Artist Borna Sammak opens a new show at JTT this month, continuing his work drawing on symbols and signage from contemporary pop culture and the modern urban landscape to create a dizzying exploration of aesthetics and meaning in our hyperconnected textual and graphical landscape. Featuring a series of works rendered with beach towels as well as a large-scale digital video installation, the show furthers Sammak’s enigmatic investigations of meaning and expression through the materials of the modern landscape.
Sammak’s work as often pulled at the strings of language and meaning, using street signs and other borrowed linguistic fragments to explore the modern condition. Wholesale clothing storefronts, grocery store graphics, and other images borrowed in full from the modern urban environment dot the artist’s work, presenting the pieces as a meditation on meaning and symbolism in the contemporary image. Graphics from discount grocery store Western Beef mingles with depictions of Uncle Sam, a selection of distinct questions about the meaning and experience of modern American being.
Sammak’s Beach Towel works are an intriguing entry point for the show, collaged and embroidered shreds of beach towels, arranged into striking repositions of the classic graphical language of beach towels. In one, the artist turns a series of shreds into a powerful depiction of a leopard, dotted with fragments of towels that give the work a subtly disorienting presentation. Compiling a familiar image from the fragments of a prior arrangement, the work rebuilds a cultural grammar from scratch, turning the image, and its meaning, inside out.
The other major work on view, Year in Words 4 (2021), spreads across the gallery, a series of LED Screens dotted with memes, photos, news headlines, and other fragments that speak to the volatility and violence of the past year. Drawing on the modern language of click-bait news, easily digestible writing, personal photos and memes, the image creates a dense collage of signifiers and symbols, a fitting counterpoint to the collages nearby. Here, treating these fragments journalistically, the piece becomes a fitting reflection of a year that has so often felt floating in uncertainty, waiting to return to a normal that never felt quite right to begin with.
The show closes August 6th.
– D. Creahan
Borna Sammak at JTT [Exhibition Site]