Igshaan Adams: Desire Lines
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
April 02 – August 01, 2022
At the heart of Igshaan Adams’s expansive weaving practice lies a question: “How would you treat someone differently if you knew everything about them? Or nothing?” In his tapestries and textile installations, Adams engages with the gaps in the information that is seemingly absent, overlooked, or rendered invisible in the spaces we inhabit individually and collectively. Through the beads, shells, glass, rope, wire, and found objects he uses to compose his weavings, Adams highlights the material aspects of lived spaces along with the personal stories held within them.
Adams‘s hometown, Bonteheuwel, South Africa, is a key source of inspiration. This predominantly working-class township in southeast Cape Town was founded in the 1960s as part of the forced segregation during the Apartheid era. Adams approaches Bonteheuwel both as a deeply personal space, imbued with childhood memories and a network of familial relationships, and a politically charged space, shaped by violence and generational trauma. Neither can erase the other; both are always present.
Bringing together more than 20 projects dating from 2014 to the present- including a large-scale new commission created for the exhibition – Desire Lines is the first major solo presentation of the artist’s work in the United States. Designed in close collaboration with Adams, the exhibition revolves around the notion of desire lines: informal pathways created by pedestrians choosing a more expedient route to their desired destination, as both a convenience and a way to transgress fixed boundaries.
Whether it’s by tracing these lines on Bonteheuwel’s physical and socio-political terrain or rematerializing the pathways of the linoleum floors he recovers from the homes of family and friends, Adams proposes the desire lines as a metaphor for the paths created by one individual which then assume a collective form. In doing so, he transforms what appears to be a mundane detail into a site of beauty, visibility, and agency.