Tau Lewis

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Tau Lewis: Shreds of Memory | Art21 “New York Close Up”

In the quiet of her Brooklyn studio, artist Tau Lewis and her team bring an uncommon attentiveness and care to the found fabrics that make up her figurative sculptures. “I have a very deep interior private life,” she tells us, “I’ve been that way since I was a child. I really struggled with communicating and getting my ideas out. Sculpture has been really important to that interior self.” Ornate assemblages of salvaged textiles, the works currently in progress are inspired by ceremonial Yoruba masks that are traditionally used in the process of communicating with a spirit or ancestor. This documentary short, shot on 16-millimeter film, evocatively captures the creation of a suite of large-scale masks that radiate their own personalities and desires.

Patching together the many fabrics collected in her studio, Lewis embraces the histories embedded in the materials she works with. “A lot of black creation is an upcycling” she says, “regardless of a lack thereof, regardless of an access to. Taking things as they are and letting them shine”. For the artist, the time spent in the studio touching and handling the material is integral to the work, an act of departure into her own interior world. She treats her sculptures as beings in their own right, unrecognized ancestors whose allegorical meaning or talismanic power must be teased out through a hands-on process of recognition. “I’ve heard you,” she offers to the work, “and these are the symbols I’ve made in response to you, and you are being seen.”

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Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam