This summer in New York, Karma presents Rolled Secrets, the first New York solo show dedicated to the work of Sanaa Gateja’s following the artist’s inclusion in the 58th Carnegie International. The artist, who transforms natural materials and post-consumer paper waste into complex, mosaic-like works, here continues his practice with a range of materials that include hand-rolled paper beads, cloth, and soaked and pounded strips of bark. Motivated by an innate sensibility of form, Gateja’s often monumental works oscillate between figuration and abstraction.
The works, as a result, present an intriguing material history emerges, underscoring previous roles and contexts from which these new objects spring, not only borne out from the referent, but now suspended in a new system of materials that create intricate new links and connections. The exhibition highlights two series, Rolled Secrets (2023) and Paths: The African Journey (2020). The works that comprise Rolled Secrets are primarily figurative, and often feature intricate depictions of forest settings and social gatherings, as well as beaded fringes. Gateja’s focus on trees extends beyond their form and into their complex, interconnected relationships with their surroundings—from their deep root systems to branches laden with bright leaves and multicolored fruit, as in Ripe (2022).
In Paths: The African Journey, Gateja employs a more unified palette of pinks, yellows, and ocher, contrasted by rivulets of pale-colored beads, to explore the history of Africa—specifically the forces of colonization, enslavement, and the resilience of the continent’s population and diaspora. Although emphasizing abstraction, Gateja’s oeuvre draws affective connections between people and their environment. In works such as Self Sufficiency (2020) and Visiting (2020), the jostle between smooth peaks and rounded forms simultaneously suggests figures and rural topographies; the same details that evoke outstretched arms and welcoming faces are also reminiscent of grasslands and mountain passes seen from above. In these two bodies of work, Gateja articulates a kind of visual alchemy, in which art-making becomes an act of environmental and spiritual repair.
The artist’s work is on view through August 18th.
– C. Rhinehart
Karma [Exhibition Site]