Saya Woolfalk (‘04)
ChimaTEK: Hybridity Visualization System
535 West 22nd Street, Sixth Floor
January 17 – March 7, 2015
Our first one-person presentation of new works by multimedia and performance artist Saya Woolfalk continues her ongoing exploration of hybrid identities and material culture in the form of elaborately constructed fictions. Drawing on her own familial history, she incorporates African American, European American, and Japanese cultural influences, while alluding to science fiction, feminist theory, mythology, anthropology, archaeology, Eastern religion, and fashion. The exhibition is the most recent in a series depicting the culture of the “Empathics” the botanic–humanoid female species that she conceived in 2008.
In her essay “No Placeans and Empathics,” written on the occasion of Woolfalk’s 2011 solo exhibition at Real Art Ways in Hartford, noted curator and scholar Lowery Stokes Sims writes:
Woolfalk’s work does not merely engage the rubric of identity, nor does it specifically critique post-colonial and feminist politics. It emphatically is not an identity that capitulates to biologically determined positions of aggression, fear, and survival. She co-opts post-colonial discourse and neo-orientalist tendencies by refusing to be the passive agent upon which those conceits can be imposed. Hers is an identity that questions whether or not we have the capacity for change, for empathy, for happiness. It is one that is aspirational as opposed to existential, potential as opposed to certain. We are forced to consider what the fusion of races and cultures would actually look like; what would comprise cultural hybridity?
Among the works on view are “artifacts” and other examples of Empathic culture including the Hides and Sheds of North American Empathics, two and three-dimensional objects representing discarded heads and skins, in pastel colors, adorned with shiny trinkets; the Chimera series of collaged portraits; a “commercial” video made for ChimaTEK, (the corporate entity established by the Empathics,) and ChimaTEK products such as the Avatar Download Station, which enables the user to download virtual avatars in order to “explode physical limits” and to “blur cultural boundaries.”
Born in 1979 in Gifu City, Japan, Saya Woolfalk earned her B.A. in visual art and economics from Brown University in 2001 and her MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. A Fulbright grant to study in Brazil the following year and a 2007 residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem are among the many honors and awards she has received during the past ten years.
Woolfalk has presented multimedia works and performances at museums, galleries, and alternative spaces throughout the U.S. including the Studio Museum in Harlem; MoMA PS1; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; the Brooklyn Museum; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; andPerforma 09, New York. Her first full-scale one-person museum exhibition, The Empathics, presented in the form of an ethnographic survey, took place at the Montclair Art Museum in the fall of 2012.
Works by Saya Woolfalk can also currently be seen in a solo show at the Chrysler Museum of Art, In the Box: Saya Woolfalk ChimaTEK Life Products. The exhibition is “a trade show for a new species of hybrid, cloned humans … a hallucinogenic vision of the intersection of technology, utopian dreams, and pervasive cultural influences.” It remains on view through May 31, 2015. Upcoming projects include a recent commission by the Seattle Art Museum to create a new work for their exhibition Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which is scheduled to take place from June 18 – September 7, 2015
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is located on the sixth floor of 535 West 22nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.