Ilana Harris-Babou

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My practice is interdisciplinary– spanning sculpture and installation, but grounded in video. I make videos that reference the language of cooking shows, music videos, and home improvement television. I use the aspirational tropes of popular culture as a Trojan Horse to get into the viewer’s line of sight. Once seen, the work distorts and distends the abject failures of material desire. I reference these genres in order  to confront the expectations of the American Dream; to face the ever unreliable notion that hard work will lead to upward mobility and economic freedom. My work is funny. This is because I see humor as a means to digest painful realities. The slick cohesion of studio lighting creates a set of expectations. Just as the viewer of the Food Network is expected to see themselves in the luxurious life of the celebrity chef, I would like the viewer of my work to see themselves in me or in my mother; a woman whose body was never expected to be at rest.

The host of a cooking show often looks directly into the lens of the camera. She makes eye contact through the screen, implying that the creation of a dish is a collaboration between herself and the viewer at home. She says, “today we will be making salted caramel brownies.” Embedded within the word “we” is an expectation of shared values and context. The notion of taste, taken in all its iterations, reifies a set of preferences and individuals who might have access to those preferences.

In my project Cooking with the Erotic, I use Audre Lorde’s speech “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” as a point of departure for an imaginary cooking show. Lorde defines the erotic as a way of seeing the world, rather than a set of pathologized relations between people. Through the lens of the erotic we can seize ownership of quotidian, oppressive acts. We can choose to celebrate the sensuousness of experience and share it with others as an act of love; of empathetic touch.

I made my recent video Finishing a Raw Basement specifically for the exposed-brick basement of SculptureCenter in Queens. I see it as a guide for both individuals and institutions. It takes the format of the home-improvement show as a template for a non-linear exploration of material. The video echos episodes of the PBS series “This Old House” that deal with the finishing, insulating, or lighting of raw basement space. In it, my mother and I are construction experts exploring how the word “repair” might relate to the unfulfilled promise of reparations.

My videos are often shown inside of installations that are an amalgamation of tool sheds, studios, TV sets, & kitchens. These installations are populated by what I like to call “dysfunctional ceramics.” I make fantastically distorted housewares and tools that ask viewers to question their relationship to touch and utility. How might a three-foot spatula change the way we relate to flipping pancakes? I build work tables with leaky porcelain sinks that resemble internal organs as much as they look like artisanal design.

The surfaces in my studio alternate between glossy, crusty, and ephemeral. I think about how the artist’s studio might be analogous to other spaces of creation. I pick at the trope of a solitary genius flinging around paint between white walls. I wonder: Which kinds of creative labor are revered, and which are mundane? How is a studio different from a kitchen? Both are spaces where we shape our identity by surrounding ourselves with what we have made.

 

Education

2016

MFA in Visual Art, New Genres
Columbia University School of the Arts. New York, New York.

2013

BA in Art with distinction in the major
Yale University. New Haven, Connecticut.

2012

Yale Summer School of Art at Norfolk
Norfolk, Connecticut.

Solo Exhibitions

2017

One Bad Recipe, The Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY. (forthcoming)
Tiny House Hunters, Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, VA.

2014

Ilana Harris-Babou, Broad Street Gallery, Hartford, CT.
Studio Sounds, Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.

Selected Group Exhibitions

2017

In Practice: Material Deviance, SculptureCenter, Long Island City, NY.
Gut Feelings, Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, GA.
THRESHELD, Underdonk, Brooklyn, NY.

2016

BRIC Biennial:Volume II, Bed Stuy/Crown Heights, BRIC House, Brooklyn, NY.
In Response: Unorthodox, The Jewish Museum, New York. NY.
Saint Ann’s School Benefit, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York, NY.
Some of My Best Friends Are Germs, Le Doc, Paris, France.
Columbia MFA Thesis Exhibition, Fisher Landau Center for the Arts, Queens, NY.
Finished Goods Warehouse, Pfizer Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY.
House of Orange, Kilroy Metal Ceiling, Brooklyn, NY.

2015

Interface, FJORD, Philadelphia, PA.
Floating Point, Judith Charles Gallery, New York NY.
First Year MFA Exhibition 2015, Wallach Gallery, New York, NY.
MISS: Salon, 225 Lafayette Street, New York, NY.

2014

Forced Collaboration II, Artspace, New Haven, CT.
The Last Brucennial, 837 Washington Street, New York, NY.

2013

Practice, Green Gallery, New Haven, CT.

2012

Contemporary Conceptions of Water, Maya’s Room, New Haven, CT.

2011

Sagging Spaces, Joseph R. Slifka Center, New Haven, CT. 

Presentations & Screenings

2017

Lecture: Interrupt4 Conference, Brown University, Providence, RI.
Screening: To Spread a Table Fuller ,Miranda Kuo Gallery,New York, NY.
Screening: CATCH 74, The Invisible Dog,Brooklyn, NY.
Screening: SCREEN, www.artviewer.org.
Panelist:Performing History,Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.
Lecture: WordHack, Babycastles Gallery,New York, NY.
Lecture: Marbel Hill Camera Club, Bronx, NY.

2016

Visiting Artist Lecture: VCU Department of Sculpture & Extended Media Richmond, VA.
Television Special: HB Speaks!,Brooklyn Free Speech,Brooklyn, NY.

2014

Panelist: The Shape of Time: A Panel on Temporality
Columbia University School of the Arts, New York, NY.

Awards & Residencies

2018

Session, Recess, New York, NY.(forthcoming)

2017

Van Lier Fellow, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY.
Artist Community Engagement Grant, Rema Hort Mann Foundation. New York, NY.

2016

Fountainhead Fellowship- VCU Department of Sculpture + Extended Media.
Artist in Residence- BRIC Arts Media, Brooklyn, NY.
Critic in Residence- Wayfarers, Brooklyn, NY.
Deans Travel Grant- Columbia University School of the Arts, New York, NY.

2015

Andrew Fisher Fellowship- Columbia University School of the Arts.

2014

Artist in Residence- School of Making Thinking.

2013

Fifth Year Fellowship- Trinity College. Hartford, CT.

2012

Mary Hotchkiss Williams Travel Fellowship- Yale University Art Gallery.
Ellen Battel Stoeckel Fellowship- Yale School of Art at Norfolk.

2011

Creative and Performing Arts Award- Yale College Council of Masters.
Scholarship for Minorities in the Arts- Siragusa Foundation.

2008

Summer Seminar Award- Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation.