The Armory Show, 2019: Focus Section

Pier 92, New York, USA, 7 - 10 March 2019

Lawrie Shabibi is pleased to announce its participation in the Focus section of The Armory Show 2019 with a solo booth by London based artist Zak Ové.  Ové seeks to reinterpret lost culture and mythology using modern and vintage materials. At the fair, we will present two distinct but related bodies of works: masks using classic car materials and collages made from colourful ‘doilies’. The masks are a new development in Ové's practice first shown at Lawrie Shabibi gallery in his March solo exhibition ‘Star Liner'. The two bodies of work presented - the masks, composed of scrap car parts - after the African/ Afro-Caribbean tradition of mask-making, and the “doily paintings”, each made of hundreds of vintage hand made doilies - both seek to replace something that was absent - an absence of identity that had to be reconstructed


The Trinidad Carnival, which Ové regards as radical performance art, is a major inspiration for his work. Developed as a mode of resistance to slavery, then a celebration of emancipation and independence, the ritualistic Carnival dances memorialize a lost African culture and mythology. Ové incorporates its images in his films, photographs and sculpture. Particular characters in the Carnival are personified by various masks, which Ové builds upon in his sculpture, never in ebony wood, which he believes carries negative colonial connotations, instead using materials available in the UK, in this case vintage car parts.

Doilies – protective lace or wool mats- are aspirational and symbolize a transition from working class to middle class, seen both as “cheap” and “genteel”. The huge explosion of doily-making in Britain in the 1950s and 60s - a reaction to Post-war austerity -coincided with the end of a conformist period for working class women, and also the first migrations from the Caribbean. The links between the Caribbean, Post-war Britain and what Ové refers to as “radical integration”, both of race and gender, are central to his agenda. Women of that period were not considered, neither were Caribbean migrants. Doily-making is cross –cultural, with a huge geographical spread from Ireland and the UK, to Tunisia, Guatemala, the Caribbean and the Southern United States. In each place they take on a local flavour - in the Caribbean, tables, chairs and other surfaces are covered with crocheted doilies, using brighter colours (especially “Caribbean blue”). This informs Ové’s aesthetic choices in his “doily paintings”.

The masculinity of the masks stands in contrast to the femininity of the “doily paintings”, one connecting with his father’s heritage, the other informed by what he took from his mother. Raised in London and of Irish and Trinidadian descent, his father is the acclaimed Trinidadian- British filmmaker Horace Ové, and his mother was Mary Irvine, a radical feminist who ran women’s clothing shop in Camden in the 1960s and 70s that made dresses with pockets and stocked no high heel shoes. Ové is a rare example of an intergenerational artist with a complex, yet fully integrated background. Ové’s experience growing up in a multicultural, politicized family – the very definition of progressive - informs his attitude and work, which speaks of “belonging”, his desire to reconstruct an African diasporic identity, and gender equality. These themes come together in the proposed booth through his inquiries into mask-making and his revaluation of familiar and out-dated objects since the 1960s.