Tyler Professor Curates Exhibition "Form and Formless" for UrbanGlass
Glass is classified as neither a solid nor liquid— rather, it fluctuates between these states of matter. This scientific phenomenon was a point of inspiration for Form and Formless: Constellations of Knowledge, a new exhibition curated by Alpesh Kantilal Patel, Tyler’s Associate Professor of Global Contemporary Art, at the Robert Lehman Gallery at UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York.
As Patel explained, the exhibition “meditates on the slipperiness rather than the fixity of identity categories” such as gender, sexuality, nationality, and race. In curating Form and Formless, he sought to foreground works that complicate the notion of identity as something that is singular and static.
“I want to highlight artworks that point to a much more complex way of thinking about identity as partial, embodied, and in between (or trans),” he said.
For Patel, curating provides an opportunity to share complex ideas with the broader public, rather than more narrow audiences that he typically reaches through his philosophical writing. Patel is the author of Productive failure: Writing queer transnational South Asian art histories (Manchester University Press, 2018) and the forthcoming Multiple and One: Writing Global Queer Art Histories (Manchester University Press), along with numerous book chapters, journal articles, and other texts.
“This is exciting but can be nerve-wracking,” Patel said, “especially given that the show tackles many difficult subjects.”
Most of the works in the show are non-representational, he noted, but explore weighty issues such as the impacts of settler colonialism on the culture and ecology of the Housatonic River, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise in anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures and anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade.
The exhibition includes little to no written wall text, encouraging viewers to, as Patel put it, “engage with the works on their terms.” However, brochures will be available for visitors to learn more about the diverse artwork, which include glass, textiles, watercolors, paintings, projections, and audio.
Form and Formless features 18 artists, including several Tyler faculty and alumni: Andrea Ray, Associate Professor of Instruction in Sculpture and Program Head of Visual Studies; Adjunct Assistant Professor Carmel Dor (MFA ’22); Amy Cousins (MFA ’16); Abbey Muza (MFA ’22); and Ren Mahon (MFA '22).
“I will be in touch with all these artists for years, and I’m grateful that Tyler is a magnet for brilliant artists thinking about identity in materially rich ways that, in turn, help me think/theorize ‘otherwise’ in words,” Patel said.
Form and Formless: Constellations of Knowledge opens on October 18, 2023, with an opening reception from 6-9 PM. The show runs through January 5, 2024.