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Jordan Nassar - Artists - James Cohan

Photo: Alexander Rotondo

Jordan Nassar’s multivalent art practice engages the material variety of craft to execute ideas centered on heritage and homeland. Through hand-embroidery, wood inlay, glass and expansive installations, he examines issues of identity, diaspora and cultural participation. Nassar often employs “the landscape” as a thread throughout these different mediums, carefully mapping out patterns and repeatedly intercepting them, using fields of color to define rolling hills and expanses of water.  


Nassar has adapted the matrilineally-learned tradition of Palestinian tatreez, or cross stitch—most often found on pillows, clothing, and other domestic arts—to mirror his hybridized upbringing. His childhood home in the U.S. was decorated with such objects, which his father brought back from visits to his ancestral homeland. Each hand-embroidered work is stretched and framed, bringing Nassar’s embroidery practice into a dialogue with painting. 


Nassar has created an important body of work in collaboration with craftswomen living and working in Ramallah, which juxtapose local traditions with a contemporary aesthetic. Beginning with a color palette of their own choosing on areas of the canvas predetermined by the artist, the craftswomen lay the foundations of his panoramas. Nassar then embroiders multicolored landscapes within these intricate geometric grids. 


The artist says of his imagined landscapes, “they’re conceptually linked to Palestine, a place where land is the crux of the issue, as well as growing up in the Palestinian-American diaspora, so they touch on the dreams of that place and the distance I feel from it. My work is personal and emotional, it comes from both places of joy and of pain…” 


The Sea Beneath Our Eyes, Nassar's 2019 solo exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv-Yafo (CCA), was an investigation of topics spanning geography, politics, and Orientalism, and particularly to notions of migration as it relates to Biblical Israel and historical Palestine. Nassar transformed the first floor of the CCA into a studio apartment in which every item was made in collaboration with local craftspeople in accordance with regional traditions. This immersive installation has since traveled to KMAC Museum in Louisville, Kentucky for his 2021 solo exhibition The Field Is Infinite and James Cohan, New York in April 2023. 


Addressing the diasporic experience continues to be a throughline for Nassar. Recently, he has expanded his practice to include other traditional Palestinian, Levantine and Arab craft media. These include inlay brass and mother of pearl, and three-dimensional sculptures made of hand-fired glass beads which recall pan-Arab screens and iron-wrought gates. For Nassar, these mediums are a means for connection to his identity. 


Jordan Nassar (b.1985, New York, NY) earned his BA at Middlebury College in 2007. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions globally at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Asia Society, New York, NY; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ; Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; KMAC Museum, Louisville, KY; Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) Tel Aviv; Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, CA; James Cohan, New York and The Third Line, Dubai, UAE. His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Rollins Museum of Art, Florida; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; The Museum of Contemporary Art, California; and Rhode Island School of Design Museum, in Rhode Island, among others. 


Jordan Nassar is the recipient of the 2021 Unbound United States Artists Fellowship in craft. Recent solo exhibition's include Jordan Nassar: Fantasy and Truth at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston in 2023. 


Jordan Nassar’s hand-embroidered pieces address intersecting fields of craft, ethnicity and the embedded notions of heritage and homeland. Treating traditional craft more as medium than topic, Nassar examines conflicting issues of identity and cultural participation using geometric patterning adapted from symbols and motifs present in traditional Palestinian hand embroidery. Meticulously hand stitching colorful compositions across carefully mapped-out patterns, he roots his practice in a geopolitical field of play characterized by both conflict and unspoken harmony.

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