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Cosmic Geometries [2022]

Organized by Hilma’s Ghost (Sharmistha Ray and Dannielle Tegeder) at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts.

 

Cosmic Geometries is a group exhibition of intergenerational and intersectional artists that examines the spiritual and aesthetic functions of abstract painting and geometry in art. The artists deploy a range of painterly devices to create cosmic and transcendental visions that combine esoteric world traditions with the language of Modernism. Their motifs are inspired by sources as divergent as Islamic architecture, Buddhist mandalas, Hindu yantras, medieval Christian stained-glass windows, and quantum mechanics, rendering formal devices that range from tessellations, optical illusions, to elaborate ornamentation techniques. These artists primarily work with the language of painting, but also draw from languages and materials adapted from sculpture, installation, craft, textiles, and ceramics. Within these works lies a rich sensibility for color, shape, and compositional elements, which reveal the daring sensibilities that artists are bringing to the historically overlooked arena of the spiritual in art. These artists' practices build upon palimpsest legacies of alternative power structures that are constantly being erased.

 

Curatorial Note:

Being a community driven project, Hilma’s Ghost stands in opposition to hierarchical machinations. We are artists curating a show, not curators. The exhibition has been conceived as a salon, where artists from diverse backgrounds and generations are invited into conversation with each other; the desired outcomes are open-ended. You have the cosmological visualizations of a feminist icon like Dorothea Rockburne, who is known for her interest in mathematics and astronomy, but also derives from Western art historical representations of Christian mysticism. You also have Rico Gatson, whose cosmic abstractions and specific color relations speak to pan-Africanism, Black liberation, and spirituality. Both artists underscore that identity politics and spiritual abstraction are not mutually exclusive. Personal histories between these artists are also important to the “conversation”: Stephen Mueller, for instance, had a close friendship with Carrie Moyer while he was alive, and she has carried his legacy forward in many ways. Presenting their work together reveals dynamic relationships in color, technique, and style.

The overlapping and interconnectedness of world cultures is also significant: Philadelphia-based artists Jackie Tileston and Natessa Amin are from different cultural and generational backgrounds but they find distinct material ways to draw upon Tantric visualities through painting. Alongside these artists, you have the incredible abstractions of Indian artists and Neo-Tantra pioneers —Biren De (1926-2011) and Mahirwan Mamtani, who lives in Germany and is now in his 80s — both little known in the U.S., but whose works hold the possibility of

reframing the language around Modernism and spirituality through other cultural loci. Things start to happen when you fold these myriad voices and practices into a common space. We hope these cross-pollinations spur new germinations for the artists involved and for the viewing public.

 

Instead of “curating” the arrangement and placement of works, we built upon our use of processes of ritual and divination to install the exhibition. Last year, we created an original Tarot deck, ABSTRACT FUTURES TAROT. To determine the layout of Cosmic Geometries, we invoked Hilma’s spirit—as we always do at the beginning of our online workshops–as we drew cards divinely from our Tarot deck for each of the artists in the exhibition. Most of these cards were drawn from the Major Arcana, which represent life’s archetypal themes, which have karmic and transformative meanings. The drawn cards have been placed next to the works to which they correspond. The meanings behind these pairings are as much a mystery to us, so we have purposely left it open to the viewer's interpretations.

This process intends to challenge traditional forms of curatorial authority by relinquishing control over institutionalized methods of exhibition-making.

-Sharmistha Ray and Dannielle Tegeder, Hilma’s Ghost

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