Pace Gallery is pleased to present Cumulus, a solo exhibition by interdisciplinary artist Nina Katchadourian featuring recent works and several major ongoing projects that have not been shown in New York since their first iteration. Known for her widely varied practice, which includes video, performance, sound, sculpture, and photography, Katchadourian presents four of her landmark projects: Paranormal Postcards; Genealogy of the Supermarket; Sorted Books, featuring new instalments to the series; and Accent Elimination, which was exhibited in the 2015 Venice Biennial as part of the Armenian Pavilion, winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. The exhibition will also debut a suite of printmaking projects, including Lucy's Sampler, an homage to Katchadourian's Armenian adoptive grandmother. Together, the works on view examine themes of family, travel, displacement, portraiture, narration, and diaspora. In her signature style, Katchadourian continues to work with the apparently mundane, resulting in works that both subvert and activate the viewer's usual sense of their life and surroundings.
Grounding the exhibition is Paranormal Postcards (2001– ), an enormous wall installation consisting of hundreds of postcards that the artist has been collecting during her travels, museum visits, and stops at souvenir shops over the past two decades. Each postcard is stitched through with red sewing thread that connects elements within the image—a format that allows Katchadourian to draw out hidden affinities and suggested subtexts, which she further amplifies by grouping and connecting postcards using a network of dotted red lines applied to the wall. Like a giant chart that seems to explain the latent relationships or power structures embedded in the world, the array of postcards makes visible, as critic Jeffrey Kastner has written, 'lines of force and sympathy between their improbable inhabitants, proposing a world connected in almost unlimited ways.' In the context of the past year, the nostalgia for travel often associated with postcards takes on additional force. This is the first time Paranormal Postcards is being exhibited in New York since its initial presentation exactly 20 years ago, when it was a fraction of its current size.
The artist's longstanding interest in the seductive veracity of chart-like structures also animates The Genealogy of the Supermarket (2005– ). Interpolating the characters who appear on common supermarket products into a giant family tree of framed photographs installed on vibrant red wallpaper, the work takes literally the fantasy of kinship that many of these items exploit in their branding strategy. Every time it is exhibited, the artist incorporates new 'family members' sourced from local supermarkets. As such, the piece becomes an indicator of large-scale demographic changes, visible both in the faces that appear on everyday products and among the consumers who purchase them. The Genealogy of the Supermarket has not been shown in New York since 2005, and a number of new 'relatives' will make their first appearance at Pace.
Katchadourian worked with her own family in one of her best-known projects, the six-channel video Accent Elimination (2005). Katchadourian, who is first-generation American, worked with her Finland-Swedish mother, Armenian father, and a professional accent coach in order to teach her parents how to speak with a so-called 'standard American accent,' while Katchadourian attempted to master each of her parents' accents in turn. The piece shows them struggling to perform a scripted dialogue in their exchanged accents, revealing along the way the complicated origin stories of each parent, including the multiple displacements of her father's diasporic Armenian family.
Katchadourian's Armenian background is also the focus of a new work, Lucy's Sampler (2020). The engraving with letterpress text depicts an embroidery sampler made by Katchadourian's adoptive grandmother, Lucy, who was orphaned in the Armenian genocide around 1915 and later taken in by the artist's paternal grandparents. The sampler, made by Lucy at age 12 while she was still living in an orphanage, is one of the only extant artefacts from her childhood. Katchadourian reproduced an image of the sampler by placing a piece of Plexiglas on the artefact and tracing over each of Lucy's painstaking and carefully stitched marks with an engraving tool. This act of replication pays homage both to Lucy's skill and to her lifelong caretaking of others. Two additional printmaking series, 'Whisker Prints' and 'Window-Seat Suprematism', both from 2013, will also be on view for the first time. Both are characteristic of Katchadourian's attraction to working with self-imposed constraints. To make the 'Whisker Prints', Katchadourian limited herself to seventeen cat whiskers, each time placing them in a different formation on a deep-blue inked plate. The resulting monoprints resemble spare, reduced line drawings of sea creatures that live at extreme depths, sensing their way through the darkness. The 'Window-Seat Suprematism' etching series is based on photographs taken by Katchadourian when seated over the airplane wing, where the lines, rivets, and indicator arrows are used to compose images that recall Suprematist collage.
Katchadourian's longest ongoing project is 'Sorted Books', a photographic series that began in 1993. Pace will exhibit a new suite of images made in response to an invitation by the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum to work with the sculptor's personal book collection. Katchadourian's process typically involves sorting through a collection of books, selecting particular titles, and arranging them into stacked groups so that the titles on the spines can be read in sequence as short sentences, phrases, or narratives. Past iterations of the project have made use of the Swedish playwright August Strindberg's personal library and writer William S. Burroughs's book collection. The book arrangements become a form of portraiture that reflects not only the well-known interests of an individual but also their surprising and sometimes contradictory obsessions, shedding a different light on the person's life and work.
This solo exhibition follows Pace's recent presentation of Katchadourian's Monument to the Unelected—a set of lawn signs created by the artist featuring the names of every candidate who ran for president of the United States and lost—which was also presented at seven other venues in the lead-up to, and immediately following, the 2020 presidential election. Katchadourian is currently working on a permanent public sound work commission for Skissernas Museum in Lund, Sweden. In February 2023, Katchadourian will have a solo exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum, in which she will combine her work with objects drawn from the Morgan's diverse holdings.
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.