Yto Barrada's first solo exhibition in the Netherlands, Bad Color Combos, showcases multidisciplinary and new work at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Bad Color Combos is an overview of artist Yto Barrada’s latest work. Film, textiles, photography, and sculpture are all part of her eclectic approach. This solo exhibition features a collection of Barrada’s work over the last five years, as well as new work created specifically for the exhibition. She continues to investigate cultural phenomena, human histories, and natural processes in it. Yto Barrada has created new series of works in recent years centered on topics such as the acceleration and deceleration of time, motherhood, the history of education, play, the artisanry of natural dyes and color as material, modernist traditions, and our vain attempts to control nature.
Modernism, an alternate vision
Yto Barrada frequently refers to international modernism associatively in her work in an attempt to disrupt a western understanding of art and address local challenges of globalization. In the “After Stella” series, she refers to a specific period in abstract painting history: the color field paintings created by American artist Frank Stella in the mid-1960s. Stella was inspired by his travels in Morocco and named his paintings after Moroccan places. Along with Stella, Barrada references painters Mohamed Chebaa, Farid Belkahia, and Mohammed Melehi, who were members of the Casablanca School in the 1960s and pioneered North African modernism in their abstract paintings.
This show features three of Barrada’s most significant films in 8 and 16 mm formats: Tree Identification for Beginners (2017), The Power of Two or Three Suns (2020), and Continental Drift (2022). The Power of Two or Three Suns was filmed at an industrial testing laboratory where various materials and products are subjected to artificially simulated natural forces to determine their durability. Colors exposed to the strength of the (artificial) sun serve as a metaphor for the passage of time, aging and degradation, and the impact of climate change and the ecological crisis.
Yto Barrada created many works specifically for this exhibition. The Mothership, the Strait, the Edge (2022) is a wall collage at the exhibition’s entrance that refers to The Mothership, an eco-feminist research center and residency she founded that focuses on natural dyes and textiles and overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar and Spain’s southernmost edge. Many of the artworks in this exhibition were dyed using plant extracts from this garden.
Tangier Island Wall (2022) is a new sculpture that relates to an island off the coast of Virginia in the United States, with a population of 378 people, that is slowly sinking into the sea due to increasing sea levels. This small town, with a dwindling economy centered on crab fishing in the famous Chesapeake Bay, has attempted to manipulate nature. Barrada employed crab traps to construct a minimalist structure, a porous “sea wall,” in this sculpture.
Yto Barrada’s artistic approach is founded on the concepts of community, artistic kinship, and collaboration with friends and family, in addition to her sociopolitical concerns. The artist explores her interest in play, education, and experimentation at a gallery where she exhibits the work of three generations of female artists: Elodie Pong (b. 1968), Bettina (Bettina Grossman, 1927-2021), and new work co-created with her 8-year-old daughter, Tamo.
Yto Barrada Bio
Yto Barrada was born in 1971 in Tangier, Morocco, grew up there, studied history and political science at the Sorbonne in Paris, and currently divides his time between New York and Tangier. Barrada founded the Tangier Cinémathèque, North Africa’s first movie cultural institution, in 2006. Barrada’s work has been shown at Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, Witte de With in Rotterdam, Haus der Kunst in Munich, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, and the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2011. She has won numerous international accolades, including the 2022 Queen Sonja Print Award (Oslo).