by Mariel Tepper
A nine-year friendship between Ghanaian-native artist TAFA and Japanese-native artist Tomo Mori forms the heart of I See You, now on view at ChaShama’s 340 E. 64th space until March 8th. As Mori notes, “I feel Tafa and I share a deeply human connection. He knows my work since I stared showing in 2011, when I didn’t know anything or anybody in the art community. I always admired his work and I am extremely honored to do this project together.”
Tomo Mori’s fluid, organic fiber art sculptures are comprised of handmade ropes made from discarded and upcycled fabrics given to her by family and friends. Shown alongside these works are TAFA’s figurative oil paintings are informed by Ghana’s sporting events, public demonstrations and musical performances. Representing the rich diversity and international voices within the New York City arts scene, TAFA and Tomo Mori draw upon distinct imagery and materials imbued with symbolic, cultural and personal meaning, as well as their shared experience as first-generation immigrants: while both of their practices focus on their homeland, they equally embrace their new role as artists residing within the United States.
Personal history and intimate familial connections through material are tenderly woven throughout Tomo Mori’s work. Ropes of discarded baby blankets join together in the artwork Eve to form a loose, heart-like or cradle-like formation, evoking the tender embrace of a mother and newborn child. The prompt, “What do you build when you are given power?” accompanies an all-ages interactive installation of fabric-covered blocks, using social consciousness and inclusivity to shift our cultural narratives about power from division to empowerment. Sanctuary, a dazzling, optically exhilarating patchwork of fabrics, incorporates a vintage kimono, highlighting the comfort, beauty and solace Mori finds within Japanese culture.
Alongside Tomo Mori’s materiality and indirect allusions to place and cultural symbolism, TAFA’s work keeps an eye towards the ephemeral struggles and achievements that mark the human condition. Each painting appears to be in flux, undergoing a state of change, conveyed by thick, rapid brush marks across the surface and expressive, gestural figures with contorted faces in intensely physical acts. From huddled masses gathered around a football stadium to masses in silent protest, the imagery within these artworks underscores the importance of shared social traditions to unify our collective culture in moments of crisis and uncertainty. Where Mori’s works connects in physical space, TAFA’s work unite the excitement of crowds at sporting events in a shared, communal energy. His exuberant painting style captures the enthusiasm and shared sentiments among large crowds. His work shows us an artistic expression of unity.
TAFA and Tomo Mori both approach their work with deep-rooted and complex associations on topics of heritage, history and social structures, stemming from their own experiences as immigrants in America looking back towards the culture of their homeland. I See You encourages active observation, prompting viewers to look closer at their own surroundings and form deeper connections between place and identity.
Supported by ChaShama, the exhibition fulfills ChaShama’s promise to give artists space to present their work while fostering community development through the arts. More information on ChaShama can be found on their website.
The following programs will continue through the exhibition until it closes on March 8th:
Artist Talk: Tuesday, February 25, 6:30 to 8:30pm
Closing Reception, Saturday, March 7, 4 to 6pm
SAT 2/22 Fabric collage workshop by Tomo Mori 2-4pm, all-ages, children with caregiver. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAT 2/29 Rope making workshop by Tomo Mori 2-4pm, all-ages, children with caregiver. RSVP: email@example.com
SUN 3/1 Kora/Djembe Performance by West African musician, Sunday, March 1, 2-4pm
All events are free and open to the public. Location: Chashama Space to Present at 340 E 64th St. New York, New York 10065 (ground floor)
Regular Gallery Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11:30am to 6:30pm
Please see the exhibition website in orde to schedule an appointment to visitoutside of these hours: https://www.tomomoriart.com/i-see-you