Diedrick Brackens: Ark of Bulrushes
Ark of Bulrushes presents a new body of work by artist Diedrick Brackens that includes handwoven tapestries, sculptural weavings, video, and performance for the first time.
Feb 6 - Aug 22, 2021
Ark of Bulrushes presents a new body of work by artist Diedrick Brackens that includes handwoven tapestries and sculptural weavings. In this series of works, Brackens forms visual allegories of emancipation by intertwining symbology from the Underground Railroad and the exodus of the Israelites, offering a meditation on the climate crisis, liberation, and the power of craft. The colorful and textural landscapes by Brackens are filled with stars, rivers, coded patterns, boats, and Black figures that together create narratives of hope in times of oppression and turbulence.
The title of the exhibition comes from the biblical story of Moses, who was born into servitude and sent up the Nile River intentionally into the hands of royalty in a small basket boat made of reeds, also known as an ark of bulrushes. In this story, the Nile River is an emblem of deliverance for the enslaved Jewish people in Egypt. Similarly, the Mississippi River is a significant symbol in the history of the United States as a source of transportation, boundary making, and expansion, as well as its affiliation with the Underground Railroad, a system used by enslaved African Americans heading north to free states or Canada in the early to mid-19th century. Many myths have arisen about the Underground Railroad, including the Freedom Quilts. The quilts, made using coded patterns, were hung on clothes lines or in cabin windows to navigate the enslaved to freedom. Historians and academics have found little evidence to support claims about the existence of Freedom Quilts and thus they have been relegated to the space of legend, but Brackens finds it a worthy subject—a myth that imbues handicraft makers with agency to advance change.
In addition to a suite of two-dimensional tapestries, which are typical of his practice, Brackens shares a new form of weaving with a basket boat. This vessel is an expansion of the artist’s perspective about alternative ways to make textiles, such as basketry, and how they can be radically repurposed. If a quilt could communicate a secret language, then a basket can be a means of transportation on a rapidly changing earth where ocean levels are steadily on the rise. The Mississippi River basin, like much of the world, is experiencing the effects of climate change and facing more severe droughts and floods which affect those living in the region. In this way, Ark of Bulrushes not only speaks of past liberation, but also links textile craft to efforts of survival in the future.
Diedrick Brackens: Ark of Bulrushes is the first in the series PROJECT SPACE— an initiative presenting new work by emerging and established contemporary artists. Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Curated by assistant curator Lauren R. O’Connell.
Diedrick Brackens is from Mexica, Texas, and currently based in Los Angeles. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita; and Johansson Projects, Oakland. Recent group exhibitions include Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Jewish Contemporary Art Museum, San Francisco; Dimensions Variable, Miami; Thomas Erben Gallery and Denny Gallery, both in New York. 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. Brackens is a recipient of the Marciano Artadia Award (2019), the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Wein Prize (2018), the CCA Barclay Simpson Award (2014), and the Clare Hart DeGolyer Memorial Fund (2011). Brackens is in the permanent collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His work is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, and Various Small Fires, Los Angeles.
“Deeply symbolic tableaus.”—Forbes
“Brackens’s work is quite complex; his graphic, handwoven textiles.”—VOGUE
“Diedrick Brackens Is Making Space for Black Queerness in the Art World” by Isiah Magsino, them., July 24, 2020.
“Diedrick Brackens Interweaves Black History, Myth, and Self-Portraiture” by Glenn Adamson, Art in America, May 15, 2020.
“In the Studio: Diedrick Brackens weaves love, labor, and African American legacy into his textiles” by Essence Harden, Art21, January 2020.
“Layers of the Loom” by Bruce W. Ferguson, LALA Magazine, Winter 2019.
“Texan Artist Diedrick Brackens Weaves Black History Into His Tapestries” by Jori Finkel, W Magazine, Nov. 12, 2019.
“Queer Intimacy: A Conversation with Diedrick Brackens” by TK Smith, ART PAPERS, Aug. 14, 2019.
“An Artist Whose Intricate Weavings Explore the Meaning of Home” by Melissa Smith, The New York Times Style Magazine, Aug. 7, 2019.
“Diedrick Brackens weaves visual anthems for the yee-haw agenda” by André Naquian Wheeler, DOCUMENT Journal, July 2, 2019.
“Los Angeles-based Textile Artist Diedrick Brackens is Now Represented by Jack Shainman Gallery” by Victoria L. Valentine, Culture Type, June 23, 2019.
“Diedrick Brackens Weaves History for First Solo Show at New Museum” by Kristen Tauer, WWD, June 12, 2019.
“Artadia Names 2019 Los Angeles Award Winners,” Artforum, March 18, 2019.
“30 Under 35: Diedrick Brackens Deals in the Composite of Past and Present” by William J. Simmons, Cultured Magazine, 2019.
“Studio Museum in Harlem Awards $50,000 Wein Prize to Diedrick Brackens,” Artforum, Oct. 19, 2018.