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.
Nassar uses geometric patterns characteristic of Palestinian cross-stitch—most often found on pillows, clothing, and other domestic arts—to hand-embroider pictures that he stretches and frames, bringing this embroidery practice into a dialogue with painting. He grew up in a home decorated with such objects, which his father brought back from visits to his ancestral homeland and which now inspire his practice. Nassar has adapted the matrilineally learned tradition of Palestinian tatreez, utlizing symbolic, geographically specific hand-embroidery to mirror his hybridized upbringing.
Nassar has created an important body of work in collaboration with craftswomen living and working in Ramallah, which juxtapose local traditions with Nassar’s 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 the intricate geometric grids sewn by these women.
The artist says of his landscapes, “I like to discuss these landscapes as versions of Palestine as they exist in the minds of the diaspora, who have never been there and can never go there. They are the Palestine I heard stories about growing up, half-made of imagination. They are dreamlands and utopias that are colorful and fantastical—beautiful and romantic, but bittersweet.”
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 (forthcoming); BRIC, Brooklyn, NY; Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; Abrons Art Center, New York, NY; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, CA; Evelyn Yard, London, UK, Exile Gallery in Berlin, Germany, and The Third Line, Dubai, UAE. Nassar is the subject of two institutional solo exhibitions in 2019. Jordan Nassar: Between Sky and Earth is Art@Bainbridge at Princeton University’s inaugural exhibition, examining the notion of shelter through the artist’s evocation of home and belonging, and exploration of how these issues shape our understanding of identity. His major solo exhibition The Sea Beneath Our Eyes opened at the Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) Tel Aviv in September 2019. Nassar transformed the first floor of the Center into a studio apartment in which every single item – from the biggest piece of furniture to the smallest knick-knack – was made in collaboration with local craftspeople in accordance to craftsmanship traditions that are currently found in the Holy Land: from Bedouin woven textiles to glassworks made in Hebron; from Hamsas made in Jaffa to woodwork made in Bethlehem; from baskets made by Ethiopian immigrants to ceramics made by the Armenian community. The project is an investigation of topics spanning geography, politics, and Orientalism, with particular attention being paid to the notions of diaspora and subsequent return as it relates to Biblical Israel and historical Palestine. A catalogue, in the form of an inventory of all the exhibited items complete with technical descriptions in English, Hebrew, and Arabic, will follow the exhibition. Nassar is included in the upcoming group exhibition Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950 - 2019 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, opening on November 22, 2019. James Cohan will present a solo booth by Jordan Nassar at ADAA: The Art Show in late February 2020. The artist will have his first solo exhibition at the gallery in September 2020.