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Hellen Ascoli

April 09 through September 19, 2021

Hellen Ascoli

artist(s)Hellen Ascoli

Hellen Ascoli works with text, sound, video, textile, sculpture, and installation to explore the politicized relationship between body, object, and place. Her practice is rooted in the act of weaving, both as technique and metaphor. The back-strap loom, her primary instrument, is a weaving tool that does not require the presence of standalone equipment, but rather uses the body and the surrounding environment as its supports. Featuring a belt on one end to be worn around the weaver’s waist, and a rope on the other to be attached to the existing architecture, this loom demonstrates the central role that the figure plays in Ascoli’s practice. Ascoli writes, “Each weave is intimately related to the body it harnesses: its warp is the width of my hips, its length mirrors my height, its designs are spaced by the threads I can hold in my hand.” She continues, "It carries memory through touch, a proximity sense. I choose to use materials that reveal vestiges of bodies that were once there.”

For her first solo museum exhibition, Ascoli presents a new body of work inspired by Gloria E. Anzaldúa's Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality (2015) and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993). Through these texts, Ascoli explores individual agency through embodiment. Firmly grounded in materiality, the installation features found and handmade fabric, paired with salvaged everyday domestic items. These artifacts — a kayak, mattress, dish rags, moving blanket, leather gloves — contain symbolic qualities that relate to the scale and tactility of the body and concepts such as domesticity, mobility, transformation, and care. Ultimately, Ascoli’s objects pose the question of how collective bodies remember and how they might resist.

Hellen Ascoli was born in Guatemala City in 1984. She received her BFA in sculpture from Southern Methodist University, Dallas (2006); and her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago (2012). Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including the Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano (2014); Bienal de Arte Paiz, Museo de Correos, Guatemala City (2014, 2018, 2020); My Body is Here, Concepción 41, Antigua, Guatemala (2016); One Stone and the Rain, Lawndale Art Center, Houston; Guatemala from 33,000 km: Contemporary Art 1960-present, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara (both 2017); To Weave Blue: Poema al tejido, University of Memphis; Stone’s Throw: Arte de Sanación, Arte de Resistencia, The Anderson and Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (both 2020). Ascoli teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She currently lives and works in Madison, WI.

This exhibition is supported by the Kaplan Lobby Fund. Additional support is provided by the generous contributors to the CAC Exhibition Fund.

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