News — 20 Jul 2022
Bad Color Combos presents an overview of the recent work of artist Yto Barrada. Her multidisciplinary practice includes film, textiles, photography, sculpture. This solo exhibition presents a selection of Barrada's work of the last five years, together with new artwork conceived especially for the exhibition. In it, she continues to explore cultural phenomena, personal histories and natural processes. In recent years, Yto Barrada has developed new series of works around themes such as the acceleration and deceleration of time; motherhood; the history of education; play; the artisanry of natural dyes and color as material; traditions of modernism and our futile attempts to control nature.
Barrada’s work has been exhibited at Tate Modern (London), MoMA (New York), The Renaissance Society (Chicago), Witte de With (Rotterdam), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Whitechapel Gallery (London), and the 2007 and 2011 Venice Biennale. She has received many international awards, more recently the 2022 Queen Sonja Print Award (Oslo).In 2006, Barrada established the Tangier Cinémathèque, North Africa’s first cinema cultural center. Her latest project is The Mothership, an eco-feminist research center and residency, centered on natural dyes and textile, and housed in a Tangier farmhouse. The plant extracts from this garden provided the dyes for many of the artworks in this exhibition. Curator Leontine Coelewij: “Yto Barrada unites different roles, those of artist, and collector. Her work is enigmatic, she explores various modes of abstraction, which can be interpreted as a critical reflection on the exclusionary mechanisms of modernism and can equally be seen as metaphors for current challenges.” Yto Barrada was born in 1971, grew up in Morocco, studied history and political science at the Sorbonne, Paris, and now lives and works between New York and Tangier.
Modernism, an alternative vision
In her work, Yto Barrada often refers associatively to international modernism in an attempt to destabilize a western interpretation of art and to examine the local issues of globalization. In the After Stella series, she references a specific moment in the history of abstract painting: the color field paintings produced by the American artist Frank Stella in the mid-1960s. Stella drew his inspiration from his travels in Morocco and titled paintings after Moroccan cities. Alongside Stella, Barrada also invokes Mohamed Chebaa, Farid Belkahia, and Mohammed Melehi, painters affiliated with the Casablanca School in the 1960 who pioneered North African modernism in their abstract paintings.
This exhibition presents three of Barrada’s most important films in 8 and 16 mm: Tree Identification for Beginners (2017), The Power of Two or Three Suns (2020) and Continental Drift (2022).
The Power of Two or Three Suns was shot in an industrial testing laboratory where a variety of materials and products are subjected to artificially simulated natural forces to assess their durability. The exposure of colors to the power of the (artificial) sun acts as a metaphor for the passage of time, for aging and decay, and for the impact of climate change and the ecological crisis.
Along with her sociopolitical concerns, Yto Barrada’s artistic practice is grounded in the idea of community, artistic kinship, and collaboration with friends and family. The artist explores her interest in play, education and experimentation in a gallery in which alongside her own work, she showcases that of female artists of three generations: Elodie Pong (b. 1968), Bettina (Bettina Grossman,1927-2021) as well as new work co-created with her 8-year-old daughter, Tamo.
Relationship with the Stedelijk
The Stedelijk has been following the work of Yto Barrada for quite some time. In 2008 she presented a series of photos in the exhibition Snap Judgements, New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, curated by Okwui Enwezor, at the Stedelijk Museum CS. To date, Yto Barrada has only shown photographic work in the Netherlands. This is the first time she is planning an exhibition here that embodies her multifaceted artistic oeuvre.Director Rein Wolfs: “The exhibition is permeated by Yto Barrada's long-standing research into the transformation of color. In a sense, her aesthetic (color) choices can be traced back to social themes such as migration and diaspora, major thematic lines within Stedelijk's programming. Bad Color Combos complements recent exhibitions at the Stedelijk by Remy Jungerman and Sedje Hémon, Abdias Nascimento, and Imran Mir, which offer new invocations of twentieth-century modernism.” Barrada herself conceived the scenography for the exhibition in collaboration with designer Mira van den Neste.
The exhibition Yto Barrada – Bad Color Combos is generously supported by the Mondriaan Fund and the benefactors of the Stedelijk Museum Fonds. This exhibition is curated by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and organized by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Kunsthalle Bielefeld.