"Spirituality and mysticism are means to imagine other spaces, other worlds. I am interested in this connection between the human and the spiritual, the material and the intangible." - Grace Wales Bonner
Born in London to an English mother and Jamaican father, Wales Bonner is a cultural polymath, who sees fashion as a means of communicating broad and interwoven notions of identity and self-expression. Recognised as one of the most innovative designers of her generation, Wales Bonner’s designing process involves a rich cross-pollination of sources, often collaborating with artists, writers and performers. Each of her fashion collections is a meditation on cultural narratives, culminating from periods of research, and bringing together literary references presented within carefully considered scenography. Writing, research and performance are integral elements of her practice, which arise through long-term collaborations with other practitioners, bridging multiple disciplines and genres.
Mysticism and ritual permeate Wales Bonner’s exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which explores magical resonances within black cultural and aesthetic practices. Over the course of one month, a multi-sensory installation and a series of happenings invite contemplation and activate the spaces of the Gallery through object, text, sound, scent, performance, still and moving image. Visitors encounter an assemblage of shrines by Rashid Johnson, Liz Johnson Artur, Kapwani Kiwanga, Laraaji, Eric N. Mack, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Grace Wales Bonner. Interested in the improvisation, intentionality and repurposing of shrines from the Black Atlantic, Wales Bonner draws upon their relational nature, as material portals into multiple frames of experience. Referencing the images and rhythms of rituals and ceremonies from all over the world, she collapses time and space by bringing them into dialogue to create her own unique constellation.
This exhibition focuses on Wales Bonner’s rigorous research across multiple geographies and temporalities, culminating in the presentation of her forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, Mumbo Jumbo. Conjuring and exploring various characters, their dress, and the worlds and spaces they inhabit, the collection considers the artist as shaman, a West African spiritual healer, and a gathering of Howard University intellectuals.
Grace Wales Bonner’s exhibition is the first in a new series of unique commissions by leading voices in the fields of music, fashion, art and design.
Exhibition curated by Claude Adjil, Curator at Large, Live Programmes, and Joseph Constable, Assistant Exhibitions Curator.