Aicon Contemporary proudly presents The Tide Turns, a debut solo exhibition of Brooklyn-based artist Ruby Chishti. The following excerpt is part of an essay written by Timothy Murray, director of the Cornell Council of the Arts;
This exquisite and compelling collection of fabric sculptures explores the artist’s lifelong experimentation in melding the materials of found garments and social memory. Chishti’s haunting and enigmatic works, created between 2012 and 2020, perform the passage of fabric from discarded mass-produced and ceremonial clothing to the reconstructed filaments of artistic imagination. For this exhibition, Chishti has carefully dissembled the fabrics of found clothing to produce recycled materials for her creative reweaving of memory and time. As the artist systematically dissembles the clothing of unknown wearers, she passes the bodily traces and cultural spirit of those already touched by these filaments into vibrant sculptures that bear witness to the passage of custom and costume. The material transformation of these fiberous specters of the unknown into architectonics of exquisite shape and haunting color bear the corporeal residue of the garments’ prior carriers, not to mention the artist’s creative manipulation and cultural memory.
Bearing social and personal consequence, the exhibition provides an urgent template for conversation with the passage, persistence, and survival of time. Much like the recycled fibers comprising them, these works accrue additive import across time. They bear witness to the memory of the artist’s complex history of trauma, from unexpected family loss and the wanton destruction of her Pakistani home to the survival of migration and her persistence through transitional impediments. Haunting the exhibition are the markings of the artist’s affection for the marble jaalis of home contrasted by the complex challenges faced by the artist in Pakistan, when the comforting material of family household was violently rendered into perilous rubble and ghostly dust. Now colorful stitchery and transcendent pattern transcend the darkness of trauma to bear the vibrant touch of artistic craft and the carriage of amassed imaginaries as these works pass from culture to culture, decade to decade. From the trauma of displacement to the joys of resettlement and artistic creation, these spectral forms remain fraught as history now attests to the angst of ongoing struggles of migration and identity.
This provocative exhibition thus summons the participant to think both large and small, global and local. Chishti’s refigured garments of passage directly challenge the heroics of colossal masculinity, from the confidence of patriarchy to the burden of war and the weight of exodus. In contrast, her huddled female figures, enveloped in the luxury of fabric, embody the touch of proximity and togetherness, the enfolding of internalization, and even the paradox of pensive affect. The profusion of these miniaturized forms solicits something of the creativity of the feminist spirit and group endurance. Similarly, when combined with the architectural shapes of her fabric hangings, the uncanny figures signal both a coming and a going via the distorted window frames hanging so gracefully in their precarity. The promising delicacy of life and presence sit vibrantly on the thresholds of Chishti’s artistic environments.
As evinced from the sound field emanating from “A Ruin Without a People,” Chishti’s stunning exhibition testifies to the cross-cultural spirit of her fabric art as well as to the transformative interface of artistic duration.
Over the last 20 years, Ruby Chishti has produced a series of lyrical sculptures and installations that touch on tenacity and fragility of human existence, migration, Islamic myths, gender politics, memory, universal theme of love, loss and of being human.
Born in 1963 in Jhang, Pakistan, Chishti is primarily a representational sculptor, she was formally educated at the National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan. Ruby has held residencies internationally, she has received fellowships and awards including recent VSC/Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship. Her installations, sculptures, and sitespecific works have been exhibited at Asia Society Museum NY, Queens Museum, rossi & rossi Hong Kong, Aicon Gallery (London & New York), Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, India, Arco Madrid, Art Hong Kong, India Art fair and The Armory Show NYC to name a few. Chishti’s work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers and books including Unveiling the visible by Salima Hashmi, Memory-Metaphor-Mutations by Salima Hashmi and Yashodhra Dalmia and The eye still seeks: Pakistani Contemporary Art by Salima Hashmi & Matand Khosla.
The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.