Hollis Taggart will open its door to artist Suchitra Matta’s first solo exhibition, Herself as Another. Mattai’s multidisciplinary practice explores, unravels, and re-imagines commonly understood and entrenched histories and cultural perceptions. With her newest work, Mattai brings her incisive critique to an examination of the way society “others” populations that it deems different, placing particular focus on the experiences of immigrants and those dealing with mental illness. Through more than a dozen mix-media paintings, fiber sculptures, and installations, Mattai grapples with the fears and mythologies that drive people to ostracize and the impacts those actions have on the “other.” Herself as Another follows Mattai’s breakout New York presentation in Hollis Taggart’s two-person show, History Reclaimed in 2020, and the artist formally joining the gallery in January 2021. The exhibition will remain on view through March 12, 2022, at the gallery’s primary location in Chelsea at 521 W. 26th Street.
Mattai’s vision and work are grounded in her Indo-Caribbean descent and familial migrations, as well as research on colonialism and indentured labor in the 19th century. Her approach is formally articulated in the way that she combines, reconfigures, and layers found, vintage, and seemingly disparate materials, connecting her own hand with those of the original makers and collapsing the boundaries between past and present. Mattai is particularly interested in the labor and contributions of women, and her works often employ materials and techniques associated with the domestic sphere such as embroidery, weaving, and stitching. By bringing to the fore the materials and processes connected with women’s invisible work, she unearths the multitude of voices and experiences that have shaped social, cultural, and political narratives.
Herself as Another develops a new layer in Mattai’s oeuvre as she examines the psychological landscape of “othering”—both the personal biases that drive perpetrators and the various ramifications on target communities. As part of this exploration, Mattai has spent time researching the monsters of folklore, using texts such as The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous as critical source material. The monsters of folklore encapsulate society’s greatest fears and are ubiquitous across continents, countries, and cultures. These folktales provide a lens to understanding how cultural norms are established and can lead to the “monstering” or “othering” of those who do not immediately conform. This reality is particularly true for immigrants, who are often demonized for their physical, religious, and cultural differences to those in their adoptive countries, as well as for the mentally ill, whose behaviors and social needs may be divergent. With Herself as Another Mattai offers a space to confront these misunderstandings, stereotypes, and taboos, and to reflect on the experience and perspective of the “other” as a means of fostering empathy and connection.
The mixed fiber wall sculpture The Monster Inside (2022) reflects the entangled nature of identity and the turmoil often associated with efforts to assimilate. The work features an incredible spectrum of woven, braided, and layered saris, malas, and other ropes and textiles, capturing the intricacy and distinct aesthetic quality of Mattai’s work as well as its metaphoric potency. Mattai’s singular approach to fiber arts finds new expression with Fitting In (2022), which features a found wooden side table with a sculptural fiber piece set atop and around it—a kind of magnificent blue tentacle growing around a traditional frame. The artist’s ability to work at monumental scale is visible in the installation, An Alien Spirit with a Breathtaking View (2022). The stunning work features an expansive array of colorful vintage saris, garland, cord, ghungroo bells, and other fabrics layered, tucked, folded, and interwoven into a mythical landscape that suggests a place yet unknown—one with beautiful views of a world to be built.
The exhibition title itself serves as a call to action, drawing on the philosophical notion that to know another is also to know oneself. In this way, Mattai captures the idea that we are all “other” and part of a wider communal network and sphere. In the painting of the same name in the exhibition, produced in 2022, Mattai presents a woman joined with a silhouette, suggesting the openness of identity and the possibility of joining with the “other”. The two figures, along with a child, are set against a magnificent floral background into which they all, in instances, meld, offering another suggestion of fluidity and unity. Herself as Another is a wondrous meditation on an experience all too resonant—and one that Mattai brings to light through her distinct vision and complex and meticulous approach.
Suchitra Mattei: Herself as Another will be on view from February 10 to March 12, 2022 at Hollis Taggart, 521 West 26th Street, 1st Floor, NYC, with Opening Reception on February 10th from 5:00 to 8:00pm. The artist will be in attendance. RSVP required along with face mask and proof of vaccination.