iris yirei hu
It begins with the dead. There is a Hmong understanding that when one dies, the soul of the dead will return to their birthplace to find her placenta buried beneath the earth, where her mother had kept it. The soul will wear the placenta, like a jacket, and dwell.
Dwelling is both a movement and affective principle in hu’s work. Often situated in personal, historic, and environmental loss, hu’s work is a living document of grief. Mourning and reflection illuminate the entangled interdependencies and collaborations that allow her to make life in a precarious world. Without memory, stories become harder to tell.
hands are full blue is a rhizomatic assemblage that tells stories of an entangled world, while considering the site-specific history and community of Visitor Welcome Center. The crux of hu’s practice involves collaborating with those around her, including plants, people, and landscapes. In her second project with the gallery, hu builds with the works in the exhibitions prior to hers—the clay floor piece by Armando Cortes and Hande Sever’s soybeans—and uses weaving as a conceptual framework and practice to unearth loss and expose the intimacy between seemingly unconnected things.
The central installation, atop the remains of Cortes’ floor, shows a figure weaving with a traditional Atayal floor loom among camphor leaves. Framed in a Navajo loom, the artist brings together the two indigenous weaving practices, both of which the artist has studied. In 2017, hu began apprenticing with Melissa Cody, fourth-generation Navajo weaver and artist from No Water Mesa, Arizona. Earlier this year, hu returned to her family’s home in Taiwan to study Atayal weaving with Ms. Sayun Zhou in Taipei’s Wulai Mountains. Weaving requires fibers, and fibers require landscapes—i.e. plants for dye, sheep for wool—and they connect people, places, pasts, and futures. For hu, weaving an image is a manifestation of a community and cosmology at work, unsettling the myth of the individual by shifting our attention to how things are related.
Camphor trees were once one of Taiwan’s major exports, and a contentious resource among the Chinese, British, Americans, and Japanese. The tree has a variety of uses, but perhaps most importantly as an ingredient in gunpowder and celluloid. Celluloid, a thermoplastic, was invented between 1856 and 1869, and by 1889, was used to make photos and films. Hollywood motion pictures were recorded on celluloid film until it was phased out in the mid-20th century. When Japan officially colonized Taiwan in 1895, it monopolized the camphor industry and banned the practice of weaving and other forms of sustenance in order to ensure that the Taiwanese indigenous labored the camphor and rice plantations. Within the same time period across the Pacific, in the name of Manifest Destiny and ethnic cleansing, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Navajo people from their ancestral homelands and massacred their livestock. This tragedy, marked as the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, a 40-square mile deportation camp in New Mexico, gravely impacted Navajo weaving.
The new transcontinental railway system ushered in aniline dyed yarns milled in Germantown, Pennsylvania. New colors and patterns emerged from forced relocations, notably the iconic Navajo “eyedazzler.” Cody taught hu to weave with Germantown yarns, and in this project, hu uses the material to allude to competition for land, trade, and world domination. The reality and myth of the American West is inscribed with Germantown yarns and also with Taiwan’s plant life, collapsing the distance between Taiwan and the U.S. through intimately intertwined fibers and hands. hu urges us to recognize that liberty and progress is a perpetual acquirement of loss. She sees loss most evident in weaving, where legacies of coerced labor, attempted genocide, and transformation are expelled from the looms and fibers themselves.
A stele diagram found in the late 19th century in Southern China, the Neijing Tu(Chart of the Inner Warp), describes the micro and macrocosmic connections between human, landscape, and the universe through the cultivation of qi. In it, a weaver girl spins silk, which may be a metaphor for the nebulous qi. Printed atop hand processed wild oat paper, the tuis a guide towards rehabilitation. Honoring her dependence on the natural elements, hu dances with and relies on the Sun each day to make her work —tracing shadows, painting, drying handmade paper and textiles. A collaboration with New Mexico based artist, Paula Wilson, culminates in two large yucca prints and a handmade daybed. Printed, sewn, dyed, and painted, the two artists each have an innate attraction to the yucca of her environment—the New Mexican yucca for Wilson and the chaparral for hu—and each plant’s symbiotic relationship with its moth pollinator. Their growing friendship is a reflection of this symbiosis, and the taxonomy of and geographical distance between the two yuccas point to the politicized history of the American West. Between the prints, a daybed offers a space for reflection and learning, as it houses a book by the late writer emi kuriyama, who was hu’s collaborator and friend, and whose legacy lives through Visitor Welcome Center.
More information regarding emi’s book, sashiko, designed and published by Chicago based press Candor Arts, and details on the emi kuriyama spirit award, an accompanying direct artist and writer grant, are forthcoming.
iris yirei hu (b. 1991, Los Angeles, CA) is an artist who works in painting, fibers, text, and installation. Her work requires collaborating with others. She is interested in how people, places, and things are related, and sees weaving and craft practices as a manifestation of entangled interdependencies. Her work centers learning as a method of engagement, and is both research based and dependent on lived experience. She has shown her work at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Occidental College, John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, WI), Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Women's Center for Creative Work, Human Resources, Lenfest Center for the Arts (New York, NY), Commonwealth & Council, and Visitor Welcome Center. Her work has been reviewed and featured in the LA Times, Carla, CNN, Sinovision, KCET, X-TRA Online, and Artillery. She has been supported by the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, Foundation for Contemporary Art, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, among others. BA from UCLA, MFA from Columbia University.
ivan forde is an active reader. He renders Blackness as multitudinous and expansive, using photomontage to insert his body into landscapes culled from epic poetry and imaginary worlds. Inspired by literature and the gaps between what is spoken, written, and what can be visualized, forde’s newest project, entitled local edge margin, explores the poetics of homeland, migration and identity.
