The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Igshaan Adams

Justin Kamp
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Igshaan Adams

B. 1982, Cape Town. Lives and works in Cape Town.

Igshaan Adams, Dwars Oor (Right Across), 2020. © Igshaan Adams. Photo by Mario Todeschini. Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York.

Igshaan Adams, installation view of “Getuie” at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, 2020. Photo by Erin Jane Nelson. Courtesy of Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York.


Igshaan Adams’s hanging sculptures envision how material accretes, coils, separates, and becomes void. A queer practicing Muslim born in apartheid-era South Africa, Adams draws on the multiplicites of his own identity, as well as his faith, to produce intricately woven works that combine everything from standard rope and twine to wire, beads, springs, and dyeing agents, including red wine and detergents. The pieces range from obliquely religious tapestries to sinewy hanging abstractions, and the compositions often reflect the bricolage nature of their construction, with ordered patterns pierced by tectonic forms or gaps in the weave.

While popular contemporary textile artists are often figurative in style, Adams’s tapestries feel like explorations of the representational potential of woven material itself—how their individual origins and new combinations reflect broader cultural interchange.

His experimentation has paid off, with a series of shows at Cape Town’s blank projects over the past few years leading to a 2020 exhibition at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, as well as a forthcoming exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, planned for 2022. This past June, New York gallery Casey Kaplan announced its representation of Adams; his first solo show at the gallery is slated for 2021.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Justin Kamp

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Igshaan Adams, installation view of “Al Latîf” at blank projects, 2018; Portrait of Igshaan Adams. Courtesy of Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York; Igshaan Adams, “Cloud V,” 2019; Igshaan Adams, “69,” 2013; Igshaan Adams, “Fountain,” 2017. All artwork and installation images: © Igshaan Adams. Courtesy of the artist and blank projects, Cape Town.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019