Anna Tsouhlarakis: To Bind or to Burn
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To Bind or To Burn presents recent works by multi-media and performance artist Anna Tsouhlarakis (Navajo, Creek, and Greek). Tsouhlarakis was the 2019-20 Andrew W. Mellon artist in residence at the FAC. During this time in the studio, she explored projects that questioned how to indigenize contemporary art practice. This exhibition combines art works from these explorations with earlier works to show her continued engagement with the connections between Native American Art and Minimalism.
Tsouhlarakis identified artist Sol Lewitt’s project of studies of incomplete cubes as a starting point for her investigation. She was intrigued by Robert Rosenblum’s statement, “Lewitt’s search for the building blocks of form, for the basic alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar of all structures, is one that has a deeply ingrained tradition in the history of modern art…” And she wanted to understand how she could interrupt this “vocabulary” and insert Native art into the conversation. The result was a series of sculptures and videos that incorporate IKEA furniture remnants with other found and made elements to express concepts from her Navajo background.
In Navajo traditions, binding is an action used to teach self-control, respect, and balance within the worlds of human and nature. Infants are wrapped in cradleboards, used by many Native American people, to help ease an infant’s lack of bodily control to create a space of peacefulness. As Navajos grow up, children are taught to keep their hair clean and tied back. This provides clarity of mind and positive intention as one goes through life. Throughout Navajo culture, there are many other ways this act of binding provides a way of being in the world. Translating this technique and Navajo mark making, as a method of decolonization of art, are the foundation of Tsouhlarakis’ current practice.