Her Touch Smooths Rough Waters, 2022
Steel, fiberglass, plaster, paint, resi
Water is central to the new public artwork by Miami-based artist Onajide Shabaka for MOCA’s Art on the Plaza commission. Activating the two plinths in the fountain, a set of objects are in dialogue with one another. On one side, a large-scale sculpture traces the serpentine forms often found in Shabaka’s work. These patterns—a combination of straight and curved bands, zigzags, circles, and semicircles—originate from pivotal research by the artist in Suriname, a South American Amazon forested country. Shabaka developed an abstraction of natural forms derived from the intricate insect architecture and botanical root systems found there, and within coastal areas of Georgia and subtropical Florida. The shape becomes a multidirectional conversation of the natural environment’s impact in urban space and the relationship of humans within it.
Coupled with the large-scale sculpture on the adjacent plinth are two tear-drop shaped vessels, which continue the language of serpentine imagery. For Shabaka, the vessels evoke the ancient purpose of transporting water as both a necessity and as a ritual act. Here the serpentine designs function as a kind of map for the flows of water: not as a straight line, but tracing the undulations of its movement, always finding its way despite obstacles. The large serpentine sculpture functions as a macro-view for this natural phenomenon, suggesting gravitational currents that link major water systems such as the Everglades National Park, which provides the drinking water for South Florida. In its component parts, the work articulates a language from nature, and an essential interconnectedness of the world as a whole.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Onajide Shabaka, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1948, lives and works in Miami, Florida. Shabaka received an MFA from Vermont College of the Fine Arts (2000) and a BFA from Florida Atlantic University (1993). Shabaka’s investigative and researched-based practice underscores the environment and material culture, open-ended assemblages, and questions regarding ecology and history within notions of the African diaspora and Native American cultures. Selected solo exhibitions include 2019 Alosúgbe: a journey across time, Emerson Dorsch, Miami, FL; 2019 Floridian Lacunae, Art and Culture Center Hollywood, Hollywood, FL. Selected group exhibitions include: 2021 Still Life, The Franklin Outdoors, Chicago, IL; 2019 Round 49: penumbras: sacred geometries Project Row Houses, Houston, TX. Shabaka’s work exists within public and private collections including those at Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood, WA; Village of Arts & Humanities, Philadelphia, PA. Awards include the 2019 – Locust Projects Wavemaker Grant; 2018 – Oolite Arts The Ellies Grant; 2017 – DVCAI Travel Grant, Paramaribo, Suriname. Residencies include Oolite Arts Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass, CO; Everglades Artist Residency, Everglades National Park, FL; Project Row Houses, Houston, TX. Public art commissions include Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, Greynolds Park West, North Miami Beach, FL, 2007; Village of Arts & Humanities, Philadelphia, PA 2007.