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Rachel Mason, Mixed Media Dolls

Rachel Mason, Mixed Media Dolls


As you approach Twelve Gates, your eyes immediately fall upon dolls clothed in shards of mirrored glass, suspended from the ceiling of the big picture window.  Dolls that represent female icons (Beyonce, Frida Kahlo, PJ Harvey) often seen as other-worldly entities capable of astounding creative feats.

A flashy opening to Twelve Gates latest group exhibition called, Zarbardast (zuhb-are-dust); an Urdu term that translates roughly to ‘Awesome!’ or ‘Terrific!’ – you are encouraged to say this word with great gusto and vim- like a whoop or a war cry.

Zarbardast is one of the strongest shows Twelve Gates Arts has shown in recent years, due in part to guest curator, Jasmine Wahi.  What Wahi assembled here at Twelve Gates are standout pieces with strong individual voices from artists she’s worked with in previous shows;  no disappointment there –  Wahi’s strong suit is her ability to use different methods to reinvent her trademark gender empowering lineups that retain their freshness and relevancy.

For Wahi, Zarbardast is “an homage to the women who are enthusiastically revered for their originality, strength, and self-motivated power…women who unabashedly break the boundaries, disrupt the normative societal expectation, and embrace the frenetic glory of needed change.”

Now let’s go back to talking about artist Rachel Mason’s crazy dolls decked out in mirror ball jumpsuits aesthetics.  They are Mason’s female idols – clothed in mirrors one would assume Mason does what anyone does with their idols – turns them into reflective entities; identifies with and sees herself in them.  Perhaps making these dolls helps her form a bond with the women whose creative forces she chooses to put on display here.  Not to be missed, the video projection of Mason singing in front of her dolls in matching mirrored garb.

There are show standouts, like, Brooklyn-based photographer Anjali Bhargava whose intimate portraits explore generational identity conflicts within culture.  Two of the strongest photographs (The Least Dutiful Wife, The Least Orthodox Goddess) from her 2012 mixed-media piece, “Unsuitable Girls,” are seen here.  They depict poster girls for the breakage of societal norms whose identities are paired with symbolizing trophies.


Anjali Bhargava and Swati Khurana, The Least Dutiful Wife, Digital Print


Anjali Bhargva and Swati Khurana, The Least Dutiful Wife, Digital Print

Anjali Bhargava and Swati Khurana, The Least Dutiful Wife, Digital Print


Anjali Bhargva and Swati Khurana, The Least Dutiful Wife, Digital Print

Anjali Bhargava and Swati Khurana, The Least Dutiful Wife, Digital Print – Detail

Bhargava collaborated with Swati Khurana who created the series of trophies the women are photographed with.  In ‘The Least Dutiful Wife’ a woman is shown lounging in bed surrounded by cups of tea and stacked books – one stack, in particular, is crowned with a trophy that reads, ‘Least Dutiful Wife’.  The beauty of the piece is the space it allows us to inhabit both mentally and physically.  I have to grin at the tapestry of books Bhargva adds to the shot –most dealing with characters that either struggle with identity, try to make peace with cultural traditions, or deal with banishment from normal society.


Anjali Bhargava and Swati Khurana, The Least Orthodox Goddess, Digital Print


Other highlights include Leila Lal’s exploration of female identity in the mixed media piece Untitled, very similar to her Peep Show pieces where iconic Bollywood film heroines are framed off and displaced in culturally opposite religious architectural settings.

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Leila Lal, Untitled, Mixed media – Lightbox


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Leila Lal, Untitled, Mixed media – Lightbox – Detail


Then there’s Maria Berrio who uses patterned papers and images, to depict re-appropriated stories found in South American folklore.  She stays true to her visual storytelling here, adding texture by using colored rhinestones to embellish the portraits in her pieces.  I could be going off into left field here, but within the context of these portraits, her use of patterning reminds me of the colorful Aboriginal dot work used to embellish art in order to tell important narrative stories of life and birth.

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Maria Berrio, 12″ x 12″, Mixed media collage – 2015


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Maria Berrio, I am your air, Mixed media collage – 2015


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Maria Berrio, I am your food, Mixed media collage – 2015


Whatever you see in the show’s work, one thing is for sure, the energy from the women in this lineup is not to be missed.

Zabardast will run at Twelve Gates Arts from February 6 – 28, 2015.

READYMADE: Contemporary Art from Bangladesh


Twelve Gates Arts is hosting the first ever extensive survey of contemporary Bangladeshi art, curated by Aicon Gallery in New York. The exhibition features nine artists collectively exploring the complex and interlocking cultural, political, economic and environmental issues currently facing the often paradoxical and rapidly changing society and state of Bangladesh in the new millennium.

The show features: Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed, Masum Chisty, Khaled Hasan, Imran Hossain Piplu, Promotesh Das Pulak, Dhali Al Mamoon, Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Mohammad Wahiduzzaman & Wakilur Rahman.

On November 19th, Twelve Gates will also host a gallery talk with the shows’ curator’s, Projjal Dutta and Andrew Shea.  The discussion will take a deeper look a the curatorial process, and the trends of contemporary art in Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent.  Reserve your space here at Twelve Gates Facebook page.


Readymade: Contemporary Art from Bangladesh
October 3 – November 20, 2014
Twelve Gates Gallery, Philadelphia, PA


Bollywood Meets High Art in Cinephiliac @ Twelve Gates Art


There are two weeks left for you to see the Cinephiliac: Art Transcending Technology & Motion over at Philadelphia based gallery, Twelve Gates Art. The cinema themed exhibition has many layers, uniting multiple perspectives to mark the centennial of Indian cinema. Atif Sheikh has curated a show with work from established and emerging artists that employs film iconography to attack a broader sense of narrative, creating a dialogue that explores social identities through art. The strength of the show lie in the artists individual perspectives like Jamal Elias’ printed scenes from Maula Jatt (1979), the six cells backlit with soft light illuminate a film Elias chose to visually converse on the transitional shift in Pakistan’s social and political history and Chitra Ganesh’s charcoal drawings based on film stills from early Indian films. Her piece, Raja Harishchandra (1913) was recently acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Other highlights include Leila Lal’s exploration of female identity in the mixed media piece Peep Show 3 where four iconic Bollywood film heroines are framed in gold leafed shadowboxes that find them displaced in culturally opposite religious architectural settings. Also not to be missed, Karachi based artist, Summayya Jillani, whose 2011 Eastern makeover of Marilyn Monroe ( Baar baar dekho, hazaar baar dekho) turned her into an internet sensation. Pop icons are a fluent theme in Jilliani’s work that play on cultural perceptions of western influence.




Cinephiliac will run until December 15th.

*photos courtesy of Twelve Gates Art