De Buck Gallery is pleased to present Canboulay, the gallery’s first solo exhibition of artist Zak Ové. The exhibition will be on view at 507 West 27th Street from October 21 to November 20, as well as accessible online as part of the gallery’s digital programming. While the exhibition will be opening on October 21, we will be hosting a reception in the presence of the artist on Thursday November 11, 6-8pm. The exhibition features Ové’s doily paintings, inspired by memories of Canboulay, the masquerade festival which evolved into the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.
Zak Ové creates sculpture, painting, film and photography that draws on his upbringing in London and Trinidad. His work is informed by the history and lore carried through the African diaspora to the Caribbean, Britain and beyond with particular focus on traditions of masking and masquerade as a tool of self-emancipation. Ové’s artworks explore the interplay between old world mythology and what he posits as ‘potential futures,’ a space where he reinterprets existence into the fantastical. His work is a celebration of the power of play and the spirit of imagination in the blurring of edges between reality and possibility, flesh and spirit. In this vein, Ové creates a dialogue between tradition and an optimistic future.
The works in Canboulay create a dialogue between tradition and contemporary life. Through titles, color, and material, the doily works reference the masquerade costumes traditionally donned at Canboulay, an event which originated as a harvest festival that involved dancing, chanting, and music which became the root of calypso. Titles such as the Blue Devil, Pierrot Grenade, a scholar character known for his oratory skills, and Baby Doll directly reference the names of traditional folklore characters. As Ové explains, the process of the masquerade is a process of transformation and exaltation–of growing beyond the definition of what one imagined they could be, as set by the limitations of colonial oppression. After the country’s Emancipation, Canboulay evolved into an expression of liberation for formerly enslaved individuals whose music and Carnival celebrations had been banned. For Ové, these vibrant works capture the spirit of resistance and offer viewers a way to engage with difficult stories in a positive and uplifting light.
The works in Canboulay explode in dizzying, geometric abstractions. Ové likens the development of his compositions to a coral reef. The process builds organically, as he layers and adds found and collected doilies in radiating patterns, creating a balance between light and dark as well as a combination of textural values. The process is playful and rhythmic, resulting in colorful abstractions that carry the viewer’s eye around the works as though they were alive and moving. Ové’s process is not just intuitive, it is also in many ways self-referential, emotional and an act of homage. Ové sources the handmade doilies globally, aware as he creates that the legacy of their original makers lives on through his works. He speaks of “heralding the maker,” honoring the women, who throughout time and cultures have crafted these detailed objects. The homage also harkens back to his own childhood memories of discovering textile and fibers at his family’s dress shop. Ové also adapts the traditional female craft as a means of transformation. The works explore not just the blurring of reality and myth within the process of masquerade, but also the fluid transitions between male and female.
British-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové was born in 1966 in London. He earned a BA in Film as Fine Art from St. Martin’s School of Art (1984-1987). His multidisciplinary practice across sculpture, film and photography responds to his heritage and notions of identity through the lens of multiculturalism and dialogues between past and future.
Ové has presented solo sculpture installations in the Great Hall at the British Museum, London, UK; San Francisco Civic Centre, San Francisco, CA; Forecourt of Somerset House, London; The New Art Centre, Roche Court, Salisbury; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire, UK; The Ford Foundation, NY; The Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario; Toronto; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), CA; The Slavery Museum, Liverpool; Frieze Sculpture Park, London; 3D Sculpture Park, Switzerland; Freies Museum, Berlin; Dapper Museum, Paris.
Ové’s work is featured in a number of museum collections throughout the world, as well as in private foundations and collections such as the British Museum, London, UK (where it is the first work acquired from a Caribbean artist); Newark Museum, New Jersey, USA; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida, USA; Modern Forms, London, UK; David Roberts Art Foundation, London, UK; Jameel Collection, Saudi Arabia; Facebook Corporate Collection, London, UK; 21C Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA; Beth Rudin De Woody Collection, New York, USA; Walid Kamhawi Collection, Dubai, UAE; Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Brussels, Belgium; Levett Collection, London, UK; Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio, USA; and the Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, UAE.