Saya Woolfalk performs at Tufts on April 2
Saya Woolfalk performs at Tufts University Art Gallery in Medford, Massachusetts, at noon on April 2, 2010. Below is our review of the New York artist's "The Institute for the Analysis of Empathy" installation at Tufts:
Saya Woolfalk first grabbed people's attention around 2005, with playful-serious installations and videos in which performers masked in bright, patchwork fabric costumes of cartoon leaves and long swinging dreadlocks jumped around small rooms decorated like cartoon paradises.Read the rest here.
Woolfalk had studied art and economics at Brown University in Providence, graduating in 2001, the year the Providence art collective Fort Thunder broke apart when a developer tore down the old mill that had housed it to build a shopping plaza. The pop psychedelic posters, comics, installations, and masked performances by that gang and affiliated collectives like Hive Archive and Dirt Palace were everywhere in Providence then, and busting out nationally. (Fort Thunder offshoot Forcefield presented a giant monster mannequin installation at the 2002 Whitney Biennial.) And you can feel this influence in Woolfalk's costumes, imagined narratives, and Rainbow Brite colors.
But her art also sprang from her background as a black-white Japanese-American who grew up in predominantly white Westchester, New York. "I've always been . . . someone in between," the 30-year-old New Yorker tells me. She merged Providence's bright, childlike æsthetic with inspiration she drew from Carnival in Brazil, African-diaspora faiths, and Japanese butoh dance. Her pieces were presented with little explanation, but the results felt like re-enactments of the uncomfortable history of relations between the Western avant-garde and traditional African art . . . turned into an amazing private dance party by Yo Gabba Gabba!
Saya Woolfalk "The Institute for the Analysis of Empathy," Tufts University Art Gallery, 40R Talbot Ave., Medford, Jan. 21 to April 4, 2010. She performs at the gallery at noon on April 2.
Pictured: Saya Woolfak installation at Tufts including, from left, "Fruit," 2010; "Skeleton," 2010; and "Empathic Flower Expression."