One foundational text for forde is British-Guyanese writer Sir Wilson Harris’ 1954 collection of poems, “Eternity to Season,” in which characters from The Odysseyare transplanted to villages on the Guyana coastland. forde considers the legacy of Caribbean writers’ deconstruction of the classics, and this particular tradition of mapping ancient stories onto current and ongoing anti-colonial struggles.
The room-sized installation contains new works on paper that mix watercolor, frottage and cyanotype (forde has been experimenting with the light-sensitive photographic process used to make blueprints over the last five years). Portraits of bee-eaters, small brightly-colored migratory birds that travel from South America to Africa and Southern Europe, and who the artist encountered during a recent residency in Umbria, appear throughout the space in indigo frames hand dyed by iris yirei hu. On opening night, forde’s sound performance will sample improvised organ the artist recorded in a 15th century chapel dedicated to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers.
A roll of Fabriano cold-press paper, 55-inches tall and 10 yards wide, has become a scroll in forde’s hands, layered with drawings, rubbings, photograms, and countless figures in the midst of their own odyssey. The scroll itself has traveled across the Atlantic Ocean twice, and from the eastern edge of North America west. It holds sunlight from Italy, New York City and Los Angeles, each location the artist worked on the piece.
The title of forde’s project conveys a sense of one’s position within the local, which is always shifting, situated around moving bodies. The edge has aspirational or fantasy appeal, but to be marginalized is precarious and has none of the exciting aspects of going to the edge. Rather, it speaks to a presumed lack of individual or communal agency in relation to power. The margin in another sense is the place you keep notes, capture thoughts, make corrections, add to a given text or amend a draft of earlier work. It is where we practice making change. forde's work asks viewers to shift their spatial and bodily relationship to the piece, move around to get a better view of the details, and keep our readership active. Perhaps, forde is saying, it is the margin we should be calling our attention towards.
—Sonia Louise Davis, Harlem, New York City
ivan forde (b.1990, Georgetown, Guyana; based in Harlem, New York City) works across printmaking, sound, and installation. His training in English literature and epic poetry guides the themes he explores in his visual art practice. Fellowships and residencies include the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, ACRE Projects, Vermont Studio Center, Pioneer Works, and the Lower East Side Printshop. Group exhibitions and performances include MCA Chicago, Steven Kasher Gallery, The Jewish Museum, The Whitney Museum, Studio Museum Harlem Postcards, the International Print Center, Lagos Photo Festival 17, and a 2018 solo exhibition at The Baxter Street Camera Club of New York. ivan graduated with an MFA in Printmaking from Columbia University.
Visitor Welcome Center presents Eeek! A collection of paintings, music and memories by our late friend Geoff Tuck, co-curated by Marcus Herse.
Painting is blue, red, yellow, and green. It is round and grey, small, and off centered. It is intelligent, and charmingly stupid. It is orange and still, and collects dust. Painting seems easy until you try. Paintings are gold, shimmering and sultry, and made of the ground we walk on. They are technology and moon landings delivered in crates bigger than doorways. They are your friend, your dog, and your dog’s bone. Painting is for kids and old folks and trash cans and fields filled with flowers; they are trampled on and nurtured, rescued and discarded and started over—and signed. Painting is a gift, a follow through, foreign and curious. Painting is a catastrophe—missing for years, dug up, tearful and relevant again. Painting—determined, mediocre and mysteriously flawed, perfect even. Painting is useful and unapologetic; it pretends. Painting tells you what to do, so you’ll get angry and say, Hey Painting! Stop telling me what to do! "No problem," painting says "stop looking at me." Painting is black and fabulous and far, it is the light on your lips, calm and exhausted, and calling you late night, I’m trying to sleep painting! Leave me alone! But painting is petty, and has already hung up.
Geoff Tuck was born in Anaheim CA, in January 1960. He went to high school in Pomona, and spent a couple of years at Mount San Antonio College and Pasadena City College. He also worked at the Federal Reserve, made jewelry, worked as a baker, and as a construction administrator. Although Geoff never received any formal training in the arts he was active from an early age as a self taught devotee of literature, music, and the visual arts. His enthusiasm led him to become an influential collector, thinker, writer, social practitioner and painter. In 2004 he joined the Fellows of Contemporary Art (FOCA) and served as their Board chairman in 2007 and 2008. In 2008 he started the blog Notes on Looking, publishing, his thoughts on contemporary art and music in Los Angeles. While running the blog from 2008-15 he wrote daily, reviewing exhibitions, documenting studio visits and conversations. Inspired by his activity with FOCA and the ever growing circle of artist friends and contacts he had developed, Geoff together with his husband David Richards started the Parkfield Retreat, an artist retreat on the V6 Ranch in the remote southeastern corner of Monterey County. About 200 artists joined the weekend long get togethers in the years from 2010-15 and five artists' books were published containing writing and artworks developed there. Having been together for 17 years, Geoff and David married in 2014, shortly after they had permanently moved to Parkfield. Until his untimely death in 2019, Geoff focused on his work as a painter in his outdoor studio. Geoff‘s work has been exhibited at JB Jurve, Dave Gallery and Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University. He also showed his work at an installation series in Berlin in 2013. He made many videos, and he collaborated on projects with other artists in both the U.S. and Europe. He is loved and sorely missed.