Rumors of Form at Westobou Gallery is a three-person exhibition featuring Caleb Jamel Brown, Y. Malik Jalal, and Coulter Fussell. Using repurposed materials to create wall-hanging quilts and paintings and free-standing sculptures, the artworks in this exhibition revitalize embedded history with unlimited possibility.
Material finesse was a highlight of the exhibition. Although all the artworks are composed of secondhand materials, each artist showed they were able to masterfully manipulate them to create compelling artworks. Created with heavily rusted and corroded steel scraps stacked into a pyramid form, the freestanding sculpture by Y. Malik Jalal in particular emphasizes the exhibition’s focus on repurposing. The weight of the near vertical metal pieces feels impossibly upright, while a closer look reveals almost unnoticeable welds and connections that provide stability for an otherwise precarious composition. Jalal’s ability to alter the materials no more than necessary demonstrates the artist’s understanding and respect of the metal and lets the steel speak for itself, a quality present throughout Rumors of Form. The day I viewed the exhibition I had worn athletic shorts, a t-shirt, and old shoes. Initially nervous to enter an art space in such unbecoming clothes, I felt relieved to see that the artworks had also come as they were, with no other expectations.
The use of secondhand materials strongly associates the artworks with memory, a theme that is also present the in subject matter of the artworks. In Coulter Fussell’s Jump Piece the artist has used a myriad of textiles to create a circular quilt based on her memory of watching paratroopers practice their descent from airplanes, and in Caleb Jamel Brown’s Meet at the Shore, the artist has collaged a photograph from a family vacation onto the painting. The incorporation of personal memory with secondhand materials continues the cycles of history embedded within the artwork. The material has come to the artist touched by others, it has passed through the hands of the artist who has in turn left an indelible mark, and now moves beyond them to the next person. This cycle of receiving, adding, and passing on relinquishes the artwork of a singular genesis and instead attributes it to a convergence of forces resulting from the particular time and place in which each artist works. The result are artworks the feel aged but not old, worn but not broken, used but not unsalvageable. This feeling seems especially appropriate given the location of this exhibition in a southern city in the United States, a region often referred to as “the Dirty South” because of its diverse mix of races, ethnicities, and traditions. This exhibition presents the possibility present within such a complex place.
There aren’t any specific narratives told in Rumors of Form but as written in the exhibition text “that’s okay.” Providing more indeterminate artworks that are well-crafted shows possibility without limit. Any material is ripe for development if only given the care and attention it needs.
Rumors of Form is on view at Westobou Gallery in Augusta, GA through August 14, 2021.