Goodman Gallery presents QR CODES REVISITED—LONDON, an exhibition of early and new works by New-York based Egyptian artist Ghada Amer, spanning decades of practice in which the artist uses language to ask what it means to communicate across cultures and to truly understand “the Other”.
Working for the first time with the traditionally male-dominated Egyptian textile craft, Amer deploys Eastern and Western voices within a series of large-scale abstract appliqué works: transforming statements by Simone de Beauvoir – “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” – and Amina Sboui – “my body belongs to me and it does not represent the honour of anyone” – into bold geometric formations that reference the ubiquitous QR code form, a recent visual language that has replaced printed text. The exhibition expands on Amer’s careerlong commitment to pushing against the exploitation of women around the world and to inspire all women to reclaim agency.
Amer’s iconic embroidered wall sculptures Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie (1995/2002), previously exhibited as part of the artist’s survey exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2008 and now for the first time in the UK, consist of two life size straitjackets bearing the phrase: “Ken aime Barbie Barbie aime Ken” [Eng. Ken loves Barbie Barbie loves Ken]. The work reflects on the obsessive nature of love and the impossible beauty standards that define Mattel dolls which are absorbed by young women. A recent article in Hyperallergic, timed to the release of Barbie (2023) in the cinemas, highlights the work as one of the earliest artist critiques of the doll:
In her 1995 work “Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie,” artist Ghada Amer printed two suits with the phrases that make up the installation’s title. The outfits are both onesies — garments that should exist without gender, as there are no skirts, heels, or suit jackets to reference traditional women’s and men’s clothing. Still, it is obvious whose onesie is whose. Amer has transferred Barbie’s body proportions onto her costume, making the exaggerated proportions of her body even more startling.
Since the 1990s, Amer’s Definition paintings have questioned the power of words to capture individual and shared realities. The Arabic dictionary definitions embroidered in the works featured in QR CODES REVISITED—LONDON explore meanings for: “Freedom,” “Love,” “Security” and “Peace” with the intension to challenge audience assumptions around Islamic culture and remind us that these qualities are integral to Arab societies. The work invites viewers to appreciate the overlooked riches of language, highlighting how easily one can become lost in translation.
Press release from Goodman Gallery
Image: Ghada Amer. Installation view of QR CODES REVISITED–LONDON at Goodman Gallery, London, 2023. Image courtesy of Goodman Gallery