Yasmeen Abdallah: Fettuccine, Linguine, Martini, Bikini
When I first met Yasmeen Abdallah at Pratt Institute in the mid-2000’s, she was lugging gallon jugs of water from her thesis exhibition. Why she was doing this? Was it part of her work? A labor of the everyday that would result in an exquisitely tough piece of art? Or was she just cleaning up the space? I didn’t know, but as it turns out, it was likely all of those things.
I talked to Yasmeen that day about her work and her process and have been hooked on her as an artist ever since. Yasmeen’s art-making methodology is fused integrally with her life – all of her actions, from drinking tea and sharing stories with friends and family, to her political activism and community outreach actions, to her struggle to pay the rent – are her work. She channels these experiences intothe materials she chooses and into the processes by which she connects these materials and bonds them together. Her sculptures are less constructed or fabricated, and more grafted, as Yasmeen attaches materials ontoeach other, simultaneously preserving the integrity of each material as she hybridizes the whole.
Yasmeen’s art, from those works I first encountered to her most recent installations and sculptures, challenge us as viewers to ponder how they were made – how they were worn, used, or even abused. Her works re-present materials in hybridized ways that compel us to acknowledge the reality of physical and emotional alteration and decay. Conversely, their formal complexity and aesthetic sensitivity ask us to recognize the poetic beauty in both the materials themselves, and in the fused artistry of their final state. In this way, Yasmeen’s work is about class. It grapples with how a material can be “elevated” to the realm of high art, and, in doing so, reflects back to us the ways in which we treat each other (social hierarchy, economic structures, marginalization, racial bias). Her works flesh out the space of the outcast (that negative space) in an attempt to shine a light on the powerful forces that have pushed it into hiding. Why this happens and the process by which this transformation takes place is itself complexly tied to ritual – both the everyday and the spiritual. In Yasmeen’s work, everything exists on the same plane, and all is equal and valid in its purest form. Wood, Fuzzy Yarn, Oil Paint, Vegan Skin, Tape, Hoziery.