Igshaan Adams: Getuie
Extended through November 2020
SCAD Museum of Art, Pamela Elaine Poetter Gallery
By PETRA MASON, May 2020
Visit virtually: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60as3d2npHA.
Back in February 2020 SCAD's Savannah, Georgia location was bustling with activity showcasing the de:FINEART Spring 2020 exhibitions. PETRA MASON spoke to South African artist and ‘quiet activist’ Igshaan Adams about his first solo exhibition in the United States Getuie.
The title of the show is in Afrikaans, Adams’ mother tongue, and directly translates as "witness." ‘Witness’ referencing the way in which the popular, affordable linoleum flooring on exhibit is testament to the lives that left their marks and traces on the flooring, as well as the vernacular meaning of swearing oath to the character of someone in your inner circle or gang. Getuie speaks to Adams’ ongoing exploration of the domestic environment he grew up in. It’s all tied up: a contested site, upon a contested site -- where issues of race, religion, class, and sexuality intersect, in both comforting and unsettling ways.
Adams' installation lines the walls and floors of the expansive railroad gallery. The historic building, like much of Savannah, features exposed raw brick, bricks made by slaves, some still with imprints of slaves' fingerprints buried in them. The residue of the person's lived experience.
Bricks that now bear witness to Adams’ interior: an amalgamation of works created from large-scale sculptural weavings as well as heavily embellished two-dimensional wall hangings that map the linoleum flooring’s patterns and the pathways, pathways created by years of prior foot traffic. The used linoleum flooring extracted from working-class homes across Cape Town, South Africa, namely Bonteheuwel, the apartheid era location Adams grew up in.
"After art school I did not feel prepared for the art world at all, my training was not at all conceptual. It was very traditional, still-life and technique. I applied for and was accepted into Tupelo Workshop where the Director saw my work and offered me a scholarship. At the end of year exhibition I made an installation of a typical Cape ‘coloured’ home using furniture I had collected from different neighbors in my community. And that’s where the linoleum concept came from. It was really about looking at the domestic space that produced me. Looking for clues. If my environment that I grew up in and was placed in was different, how different would I have been?
Within my community there was a lot of violence and chaos. In the apartheid era 1980s there was a lot of paranoia. My grandfather was a policeman. Our house was bombed when I was 4 years old and I almost died in that experience, That time was pretty unstable.
Linoleum was always an important part of our spaces. The linoleum surface recorded the movement and the history within our homes. The surfaces became a document of those families. In many cases they were in their space for decades.
Now that it’s cheaper, and not as long lasting, people do replace it. Every year around Christmas to freshen up the space, even if they couldn’t afford paint there would always be new linoleum. I find that quite hopeful -- no matter what the circumstances. I enjoy that quite a lot. That’s why I work with linoleum in particular: mapping a path in someone’s home.
My formative piece, the portrait on the back wall was really the first time I switched from oil painting to material based work. I used a sewing machine. It’s on a piece of blanket, a blanket that was in our home for decades. A blanket my grandmother would iron our clothes on. It really captures a period in my own life when I was going through a transition." WM
Cultural historian and publisher. Beefcake 100% Rare, All Natural is her first Universe title, Bettie Page Queen of Curves and Bunny Yeager's Darkroom are her Rizzoli titles. Mason edited Fall 2015 Skira/Rizzoli's Imperfect Utopia.