My attraction to Shiva Ahmadi’s Tower (2017) was immediate, but it is a challenging work in both its content and execution. In discussing it, I find it helpful to speak in terms of dualities: seduction and repulsion, translucency and opacity, chaos and control, background and foreground. Ahmadi has done this herself in quotations like the one above.
Rachel Federman's blog
In early 2018, I received the welcome news that UCLA Library Special Collections would consider lending drawings by Rick Barton to an exhibition at the Morgan. Moreover, more than 600 drawings that had not been located at the time of my visit were now available to view. My next opportunity to travel to Los Angeles would not arrive until October of that year. But in the interim, I made a number of crucial discoveries.
Two years ago, the Morgan added to its collections a group of eleven drawings acquired from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, whose mission is to preserve and disseminate the work of vernacular African-American artists from the Southeastern United States.
In the early days of 2018, I arrived in Los Angeles with appointments to see Henry Evans’s Peregrine Press papers at the Clark Memorial Library and a cache of over 700 drawings by Rick Barton at UCLA Library Special Collections. Although I had been assured that the drawings would be available, I worried that something might go wrong or that the drawings would not have been worth the trip.
At the end of the first installment of this series on an exhibition in progress, I had discovered, to my horror, that the most robust source available on the subject of an obscure artist named Rick Barton—an essay by Dave Archer (née David Nelson)—had been removed from the Internet.
Exhibitions are often multiyear projects. With a monographic exhibition—one that focuses on a single artist—the subject, even when not alive, can come to feel like a significant presence in the life of a curator. As someone who has focused on artists who came to prominence in the second half of the increasingly historical twentieth century, I have been fortunate to “get to know” some of the late artists I have worked on, not only through research in libraries and archives, but also through conversations with the artists’ family, friends, and acquaintances.
In this unwelcome new age of social distance and self-isolation, when many of us hardly venture beyond the thresholds of our homes, I find myself thinking about Nellie Mae Rowe’s “playhouse.”