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Marwa Abdul-Rahman’s sculptures in Open That Shit Wide Let Me See How Big Your Mouth Is, currently on view at Museum as Retail Space, command the room, slouching, posing and swaying like a crew of rebellious teens. Part textile, part assemblage, the materials of each sculpture are listed simply as “Mixed Media.” This, in combination with a mysterious and dense material narrative suggest an indifference to the viewer’s interpretation.
Grotesque and mesmerizing, each piece resists definition. Meaning isn’t concealed so much as it goes unspoken—perhaps it’s none of our business. Abdul-Rahman sources stained pillows, ripped blankets, and soiled bedsheets from the unusable donations to her mother’s nonprofit for refugees. She cuts and stitches them back together, cloaking them in thick paint; their fabric twisted like guts. Closer inspection reveals the familiar grinning, time-worn faces of Mickey Mouse and Hannah Montana, peeking through layers of string, plastic, and fur.
Every title is pointedly borrowed from rap lyrics, and the press release is replete with quotes from famous men refusing to incriminate themselves on trial. Combined with Abdul-Rahman’s resourceful reuse of materials, this implies resistance while also indicating how material culture—no matter how politically relevant—is recyclable. Abdul-Rahman’s hulking, space-taking sculptures loom and plot the points between commodification and disenfranchisement, situating the viewer in relation both to their position in the room, and to the world at large.
Marwa Abdul-Rahman, Open That Shit Wide Let Me See How Big Your Mouth Is runs June 11-July 16, 2016 at Museum as Retail Space (649 S Anderson St, Los Angeles, CA 90023).