TAHIR CARL KARMALI: PAPERwork
255 Broadway, Newburgh, NY 12550
October 19th - November 9, 2019
Opening reception and Artist talk: Saturday, October 19th, 6-8 PM
Open to the public Saturday and Sunday for the duration of the show, 12 - 5 PM
Weekdays by appointment, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
STRONGROOM is pleased to present an installation of two related pieces by Tahir Carl Karmali, “My Contingent” and “PAPERscreening,” on view in a historic firehouse in the City of Newburgh.
Working across multiple mediums, Brooklyn-based artist Tahir Carl Karmali’s interests lie in manipulating materials that perpetuate colonialism. In his Strongroom presentation, Tahir uses the paper making process as a metaphor for filtration, and how “papers” are used to divide people at borders. To create these works, Tahir filters the pulp of recycled documents from water, mirroring how documents are used in border separation. “I pull from my own application documents for the visas I need to travel the globe as a Kenyan citizen, copies of my family’s documents, and blank asylum application documents.”
The resulting hanging paper installation is conceived from this personal and political narrative, yet creates a poetic, abstract experience in which the viewer can peruse the hanging sheets of paper and their corresponding shadows. In making these works, Tahir “realized how much paperwork had authority over my family and myself, and how this practice of applying national immobility had colonial roots.” Strung from a support the equivalent size of a fire engine, Tahir additionally references the building site and its associations to danger and urgency, particularly in relationship to immigration.
Passing by “Paper Screens,” the viewer also encounters a sound piece, conjuring perhaps crashing waves, but in fact further revealing the paper-making process. The splashing water sounds are recordings from Tahir’s filtering of pulp through the screen material, calling our attention back to process and materiality as essential to the work’s physical and metaphorical substance.
In the rear room of the firehouse Tahir has installed a second hanging work entitled, “My Contingent.” The work’s title references Tahir’s feeling that his life was contingent on the borders he was born within, while also paying homage to Eva Hesse’s final work in 1969, “Contingent.” Situated amongst natural light, the vertical hanging sheets of handmade paper are roughly the size of a person - alluding to a line of people, perhaps waiting at the immigration office.
In the City of Newburgh, Tahir’s installation is particularly poignant - given the large immigrant population, Newburgh decided recently to become a “Sanctuary city” and offer all residents a municipal ID card issued by City Hall - with the proper paperwork, of course.
Tahir is concurrently exhibiting his work in a two-person exhibition at the International Print Center New York. He has exhibited recently a The Shed, Plan B at David Zwirner, and LKB Gallery in Hamburg. Other selected exhibitions include “Jua Kali,” a part of “Making Africa,” which travelled to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2017), Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands (2016), and Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain (2015), among other venues; “My Collection,” MoCADA, Brooklyn (2017); and “PAPER:Work,” Art Africa Fair, Cape Town, and Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, both 2017. Tahir received his Masters of Digital Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York.
Special thanks to Ted Doering and Rich Fracasse for making this exhibition possible.