SOPHİA NARRETT, CARRİED BY WONDER, Perrotin New York, (March 3 – April 15, 2023)

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Perrotin is pleased to present Carried by Wonder, Sophia
Narrett’s first exhibition with the gallery, opening on March 3 at
Perrotin New York. Narrett employs the slow and meticulous
process of embroidery in response to the increasingly fast pace
of contemporary media, most often crafting narratives that
interrogate the experiences of womanhood. At Perrotin, the
artist will debut a body of work that explores the intricacies of
modern romance.

The following text was composed by Grant Klarich Johnson on the
occasion of the exhibition.

At the heart of the exhibition that carries its name, Carried By Wonder1
features two figures presented as gifts, wrapped and proffered by trios
that buttress them. Women and wolves in alternating order ring around
them, traveling a track in the shape of an infinity symbol. The track recalls
the design and logic of toy trains, from small models to the blow-molded
plastic sets which might similarly be circled apparently without end. A
ring of ‘bottle dancers’ (inspired by those made famous in the 1971 film
adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof) stretch into the distance.

A Victorian house in a perfect palette appears at upper left above a violin
and bow. Perhaps a happy end with a soaring crescendo, or at least a
familiar tune and a good enough place to rest for a time? But what if it’s
a haunted house, with strings screeching? True to gothic traditions or an
expanded, literary definition of romance, this scene allows one to read
for both sweet and sinister plots. In its ambiguity, it encourages us to see
and experience the indeterminacy that intertwines them. In Narrett’s
work, threads pile up and narratives twist and turn. What we see
depends very much upon the reader, whoever dare cross the threshold
to linger and look closer.

In most if not all of the works on view, uncertain romances of one kind or
another play out, inviting questions. What ties these figures together or
what might tear them apart? Are their bonds stronger, or just as tender
as the spectrum of embroidery floss hues that help us see them?
Narrett’s works take time. They assemble slowly, stitch by stitch and this
exhibition, consisting of six works, represents over a year of labor
occasioned by the artist working alone and solely by hand. Perhaps slow
making deserves slow looking too, and more will be revealed, slowly,
over time. In Truth several rollerskating referees wear jerseys that spell it
out. Meanwhile, cosmic carpet and dissolving sky suggest an inversion
of up and down, an all-encompassing emotional vertigo that echoes the
destabilizing kiss at the composition’s center. Whether in a moment of
heightened emotions or framed by real political uncertainty, Truth
ponders the moment we lose a clear sense of which way might be up or
how we might decide.

Guided by a spiraling field of tulips or inspiring them to spring in her
wake, a woman circles a figure wearing a tallit in Seven Circles. The title
references a Jewish wedding ceremony known as “hakafot” in Hebrew,
symbolic of completeness and protection. An illustration of everlasting
love familiar to Dutch tourists and floral still lives alike, the tulips echo
themes of a perpetual union between the two figures despite their
otherwise ambiguous or ominous postures. Continuing with this close
botanical study, Charms may or may not be a lucky one. In its foreground,
several brides disappear into one another, consumed by their union.
Above, a woman looks back at them and a man beckons her on from
even farther off. Meanwhile, clovers drift across the scene. A woman in
an orange dress raises a butterfly net as if to catch one and a
foreshortened carousel rabbit floats between the uncertain pair.

As One brings another bride and groom together, to embrace and dip
toward us, echoing the poses of several other couples pictured within
the image, framed and encircling them like guests to this otherwise
intimate moment. Troubling a sense of logical gravity at play within this
scene and other’s across Narrett’s work, nude women splay across
these meta-pictures, presented perhaps as the painters rendering this
scene stroke by stroke, translating it from imagination to image. Largely
freed from the rectangular framing conventions of Western painting,
Narrett’s works depart from the attendant conventions of linear
perspective and dimensional rendering typical of these illusions.
Embroidered images dissolve into sudden gaps, uneven edges, and
jagged contours. The works flirt with the real space of the wall and
dangle across it like shawls. Embroidered passages blend into gossamer
webs or behave like real vegetal tendrils. Inside their illusions, figures and
forms stretch into an apparent distance but at a variety of levels, like
actors skating across transparent or dissolving stages. In their distinct
approach to rendering space, Narrett’s compositions harken back to the
crowded, allegorical fields of Hieronymus Bosch or the Yamato-e
compositions of Japan, where decisively floating clouds and architectural
cutaways frame figures and guide where the eye is encouraged to enter.

Narrett’s imagined spaces are peopled with elements of what we know
well and what we’ve only fleetingly dreamed of—in secret, or shame. It is
a romanticism we recognize, and to which we are seduced to enter.

Curious about the intersection of textiles and contemporary art in a
global context, Grant Klarich Johnson is currently an Andrew W. Mellon
Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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