Jordan Nassar, Beyond the Boundaries, 2022. Hand-embroidered cotton on cotton, 84 × 81 × 1 inches (213.4 × 205.7 × 2.5 cm). The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art at Rollins College, Gift of Barbara ‘68 and Theodore ‘68 Alfond. 2022.2.7. © Jordan Nassar. Image courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photo by Phoebe d’Heurle.
The artist’s first solo exhibition in Boston features a selection of intricate embroidered and mixed media works that explore ideas of home, land, and memory
(Boston, MA—July 13, 2022) On August 11, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Jordan Nassar: Fantasy and Truth, a solo exhibition of the New York-based artist whose multifaceted practice draws on traditional Palestinian craft to investigate ideas of home, land, and memory. As a self-taught artist, Nassar (b. 1985 in New York) is mostly known for his use of Palestinian tatreez, a matrilineal tradition of cross-stitching. In collaboration with a Palestinian embroidery collective based in the West Bank, the artist composes his embroideries from numerous individually made panels that together weave breathtaking, layered panoramas suggestive of an expansive sky or a boundless horizon. Fantasy and Truth presents the artist’s largest embroidered panels to date, alongside recent work in wood and glass mixed media. Organized by Anni Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant, the exhibition is on view August 11, 2022 through January 29, 2023.
“Nassar’s work, with its complex patterning and painterly attention to form and color, elevates our understanding of craft traditions as long-standing and deeply meaningful forms of art. We look forward to sharing his work with audiences in Boston for the first time,” said Pullagura.
Tatreez is a tradition deeply rooted in the history and culture of Palestine. Since 1948, it has become closely tied to ideas of nostalgia, nationality, and heritage. Colors, patterns, and designs could distinguish a wearer both by where they were from as well as their social or familial status, or signal different stages of life. Nassar grew up with many of these motifs in his household, and began incorporating tatreez into his practice after meeting with women-led embroidery collectives in Ramallah, Hebron, and Bethlehem, with whom he now collaborates on some of his artworks.
Presented across the gallery space, the embroidered works offer visions of homelands at monumental scale. Nassar’s largest works to date—Song of the Flowers (2022) and Lament of the Field (2022)—are each composed of fifty-seven individual panels in richly varied warm and cool colors, introducing familiar motifs and patterns in an arrangement that together suggests a sun rising over a blue mountain or a moon shining across a red valley. Recalling the fragmentation of memory, time, history, and place, the panels individual language and collective dialogue offer a poetic remark on ideas of fantasy and truth. The exhibition title, as well as the titles of the two large-scale embroideries, draw from the poetry collection A Tear and A Smile (1914) by Lebanese writer Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883–1931), whose melancholic poetics address the ebb and flow of memory and history. Similarly, for Nassar, embroidery holds a tension between conflict and harmony in the relationship between stitch and thread, color and pattern.
“I like to discuss these landscapes as versions of Palestine as they exist in the minds of the diaspora, who have never been there and can never go there,” shares Nassar. “They are the Palestine I heard stories about growing up, half-made of imagination. They are dreamlands and utopias that are colorful and fantastical—beautiful and romantic, but bittersweet.”
In recent years, Nassar has expanded his practice to include glass and wood-based crafts. The ICA exhibition features glassworks in which the artist has arranged hand-flamed glass beads in a steel armature, similar to decorative latticework. In the wood pieces on display, Nassar has layered the natural grains of the wood with brass and mother of pearl to create richly inlaid surfaces; these designs recur in the artist-made benches also created for this exhibition.
The ICA Store has partnered with Nassar and his clothing brand Adish to develop an exclusive capsule collection available only at the ICA featuring a limited edition embroidered hooded sweatshirt, tote bag, poster, and more. Visit icastore.org for more information.
Jordan Nassar (b.1985, New York, NY) earned his B.A. at Middlebury College in 2007. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions globally at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Asia Society, New York, NY; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ; Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; KMAC Museum, Louisville, KY; Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) Tel Aviv; Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, CA; James Cohan, New York and The Third Line, Dubai, UAE. His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Rollins Museum of Art, Florida; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; The Museum of Contemporary Art, California; and Rhode Island School of Design Museum, in Rhode Island, among others.
About the ICA
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Support for Jordan Nassar: Fantasy and Truth is generously provided by Oliver and Negin Ewald.