International Print Center New York announces its first two-person exhibition, Paper Borders, which brings into dialogue the works of Emma Nishimura (b. 1982, Toronto) and Tahir Carl Karmali (b. 1987, Nairobi), artists who share a commitment to unearthing historical and ongoing stories of migration, trans- generational memory, and xenophobia. Using the tactility of print and handmade paper, the two- and three- dimensional works and large-scale installations on view speak to cross-cultural and deeply embedded global struggles. Here, the precarity of paper becomes a metaphor for the precarity of place.
The accompanying publication features an essay by Kelly Baum, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Nishimura and Karmali’s work, emphasizing how “theirs are artistic interventions that involve poetry as much as politics, in which the evidence of struggles suffered, survived, and resisted are subject to almost alchemical transformations, incorporated into the very substance of the objects they create. The resulting works are as poignant as they are critical and as politically charged as they are ethically minded.”
This exhibition is the first in-depth New York presentation of Nishimura’s work, which centers on the Japanese Canadian Internment during World War II and is rooted in her own family history, inherited narratives, and archival research. Nishimura literally and symbolically wraps stories, images, and memories of the internment into new forms, such as the prominent work An Archive of Rememory (2016–ongoing), which shapes these stories into traditional Japanese bundles called furoshiki. Through an installation of hundreds of paper furoshiki, as well as a series of text-based etchings, this little-known history is brought to light.
Karmali’s large-scale paper works and installations engage materials and processes surrounding issues of colonization, nationality, and authenticity. Karmali’s own hand pulped paper incorporates government-issued documents that trace family history—from his paternal family’s paperwork showing their change in citizenship after Kenya’s 1963 independence from Britain, to his own application for a visa to relocate from Nairobi to New York. Dried on rusted steel plates, Karmali’s paper absorbs abstract rust marks that reference blood and soil. With the addition of photo-transfer and collaged elements, these works unfold a layered, material record of lived experience.