Featured Project: with curators Anna Shukeylo and Yasmeen Abdallah
The group show To Have and to Hold at the Abrazo Interno Gallery at the Clemente brings together work by Maria de Los Angeles, Julia Justo, Jeff Kasper, Michela Martello, Patricia Miranda and Jean Carla Rodea, who explore in their work notions of beauty and soulful trajectories through the potency of heirloom-like objects. Co-curators Yasmeen Abdallah and Anna Shukeylo share their thoughts on their collaborative curatorial experience.
What is your curatorial vision for this show, its genesis, and what would you like to share about the featured art?
Yasmeen Abdallah:I have always been fascinated by heirlooms, hand-me-downs, relics, and other keepsakes. I believe in the idea that an object that was carried over, outliving and outlasting generations, is a form of storytelling and physical embodiment of oral histories. My father immigrated here from the Middle East, and I wasn’t able to meet my family until I was a teenager, because of war, visas, logistical, political, and economical issues; so I grew up learning about my family and heritage through the keepsakes that he was able to carry with him. These objects served as stand-ins for my relatives. This is something that I actively explore in my art practice: the remnants of physical beings. I think that exploring the world and getting to know who I am through tactility and physicality probably lead me into sculpture, textile, and installation work. I also studied historical/collaborative archaeology in college, where descendant communities work alongside archaeologists; and so this connection to the past through material culture has been something that I respect and connect with, and think about quite a bit.
Over the last several years, I have been working with organizations like ABC No Rio and Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space on projects that focus on the rich history of the Lower East Side. Back in 2017, the two collaborated on a project called History in a Box, which focused on the resilience and vibrancy of the neighborhood for Lower East Side History Month. As a member of both collectives, I worked on the project, and got to help curate the exhibition that culled ephemera from both archives to share this important legacy with the public. We had panel discussions, talks, and slideshows from a range of artists, activists, writers, and journalists from the neighborhood that helped to document and shape the legacy.
Anna Shukeylo: I’m drawn to heirlooms due to their ability to carry the weight of heritage and significance of personal history within an object of often unassuming appearance. I immigrated to the US when I was an 11 year old child and my past has been preserved for me in my heirlooms. I have held on to a number of otherwise meaningless items such as trinkets, boxes, hand decorated letters, cups, dishes, even a blanket. This show reflects both mine and Yasmeen’s deep attachment to our heirlooms as an immigrant and an immigrant’s daughter. Each artist’s interpretation of something precious, deeply rooted in their culture is fascinating to both of us. For example, I love how Michela Martello’s pieces reflect on mysticism, power of female goddesses, and ritual while Maria De Los Angele’s dresses tell the story of immigration and struggle. The archeological qualities of this project has led us to a selection of artists of various backgrounds, disciplines, and psychological approaches to the topic.
Anna Shukeylo and Yasmeen Abdallah: The Clemente is, of course, such an important part of this history, so when they had an open call, we wanted to pay tribute to its spirit through an exhibition. We talked about our own experiences with keepsakes, and started to think about other artists whose work would align with our vision for the project. We were both really in sync with each artist presented, and the conception process of the project felt very easy and organic. It kept getting postponed because of Covid, which is where it got a bit challenging, because half of the people in the show relocated out of state during the pandemic, but we all worked together and made it work, especially the ways in which the works interact with each other in the exhibit.
The works of Julia Justo and Maria De Los Angeles have a similar materiality language in the textiles, colors, and subject matter they depict; yet they are distinctly unique in application, gesture, and technique. Julia’s photographs and Jeff Kasper’s sculptures further extend the dialogue through clean lines and glossy, light-reflecting surfaces that on the exterior, are pristine, but upon closer inspection, reveal the layered metaphors and realities of life beneath the surface. Michaela Martello and Patricia Miranda bring the embodiment of the bodily through earthly, celestial and otherworldly means in artfully composed, dynamic ways through weighted presence in scale and detail. Julia’s photos also reference this idea through alters connecting us in ways beyond the purely physical. Jean Carla Rodea’s work explores dynamics involving (in)finiteness, (in)tangibility, linguistics, and connectivity through the act of searching.
Yasmeen Abdallah is an interdisciplinary artist, independent curator, and educator. Her work is featured in public, private, and traveling collections in the U.S. and abroad. She has curated exhibitions at numerous institutions, and has been a visiting artist, lecturer, and panelist at numerous arts, cultural, and educational institutions. She belongs to the ABC No Rio and MoRUS collectives, and is a writer for Urban Activist. Solo exhibitions include Lagoon (2022), Academy of St. Joseph (2020), La Bodega (2019), Open Source (2018), Pratt (2015), and UMass Boston (2013). She holds an MFA with distinction from Pratt Institute and BA with honors from University of Massachusetts.
Anna Shukeylo is an artist, curator and educator working and living in New York City. She graduated from Pratt Institute with her MFA in Painting and received classical training from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where she received her BFA/Certificate in painting. Her work has been exhibited throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana and internationally. She has curated shows at the Museum of Russian Art, NJ, Morris Warren Gallery, NY, Gallery 178, NY among others. She curates an invitational annual exhibition for Kean University’s Fine Arts Department that has included internationally acclaimed artists. Shukeylo is also a writer and contributor to Artcritical.com.
To Have and to Hold at the Clemente Abrazo Interno Gallery 107 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002 Curated by Anna Shukeylo and Yasmeen Abdallah Featuring artists: Maria de Los Angeles, Julia Justo, Jeff Kasper, Patricia Miranda, Michela Martello, Jean Carla Rodea Through April 2nd, 2022