Tau Lewis in Venice, Italy and New York, NY

I have always wanted to go to the Venice Biennale, and though it was a complicated and emotional trip as my father had recently died, I am happy I finally made it. Art makes me happy.

I promise to catch up on my backlog and start writing about the Biennale soon. Along with the country pavilions, there are two incredible exhibition sites. At the Arsenale there were three pieces by Canadian artist Tau Lewis.

The work is all really huge. The two below were my favorite. I really liked the lips!

Angelus Morten, 2021
Recycled fur (mink, beaver, fox, rabbit, lamb, and sable),
coated nylon, steel armature
Detail
Detail

“Tau Lewis transforms foraged textiles and artifacts through painstaking processes of sewing and quilting into imaginary talismans and magical beings who inhabit sci-fi worlds. Recalling the works of Gee’s Bend quilters, the textiles of Faith Ringgold, the assemblages of Betye Saar, and the dreamlike “shack” sculptures of Beverley Buchanan, Lewis creates subversive monuments, paying tribute to philosophies of material ingenuity as an act of agency across diasporic communities. Activating the ideological malleability of textiles and their historical association with feminised labour, Lewis also dissolves the space between artistic and political poles, especially between practices traditionally delineated as craft, ritual, or art. The artist positions textiles and handmaking at the centre of an exploration of identity, bodies, and nature. Her fantastical bodies grow as if from a handmade garden, protective vessels standing in opposition, as the artist has said, to the myth that there cannot be a nurturing and healing relationship between the Black body and the landscape. In Lewis’ new body of work, Divine Giants Tribunal (2021), she presents epically scaled masks, which are three metres tall. Hand-stitched from scrap fabrics, furs, and leathers, these monumental faces create a material lineage not only with Lewis’ own work, but also with mythical objects and symbology. Taking inspiration from Yoruba masks and the writings of Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, Lewis dramatises the otherworldly mythologies engrained in these mask forms.” (Madeline Weisburg)

Vena Cava, 2021
Recycled leather, acrylic paint, coated nylon, steel armature
Detail

Then, while I was walking around galleries in Tribeca recently, I looked into 52 Walker. What did I see there but six sculptures by Tau Lewis! These three were my favorite.

Homonoia, 2022
Steel, enamel paint, acrylic paint and finisher, repurposed leather
and suede, organic cotton twill, and coated nylon thread
Ivory Gate, 2022
Steel, enamel paint, acrylic paint and finisher, repurposed leather, suede, fur, shearling, snake skin, shells, fossilized teeth, organic cotton twill and
coated nylon thread
Mater Dei, 2022
Steel, enamel paint, repurposed leather, fur, shearling, sued, tortoise shell, rawhide, organic cotton twill, and coated nylon thread

“Born in Toronto, Tau Lewis is a self-taught artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Lewis was recently included in the 2022 Venice Biennale exhibition The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani. The Public Art Fund also commissioned work by the artist to be included in the 2022 group presentation Black Atlantic at Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York. The artist will have forthcoming solo exhibitions at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Hayward Gallery, London; Haus der Kunst, Munich; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Lewis is represented by Night Gallery, Los Angeles, and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Her work is held in the collections of Grinnell College Museum of Art, Grinnell, Iowa; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Library Collection, New York; and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.” (52 Walker)

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