Zipporah Camille Thompson: the ocean wept rainbows at MOCA GA, Atlanta

By December 29, 2022
Installation View of Zipporah Camille Thompson: the ocean wept rainbows. Photograph courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia and by TW Meyer (Tom W Meyer).

Zipporah Camille Thompson’s exhibition the ocean wept rainbows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia uses a diverse yet consistent set of materials to create sculptures and textile artworks with striking emotional impact.

Zipporah Camille Thompson, low country, 2022, handwoven/knotted nets, wool, found pennant flags, rainwater, cotton, vinyl, safety buckles, thread, hair weave, hair beads. Photograph courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia and by TW Meyer (Tom W Meyer).

Despite the laundry list of media listed for each artwork, the overall impression is a striking congruence between artworks. Similarities in color palette, materials, and techniques seem as if every artwork in the exhibition rose from the same salvage pile. This visual coherence creates a pleasant unity in the space and much like the weaving implemented in many of the artworks, it feels like the exhibition itself is a woven matrix. And yet, within this unity, there is a startling variety in emotional impact of the artworks. Artworks such as labor of love (2022), blue magic (2022), and low country (2022) feel unbearably heavy. The deep drapes, piles of material on the floor, and near-monumental scale create an oppressive visual weight and they appear more as installations than singular sculpture. In contrast, water is the way through (2022) seems to float in the air, suspended by cords and carabiners. The sparser use of material and incorporation of underlying wooden structures bring levity and airiness, a wonderful counterpoint to the weight of other artworks. Beyond this, lancaster moondial (2022), florence moondial (2022), blue catawba moon (2022) feel wrought with tension. The excavated tire at the center of lancaster moondial has been carved into a ring and hangs from the ceiling with multiple buckles stretched and clipped across its diameter. It possesses the same airiness as water is the way through but now feels restrained and compressed. The consistency of materials and colors throughout the exhibition allowed these emotional impacts to hit much harder, often overwhelmingly so.

This exhibition features a new addition to the artist’s practice: digitally printed textiles. Mounted flat against the walls behind several artworks, the textiles feature repeated images and drawings resemblant of the artworks in the exhibition. In deep and dreamy slumber (2022), the structured and ordered imagery of the printed textiles serves as the antithesis to the tumbling chaos of the suspended sculpture it sits behind. The inclusion of this printed textile provides a visual anchor for the artwork, reigning in the tumultuous sculpture.

Zipporah Camille Thompson, water is the way through, 2022, moon water, rainwater, reed, rattan, foam, tulle, paint, shoelaces, ties, rush, wool, cotton, bleach, vinyl, thread, raffia, custom digitally printed cloth. Photograph courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia and by TW Meyer (Tom W Meyer).

One of the most memorable artworks in the exhibition was the last I saw. to the other side (2022) hangs surreptitiously on the wall facing away from the entrance so that I only encountered it upon my exit from the exhibition. Composed of strings of metallic and silvery beads draped from two stoneware sconces, the artwork embellishes and adorns the wall. Knowing that this exhibition serves as a tribute to the artist’s late grandmother, to the other side reads as a metaphorical and literal transition, acknowledging the passing of a loved one as well as the viewer’s physical exit from the exhibition. In an exhibition fraught with deep emotional impact, this artwork was a necessary bridge, affirming the experiences within the space and importantly providing a way forward.

Zipporah Camille Thompson: the ocean wept rainbows is on view at Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia in Atlanta, GA through January 7, 2023.

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