“For me, I think our understanding of the human experience is connected to our understanding of our origin story. And the show is about a physiological return, but also a kind of historic return. What does it mean for human beings to return to their place of origin, as Africa is the place where human beings evolved?” - Tavares Strachan, July 2023
Goodman Gallery presents The Return, the first solo exhibition on the African continent for Nassau-born, New York-based interdisciplinary conceptual artist Tavares Strachan. The show includes ceramics, which are being displayed in an exhibition context for the first time, as well as new paintings and locally created, handwoven tapestries - all of which have been made specifically for this presentation.
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Over the past two decades, Strachan has formed a research-intensive practice that taps into art, science, history, and cultural critique with thematic investigations related to invisibility, displacement and loss. The artist’s primary interest is storytelling, with a focus on how an experience has an impact on the viewer. This is extended into his considerations of multidimensional performance and how working in multiple mediums collides.
Central to the show is The Encyclopedia of Invisibility - a fifteen-year-long project resulting in an ongoing anthology of hidden stories that have been left out of history. This work anchors his thematic and material voyages, emphasising the necessity for articulating multiple histories, and how power operates in the production and recording of a singular narration of history.
The artist’s tapestries use text and subject matter from The Encyclopedia of Invisibility, weaving layered references together to explore an expanded visual enunciation of historical accounts, mapping out temporal and political connections. His paintings offer an intimate examination of cosmic influences, and highlight Strachan’s knowledge and fascination with astronomy. Work such as the Galaxy paintings chart space. They explore the idea that because of the infinite speed of light, when you gaze up into the night sky, you’re looking into the past, collapsing the way that we think about time.
The ceramic works, presented as totems of key African American, Caribbean and Brazilian figures, offer an expression of their stories as having a spiritual significance in addition to their social impact. The presence of clay in the exhibition also thickens Strachan’s consideration of materials as reflections of deep time.
I love this idea that the mud is an integral part of human existence and human evolution. And the idea that you can build something from clay, fire it, and create form is something that is very much connected to the many cultures creation story, but the idea of just being an artist in general. So, clay is a really important motivator and driver for this exhibition - Strachan
Tavares Strachan (b. 1979 in Nassau, Bahamas) references aeronautics, astronomy, deep-sea exploration, and extreme climatology to create monumental allegories through multiple mediums to communicate stories of cultural displacement, human aspiration, and mortal limitation.
Beyond his The Encyclopaedia of Invisibility project, he is perhaps best known for The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (Arctic Ice Project), 2004-06, in which he extracted a four and half tonne block of Arctic ice and shipped it to his birthplace in the Bahamas, where it was exhibited in a specially designed freezer chamber that was solar powered.
Strachan’s work has been acquired by several museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Bass, Miami; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Momentary at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; Musée d’art contemporain, Lyon; The Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; and RISD Museum at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
Notable solo exhibitions include: You Belong Here/We Belong Here (Site Specific Installation), Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York (2021); You Belong Here, Prospect 3. Biennial, New Orleans (2014); The Immeasurable Daydream, Biennale de Lyon, Lyon (2013); Polar Eclipse, The Bahamas National Pavilion 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); Seen/Unseen, Undisclosed Exhibition, New York (2011); Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea if I Never Went Home Again, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2010).
Group shows include: Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2022); The Willfulness of Objects, The Bass Museum, Miami (2020); May You Live in Interesting Times, curated by Ralph Rugoff, The 58th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2019, Venice (2019); The Encyclopaedia of Invisibility, 54th Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg (2018); Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/ Giuffrida Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans (2017); and Bringing the World Into the World, Queens Museum, New York (2014).
All images courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery