How to fold a fitted sheet
April 3 – May 9, 2020 Postponed
Tamara Johnson in Conversation with Allison Klion and Trey Burns
Tamara Johnson Presents: “How to Make a Dumpcake”
To our friends and family,
On April 3, Tamara Johnson’s exhibition How to fold a fitted sheet was scheduled to open at ex ovo. She had been hard at work on several new sculptures and a video exploring the material translation of the emotional, psychological, and physical constituents of her identity as a Southern woman recently returned to her home state after many years away. New sculptures, meticulously handmade for How to fold a fitted sheet, expanded on and added to her established vocabulary of familiar domestic and architectural objects. Picture picket fence posts bent languidly around corners of the gallery, a garden hose hung limply over a wall, deviled eggs and okra delicately arranged in a precarious column suspended between the floor and a support beam, a congealed dump cake hurled against the wall. Johnson speaks most adeptly in the gooey terrain of metaphor—her sculptures are either like a feeling or they are a feeling, and those feelings are like a sculpture or they are a sculpture. Her iconography is her toolbox, a wink, a whistle, a scream, the stabby feeling you get when you run into an ex, a coming into focus, or melting into a puddle.
It was an exhibition that resonated deeply with me, as this attempt to navigate the unsettling terrain of moving back home is something we share. Perhaps it resonates with everyone even more now that we’re all ensconced in our homes with only our distractions to stave off self-examination. If social media activity is any indicator of how people are handling being with themselves, it doesn’t appear we’re ready for that confrontation. I think though, that Johnson’s sculptures would speak to many of us as we try to figure out how to exist in a world that’s rapidly changed from what we understood. Johnson talks about maintenance–in the Ukeles sense–but also in the blonde sense, in the wax sense, in the virtual exhibition tour up in 24-hours sense, in the work from home sense, in the “cleaning the house and making dinner and staying positive and sexy and being really productive through this quarantine” sense.
A few weeks ago, we discussed the possibility of installing the show and offering virtual tours through the ex ovo website. Sculpture, though, is inherently physical, its domain is spatial and bodily. It’s too fleshy to translate seamlessly to a screen. Tamara and I discussed the possibility of a drive-up exhibition viewable from the relative safety of your sealed vehicle, but once the city implemented the shelter-in-place order, this felt increasingly irresponsible, and perhaps callous. So after much discussion, we have agreed that the best course of action is to postpone How to fold a fitted sheet until it can be experienced in person with an anticipated opening this fall.
This does not mean that ex ovo will be empty and silent for the foreseeable future, but it’s difficult to figure out what to do in the interim. This is more than a temporary disruption of normalcy, and as such, at least for me, it requires a different approach than the facile translation of pre-laid plans into a digital arena. If there’s one thing that those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy, and/or who have the privilege of being able to work from home, and/or the privilege of boredom have it is time. We have time to acknowledge just how much will be lost to this pandemic. We have time not to act immediately. We need this time to pause and consider what’s important, to care for our communities and families rather than just be productive or fill our time with hobbies and work and consumable content to keep ourselves distracted from how we’re feeling.
On Friday, April 3rd, in lieu of the public opening I published a recorded conversation with Tamara Johnson here on the ex ovo website. If it feels right, perhaps we will continue these conversations—and invite others into them as well— over the originally-scheduled run of the exhibition.
Thank you for your support of the program at ex ovo. Be well, care for each other now and always.