New York Meets Tbilisi: Defining Otherness – Part I

New York Meets Tbilisi: Defining Otherness – Part I

New York Meets Tbilisi: Defining Otherness – Part I 
Curated by Nina Mdivani and presented by Kunstraum LLC

January 17 – February 23, 2020
Opening Friday, January 17, 6-8 pm

Assembly Room is pleased to present New York Meets Tbilisi: Defining Otherness-Part I, a group exhibition curated by Nina Mdivani, Curator in-Residence at Kunstraum LLC, featuring works by Rusudan Khizanishvili and Juliana Cerqueira Leite, as part of the curator’s investigation into the contemporary Georgian art in dialogue with New York-based artists.The first part of this investigation focuses on works of Tbilisi-based painter Rusudan Khizanishvili (Tbilisi, 1979) and New York-based sculptor Juliana Cerqueira Leite (Sao Paulo,1981). The main question that this exhibition poses is how phenomenon of Otherness could be defined when examined in relation to two different cultures, two different understandings of the world, and considers onlooker’s own reactions when we experience Otherness in a form of a person different from our own race, orientation, or background. Another subtler dimension of this important fundamental question is how Otherness is encountered within one’s own persona be it in form of prejudice or shared historical and collective memory. As Georgia has been undergoing significant transformation within the last thirty years it had to encounter its historical and Soviet past and mechanisms that helped this small country to survive centuries. Its art has mirrored this journey sometimes by reverting to mimicry to the Soviet or Western visual language and sometimes by producing strongly authentic work. Similarly, Otherness is experienced at many different levels in this country that has led in the past to racial violence as well as to intra-cultural consensus. The two artists presented at this exhibition work on the same theme of Otherness as it produces roughly two strong reactions, either of fear and hence a desire to dominate or of infatuation and hence a desire to own. As two women examine this theme in mediums of painting and sculpture, they share an understanding that both of these impulses are strongly influenced by overarching patriarchal structures based on philosophies of Darwin and perpetuated in colonial discourse. Khizanishvili uses her exceptional palette and vibration of primal colors to examine the dissonance present in contemporary society. Her canvases are populated by mysterious beings that lack ethnic Georgian attributes and resonate with more universal, archetypal meanings. One finds bodies of ancient goddess and schematically portrayed stones melting under the heaviness of the human histories. By assembling these fragments and then breaking them apart to be later reassembled into new fantastical beings, Khizanishvili mirrors the globally present feeling of ambiguity, fluidity, and distortion even more valid for her native country. In order for her to seize being the Other to the wider world, we as women, as representatives of ‘alien’ cultures, need to become like the structure that holds the power while acknowledging that here is a pressure built into this demand.Cerqueira Leite’s evocative clay objects for this exhibition function as evolutionary permutations or collection of sensory organs. By abstracting and manipulating separate parts of a head, her objects also become more representative of a category rather than of a person through the artists intentional failure to convey subjectivity. By creating new species Leite’s works speak directly to Khizanishvili’s metaphors, as they reference the transition from the Other to the Undesirable, they too need to go through a transformation in order to become acceptable, more understandable, more conforming, yet Cerqueira Leite intentionally allows them to exist as ‘failed heads.’ In her work Cerqueira Leite sees otherness as a concept tied to the female body and dominant narratives of the Western world. By expressing otherness as bodily porosity, instability, and hybridity, she achieves another distorted reiteration of the global society.This exhibition brings together two distinct artists who come from the same generation and frame of mind while residing in two different parts of the world. Yet, they both investigate the failure of communication and desire, of meaning-making projections in the context of patriarchal and Western-oriented values. The visual language of art, as demonstrated by their respective practices, could and should empower us. This collaboration between The Assembly Room and Kunstraum LLC serves our mutual mission of highlighting independent curators and thought-provoking exhibition concepts aiming to engage with the larger cultural discourse.Nina Mdivani is interested in visual art as an ongoing global process. She has been invited to work on art projects with Western as well as Georgian galleries and artists. As an independent writer and curator, she has organized various exhibitions in the US as well as in Europe. She is particularly interested in the ongoing expansion in the contemporary feminist art that simultaneously enlarges our visual and cerebral boundaries. Nina is the 2019 Curator in Residence at Kunstraum, Brooklyn. Assembly Room is open Thursday-Sunday, 1-7 pm, and by appointment.

http://assemblyroom.nyc