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Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts opens new exhibition—Neo-Custodians


Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts announces its new exhibition—Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Legacy, Cultural Memory, and Belonging. Highlighting a variety of contemporary textile works, the exhibition opened December 9, 2023 and continues through April 14, 2024.


Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Legacy, Cultural Memory, and Belonging is a group exhibition that aims to redefine the role textiles play in investigating African and diasporic cultural practices, histories, legacy, and conceptions of belonging. The exhibition brings together a diverse array of artists whose practices are deeply informed by African textiles and cultural memory.


Installation of Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Heritage, Cultural Memory and Belonging, 2023. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Photography by Colin Conces.
Installation of Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Heritage, Cultural Memory and Belonging, 2023. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Photography by Colin Conces.

Neo-Custodians pays homage to the impact of African textiles and fibers while also elevating the discourse around textile art, culture, and materiality. The exhibition, originally inspired by and featuring the works of influential artists such as El Anatsui (Ghana), Seydou Keita (Mali), and Yinka Shonibare (Nigeria/England), also showcases the creative expressions of a remarkable group of artists, including Malene Barnett (US), Layo Bright (Nigeria), Celeste Butler (US), Sanaa Gateja (Uganda), Enam Gbewonyo (Ghana/England), Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga (Democratic Republic of Congo), Ron Norsworthy (US), Nnenna Okore (Nigeria), Patrick Quarm (Ghana), and Latrelle Rostant (US).


The collective works featured in the exhibition invite viewers to contemplate multifaceted narratives embedded in textiles. Beyond aesthetics, the artists prompt reflection on the transformative power of fibers while speaking to textile’s historical resonance and future influence. El Anatsui’s monumental sculpture, Trova, 2016, crafted from liquor bottle caps, serves as a poignant commentary on global power dynamics. Yinka Shonibare’s exploration of Dutch wax fabric as a symbol of contemporary African identity challenges viewers to reflect on postcolonialism and globalization. Enam Gbewonyo’s work addresses the traumatic histories of marginalized black women, utilizing hosiery to foster healing and reclamation. Malene Barnett’s fragmented and woven works reflect on migration, loss, and identity, while Layo Bright’s textured sculptures bring concealed histories to light, underscoring the significance of untold stories.



Installation of Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Heritage, Cultural Memory and Belonging, 2023. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Photography by Colin Conces.
Installation of Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Heritage, Cultural Memory and Belonging, 2023. Courtesy of Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Photography by Colin Conces.

“Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Heritage, Cultural Memory, and Belonging, serves as an introspective exploration of the threads that weave our past, present, and future,” says Nneoma Ilogu, curator of the exhibition. “Each artist’s unique perspective offers a tapestry of narratives that resonate deeply with our shared histories. The artworks on display not only celebrate the beauty of textiles but also provoke contemplation about the essence of cultural memory and belonging.”


At the heart of Neo-Custodians lies an invitation to rediscover the profound stories woven into the fabric of our existence. As the threads of history, identity, and artistry intertwine, this exhibition propels us into a realm of introspection and dialogue. It is a celebration of the enduring power of textiles to encapsulate our heritage, provoke contemplation, and ignite conversations that resonate across cultures and generations. The exhibition invites the public to witness the emergence of a dynamic discourse that transcends time and space, redefining the boundaries of cultural expression and highlighting narratives that unite us all.


Neo-Custodians: Woven Narratives of Legacy, Cultural Memory, and Belonging is curated

by Nneoma Ilogu, Bemis Center’s 2022–2023 Curator-in-Residence.

 

ABOUT BEMIS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS


Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts facilitates the creation, presentation, and understanding of contemporary art through an international residency program, exhibitions, and educational programs to inspire an open and diverse dialogue on the critical issues that give shape and meaning to the human condition.


Exhibition and Public Program Admission: Free

Bemis Center Gallery Hours: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.;

Thursday 11 a.m.–9 p.m.


Gallery materials are available in English and Spanish.

Access details can be found at bemiscenter.org/accessibility.


For more information about Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, visit bemiscenter.org.


 

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Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts opens new exhibition—Neo-Custodians