Praise Shadows Art Gallery announces the solo exhibition, All Put Together, by Helina Metaferia. In this multifaceted presentation, the artist draws from her interdisciplinary practice to emphasize narratives centered on social engagement. Her process, rooted in the archives and history of activism in the United States, is simultaneously focused on contemporary BIPOC women, all of whom are directly involved with the artist through performance-as-protest workshops. Her work brings to the forefront untold, or unheralded, stories.
Using a diverse range of media, including collage, video, sculpture, installation, and performance, All Put Together reminds us that progress, or the labor in pushing for progress, is never linear. It is power, it is vulnerability. It is failure, and it is success. Where we are today is the culmination of this work, and through Metaferia’s meticulously rendered collage portraits, or through her sensory-filled performances, we are made aware of the presence of the bodies who have spoken out, marched, and held signs in protest.
This will be Metaferia’s second solo exhibition taking place concurrently in Boston. Generations at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is on view through April 11.
All Put Together features six collages from the artist’s Headdress series, bust portraits of BIPOC female-identifying individuals. Following workshops she facilitated with students, faculty, and staff of Tufts, MassArt, Northeastern, and Emerson College in 2021, each participant was photographed, then adorned with a crown created using archival materials from Boston’s activism history, sourced from Harvard University and Northeastern University libraries. While the image is in itself sumptuous and richly decorated, Metaferia ensures that the viewer does not take the work only at face value. Each portrait is accompanied by annotated information about the sitter and their role as an activist, as well as meticulous details on source material of the collage.
Some of the individuals featured in the collages also appear in The Response, an edited video taken during the zoom workshop that pays tribute to our current moment of social justice. In this three-minute video, the individuals are framed within Zoom backgrounds from black and white images of protests and marches, with protest chanting just slightly audible. Through a brief, and illuminating, declaration, we begin to understand who they are through their own voices. “I am joy; I am Marla Mcleod; I walk with my brother and my tribe; I stand for mental health.”
On Thursday, April 7, Metaferia will activate the gallery space with a multi-part wearable sculptural performance titled The Willing, consisting of a brass crown inspired by her Ethiopian heritage decorated with archival etchings. The live performance will also feature a wearable tapestry made from silkscreen prints also using archival images and other ready-made objects. Immediately following the performance, Metaferia will be joined by MFA Boston curator Michelle Millar Fisher for a conversation about her practice and the exhibition.
The Woke is an installation of protest signs, with language culled directly from participants at previous exhibitions who submitted their response to this call: what is your everyday revolution? A larger iteration of this work, on view at the MFA Boston exhibition, uses the Martin typeface, which was inspired by remnants of the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. It includes phrases such as, Overhaul the System, Prioritize Care, and Consider Another Perspective. This is a work that engages the individual viewer while also reminding us of the power of the collective voice. Submissions for future iterations of The Woke will also be solicited during Metaferia’s show at Praise Shadows.