Last summer, Raque Ford found himself hit by Friendship Cemetery while visiting her mother's hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Friendship Cemetery was formally established in 1924. As a cemetery for the black community in the city, it has local historical significance and has a personal influence on Ford because many of her ancestors are buried there. The cemetery and its poorly maintained, dilapidated grounds—especially when compared to the Hollywood Cemetery across the street, where there is a section dedicated to fallen Confederate soldiers—inspired her new work, currently in "Greater New York." Exhibited at MoMA PS1.
Ford's visit occurred shortly after her father's death, and experiencing these locations both aggravated and weakened her grief. She began to write in mourning, and later edited and revised her text in poetry class. Fragments of the text (how confusing the tomb here is, reading a stray line) was laser cut onto a hard colored translucent acrylic sheet, then arranged in layers and pasted on the wall of MoMA PS1 like a mural, forming two The walls are named Hollywood Cemetery (I'm a Fool) and Friendship Cemetery (Wise Men), both of them are in 2021. In their eye-catching graphic compositions and evocative word games, these large-scale works resemble something between familiar buildings — installations and cuts reminiscent of wrong graffiti walls — and private diaries, proof Ford’s flexible and open expression of intimacy.
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Ford's painting installations are made of industrial, prefabricated and recycled materials, combining abstract and eclectic writing practices. In her early installation works, Ford emphasized her background in painting and printmaking: in her solo exhibition "Caroline", where she shot a lobster in New York in 2017, the artist added expressive expressions to transparent acrylic panels. Color markers and hang them on chains on the ceiling of the gallery. But in the past year, while cutting down on materials and techniques, she has focused more on highlighting and clarifying the relationship between form and content. In these latest installations, the artist allows words, colors and materials to breathe, coexisting in layered combinations, revealing an interesting and structured process.
The incredible juxtaposition is the key to Ford's aesthetic sensitivity. The artist who studied painting at Pratt and received the MFA from Rutgers University in 2013 is very concerned about how materiality intersects with light and space, thus creating an experience for and with the audience-an aesthetically large appearance Part of it is due to the legacy of minimalism. Ford broke this pedigree by incorporating abstract combinations of hand-marked, color, and tailored shapes into it, surpassing the association of rugged masculinity.
On her shiny plexiglass surface, Ford has inscribed, imprinted, and engraved words and phrases in an ever-expanding dictionary from lyrics, fan letters to pop stars, and eavesdropping and misremembering that the artist saved as mobile phone notes. Fragment of conversation. Everything is copied; every inscription is a re-inscription; every discarded edge can be repurposed to fit the new shape. It is these ideas that Ford will hold a solo exhibition at Greene Naftali in March 2022, which will establish and reinterpret the themes explored in friendship and Hollywood cemeteries.
The most striking thing about Ford's practice is not her naked confession of the incisions, but how her layered laser-cut letters predict precision, but still cause misunderstandings and public explanations. If every writing is an attempt to communicate, then the threat of misunderstanding always lurks below, even in the most direct language. Ford's porous installations and diary-style wording may appear to be open-ended at first glance, but the rigid materiality of her works is still a necessary psychological barrier between the audience and the artist. This protective distance keeps Ford's intimacy acknowledgment attractive and vigorous.
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