’s Harlem neighborhood that he shares with his partner, the artist Reza Farkhondeh, he explains that the impulse dates back to 1986, when a teacher at his French art school wouldn’t let him join a painting class. “He didn’t want to teach a woman,” she said.

There are other fuels to his anger. “I don’t collect as much as white artists,” Ms. Amer added. Born in Egypt, he is a citizen of that country as well as the United States and France.

“I don’t see why,” he added. “But I’m a woman, as well — who makes art about women. It’s frustrating.”

But instead of cursing his misfortune, he threw back his head and gave a smile. The term “happy warrior” usually applied to politicians seems to apply to Ms. Amer as well.

Her signature embroidery works on canvas – which have underlying painted or painted elements – give them a relief quality. “I wanted to paint with thread,” he said of his first foray into the medium.

Threads seem to be weeping from the eyes of some of her female figures, and the embroidery jumps at the idea of ​​sewing as women’s work, highlighting gender dynamics throughout art history.

Sometimes the works depict sexual situations, referencing pornography. Ms. Amer has a sense of humor about it all: She titled an embroidery work featuring nude women in 2005 “Naughty But Nice.”

In the last dozen years, he has moved more fully into new media, creating sculptures in ceramics and, more recently, bronze.

“I’m very excited about this work,” she said of the bronzes in particular, one of which will be in the Tina Kim booth next week.

“The Red Portrait” (2021), a painted bronze. In the past dozen years, Ms. Amer has moved more fully into new media, creating sculptures in ceramic and bronze. credit…Christopher Burke Studios

That sculpture, “The Red Portrait” (2023), a tablet-sized bronze made by Ms. Amer, depicts a female face in her painterly style, like a paneled curtain; The booth will also feature “Another Revolutionary Woman” (2022) and other embroideries.

In October, Ms. Kim will have a New York gallery show dedicated to Ms. Amer and exhibit her work at Frieze London that month.

“Tina really encouraged me in bronze. It opened a door,” Ms. Amer said of working with her dealer. (He is also represented by Marian Boesky Gallery)

He adds that, unlike the raga-fueled paintings, “the sculptures are more lyrical.”

Her work is now on display near her New York home: Ms. Amer’s thread painting, “Heather Degrade” (2006), is on view. Brooklyn MuseumIts controversial exhibition “It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby,” is a scathing critical look at the artist’s complex legacy, curated in part by the comedian and author.

New York-based collector Myung Lee, a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, owns two of Ms. Amer’s paintings and has her eye on installing a garden by the artist.

He said he was surprised that Ms. Amer was not a big name in the art world. “He’s one of the least fancied OGs out there,” Ms. Lee said. “He was ahead of his time.”

That sentiment was echoed by Smithsonian director Melissa Chew Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Hirshhorn showed a piece by Ms. Amer in 2013, and it has another project for the future, Ms. Chew said.

“She infused gender and politics into her practice early on,” Ms. Chew said. “He’s more relevant now than ever.”

Ms Amer was born in Cairo and lived there until the age of 11, when her family moved to France. “I grew up in the West,” he said, adding that he gets frustrated when people emphasize his Muslim heritage. “Sometimes, I feel French,” he adds.

After his disheartening time at art school there, he set his sights on moving to the United States, which he did in 1995. But he said his openly sexual acts have met with some resistance in all his countries.

“People were shocked by it,” he says of the way audiences reacted to his more expressive work in New York galleries in the late 1990s. “Like the Muslim culture I left behind.”

He added, “Sometimes, I feel like I can’t go anywhere.”

His first solo gallery show was a flop, with no sales, but the second sold out, he said, and he went on to work with a succession of prominent dealers, including Gagosian.

His work with textiles was unusual at the time. “She had already developed the idea of ​​a return to materiality,” said Michelle Grabner, an artist and longtime professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who follows Ms. Amer’s work. “We’re fully there now, since fibers and textiles are back.”

Now that she has turned some of her attention to bronze, Ms. Amer must navigate a complex process that involves several steps: a drawing on cardboard that becomes a stenciled maquette, then a clay model. Later, molten bronze is poured into a wax-filled resin or rubber mold, creating the finished piece using what is known as the lost wax process.

The high cost of making the sculptures forced him to move the final stages of the process to a foundry in Seoul, where he traveled last year to work on them.

“The sculpture isn’t selling very well so far,” Ms Amer admits – but then again, the same was true of her paintings 25 years ago.

But the joy he’s taking in creating truly three-dimensional works makes him think he’s on the right track. “It’s the future,” he said of bronze.

Ms. Amer adds that, having reached the milestone age of 60, “I feel I am doing the best in my industry. I have proved myself.”


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