Visiting “EXO,” it’s hard not to associate the national, cultural and aesthetic implications of textile and fiber works by Elnaz Javani and Annette Hur, who are of Iranian and South Korean descent, respectively. Javani’s fabric and thread sculpture, “Cell” (2018), allegorizes the constant state of transformation mediated by the female body. The artist interprets the continual violence and oppression the body is subject to through repetitive threadwork executed by a handheld sewing machine that stiffens the otherwise soft material. The flesh of the body grows outside its ascribed form, as if infused with the energy of female consciousness gone rogue.
Hur’s “moth works” and Korean silk and ink-on-paper compositions confront their material association of being “soft” and “feminine,” all the while critiquing both the craft history and contemporary value of Korean silk, specifically in its significance in matrimonial ceremony. Skillfully juxtaposing patterns cut for the body with thread that joins forms to the surface, Hur includes her own Korean ceremonial silk garments in these assemblages. Clothing that was once surrogate to the skin of a new bride now tells a story of the struggle of splitting roles between home and migrant lands in search of companionship. Claiming space for her own experiences through sculptural composition, Hur’s works speak to the fragmentation of the idea of the role of the female body between the East and the West. Delicately folded starched red silks create moth-like forms that camouflage in order to protect themselves from the harsh realities of racist, misogynist and xenophobic curses.