ClampArt is proud to present “Distant Mirrors,” an exhibition of tapestries, monoprints, and screen prints by Aziz + Cucher (Anthony Aziz + Sammy Cucher) to coincide with their inclusion in the group show “Suffering from Realness” at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. “Distant Mirrors” is Aziz + Cucher’s second solo exhibition at ClampArt.
Comprised of three large Jacquard tapestries from the Some People Tapestry Cycle, two monoprints from the Frieze series, and a selection of screen prints, “Distant Mirrors” explores notions of cultural conflict and the cyclical nature of human struggle. Fusing historical processes and contemporary imagery, Aziz + Cucher capture the collective sense of modern-day dysphoria in multilayered scenes of chaos, conflict, jubilation, industry, absurdity, and ambiguity.
Writer and critic Glenn Adamson states: “Rising tides of populism and alarmism feed on one another in a vicious cycle, churning faster than the speed of thought. In America and Europe, there is a sense that society is deeply fractured, at odds with itself. And—partly as a result of this dysfunction—there are actual civil wars unfolding, in Syria and elsewhere. This is the literal and figurative background for Anthony Aziz and Sammy Cucher’s powerful new tapestries, each of which shows a pageant of bodies, in freeze-frame against an unsettled landscape, pinned like butterflies within time and space itself.” Adamson describes how the compositions evoke confusion and anxiety through the layering of “innumerable figures, intentionally non-specific. Are they refugees? freedom fighters? terrorists? tourists? And what are they up to?” The figures brandishing cell phones suggest that despite living in an era of hyper-connectivity and compulsive documentation, our anxiety is only heightened as “truth” becomes nothing more than a cacophony of whispers in a reality distortion field. Other elements such as the peacock in “The Visitor” and groups of sheep in “The Road” reference the symbolism of Renaissance religious imagery while also alluding to the absurdity of endless cycles of human conflict.
All of the imagery used in the tapestries was created from the artists’ own photography. The figures are collaged from photographs of costumed dancers performing dramatic poses and choreographed movements against a green screen. The subjects are then composited into landscapes the artists documented while traveling internationally. The final scenes are then transposed into a large digital weaving file from which the tapestries are created on a Jacquard loom in Belgium.
All of the works on paper included in the exhibition isolate the artists’ figures against blank or simply patterned backgrounds. Devoid of any geographical context and the desolate desert terrain in the tapestries, the subjects dance, fight, protest, worship, play music, take selfies, and sometimes collapse appearing to die. Each of the Frieze works on paper are unique; they are produced using layers of ink and 24-karat gold leaf on Hahnemühle paper. The screen prints in the show include a group of complex, 40-color compositions and a pair of monochromatic pieces titled “Shadow Play.”
Raised as a Zionist, Sammy Cucher’s family lives in Israel. Anthony Aziz, who was raised in the United States, has extended family in Lebanon. The artists’ personal, biographical experiences unfold against ongoing violence in the Middle East placing a “local conflict in the global context of life in the age of terror” (Tami Katz-Freiman, “From Body Politics to Conflict Politics: Aziz + Cucher Come Out of the (Biography) Closet”).
Anthony Aziz (b. Massachusetts) and Sammy Cucher (b. Lima, Peru) have been living and working together since 1991. They are pioneers in the field of digital imaging and post-photography with projects exhibited at numerous venues, including the 1995 Venice Biennale, Biennale de Lyon, Fondation Cartier in Paris, National Gallery of Berlin, Photographer’s Gallery in London, List Visual Arts Center at MIT, New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the International Center of Photography. They have received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts. Their prints and other works have been collected extensively by numerous institutions, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Denver Museum of Art, Musée de l’Elysée in Switzerland, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. They are both members of the Fine Arts faculty at Parsons School of Design, New York. They are based in Brooklyn.