Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes
Feb 20 - Aug 22, 2021
ark of bulrushes presents a new body of work by artist Diedrick Brackens that includes handwoven tapestries and sculptural weavings.
Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes presents a new series by Los Angeles-based artist Diedrick Brackens including large-scale weavings and premiering the artist’s first woven sculptures. Known for making colorful textiles about African American and queer histories, Brackens has developed a process of combining the tactility of yarn with the ethos of storytelling. For this exhibition, the artworks tell timeless narratives about emancipation and remediation through pattern, body, and the power of craft.
Brackens’ deeply colored weavings pull imagery from 19th century Freedom Quilts—used to communicate with enslaved people traveling along the Underground Railroad—and star constellations that have been used to navigate the external world and internal psyche for thousands of years. The central focus of Brackens’ artwork always returns to the Black body represented in form or implied in absence. Intertwined with the patterns are dynamic figures mimicking animals associated with constellations. This positioning aligns the body within the cosmic proportions of the universe, inferring empowerment of the individual and of a people.
The sculptural basket boats in this exhibition take different forms that reference the human body in communion with nature. The largest ark is Brackens’ sculptural prototype of a boat that he hopes to float on the Mississippi River. Made with enough room for two passengers to sit upright or lie down, the bodies and boat can float and bob down the river as one. The floating of reed basket boats is significant in legends of deliverance, including the biblical story of the exodus of the Israelites where an “ark of bulrushes” carried the infant Moses up the Nile River. Taking its name from this story, ark of bulrushes gestures to craft itself as a form of mythology—the passing on of tradition, technique, and narrative. Brackens practices textile craft with unique vision and perspective, spinning new definitions of what it means to live today.
This is the inaugural exhibition for PROJECT SPACE—an initiative that supports emerging and established artists in expanding their practice. Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and curated by Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art. Support provided by The S. Rex and Joan Lewis Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Diedrick Brackens (born 1989, Mexica, TX; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) is best known for his weavings that explore narratives about queerness, masculinity, and the Black experience in the United States. His work incorporates elements of West-African weaving, American quilting, and European tapestry-making, as well as histories associated with craft. Bracken’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York, NY; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Oakville Galleries, Ontario, Canada; Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Mobile, AL; The University of the South, Sewanee, TN; and Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS. Select group exhibitions include Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Ear to the Ground: Earth and Element in Contemporary Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Material Futurity, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN; and The Possible, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA. Brackens received a master of fine arts from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and a bachelor of fine arts from University of North Texas, Denton. The artist is a recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship (2021), Louise Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant (2019), Marciano Artadia Award (2019), American Craft Council Emerging Artist Award (2019), and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Wein Prize (2018).
View the publication for Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes.
Artwork by Diedrick Brackens. Essay by Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art.
Related press releases
Diedrick Brackens in the press
Art In America reviewed Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes, June 3, 2021.
Diedrick Brackens Weaves New Chapter In African American Art, KJZZ The Show, April 20, 2021
California College of the Arts recently spoke to artist Diedrick Brackens and SMoCA’s curator of contemporary art Lauren O’Connell.
The Arizona Republic featured ark of bulrushes in “How artist Diedrick Brackens aims to ‘liberate’ with new show in Scottsdale,” Feb. 28, 2021.
New SMoCA Exhibits Celebrate Diversity, Scottsdale Progress, Feb. 14, 2021.
Thrillist included Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes in “What We’re Looking Forward to in Phoenix in 2021.”
“Must see art exhibitions and shows for 2021” on The Arizona Republic, Dec. 17, 2020.
‘PROJECT SPACE’ to feature artist Brackens at SMoCA on Scottsdale Independent, Nov. 10, 2020.