For the 2022 edition of The Art Show, Sperone Westwater is pleased to present 7 new photographic works by Ivorian artist Joana Choumali. In Spring 2022, the gallery presented Choumali’s first solo exhibition in the United States, featuring works from her acclaimed series “Ca Va Aller” (2016-2019), for which she won the 2019 Prix Pictet, as well as new works from the “Alba’hian” series, begun in 2018.
Featured in our stand are works from the artist’s latest series, “Alba’hian,” titled after an Agni word which denotes the powerful energy that comes with the first light of morning. Embarking on daily walks between 5 and 7am, Choumali frequently photographs the landscape at dawn, which she describes as a “magical time in which there is a sense of dialogue between reality and dream, between present and past memory.” Using a mixed technique of collage, embroidery, quilting and photomontage, Choumali builds upon these photographic images, superimposing ethereal layers of sheer toile and golden paint intertwined with other photographs she takes during those walks, such as silhouettes of passersby or quiet moments on the empty roads. Her process is slow, as meditative as the walks themselves, and by merging the instant—digital photography—with the contemplative—embroidery—Choumali explores the relationship between the metaphorical and the physical, evoking moments of revelation, introspection and rediscovery cross-culturally associated with the morning light.
Joana Choumali was born in 1974 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where she lives and works. She studied graphic arts in Casablanca and her early practice focused on documentary portraits. Choumali’s recent work builds upon the intimacy of her early portraits by incorporating embroidery and textiles directly onto her photographic images. Her work has also been featured in exhibitions worldwide, including the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2021-22); Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech (2019-20); Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town (2019); and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, Le Havre (2017). In 2017, Choumali was included in the Côte d’Ivoire Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Collections owning her work include The Metropolitan Museum of Art; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Harvard Art Museums; Musée de la Photographie de Saint Louis, Senegal; Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakech; Prix Pictet Collection; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She was named the 2020 Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University and was awarded residencies with Nirox Foundation, Johannesburg (2017) and the IFITRY Residency, Essaouira, Morocco (2016; 2015).