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Structural Play at Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling

March 9 @ 10:00 am - May 26 @ 3:00 pm

JHB Gallery is delighted to present Structural Play, an exhibition of eight artists’ work at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in New York.

Working across media, from paper, ceramics, mixed-media installation to photography, these eight women artists can be linked by their engagement with processes of play and material exploration. Often beginning with formal structures, be they geometric, architectural, or linguistic, the artists introduce elements of the crafted and the hand-made to produce energies that ultimately overspill these underlying frameworks; valuing process, their work allows us to see the exploration and craft of their art as part of its function and meaning.

Golnar Adili’s two related installation pieces center upon the Persian language, specifically the two verbs Benshinand and Benshaanand (with their inter-related meanings to sit or to seat) that form the pivot of the celebrated 14th century Persian poem the Samanbouyan. Adili fashions simplified forms of the two words from wooden play blocks, creating new spatial metaphors for the play on words: crisscrossing the repeated iterations of Benshinand and Benshaanand into a city skyline-like extended floor arrangement, and creating a see-saw mechanism for each word that evokes the sing-song-like enunciation and tactile interaction at the heart of learning.

Malene Barnett’s large ceramic wall work Memories of Home draws upon the artist’s African Caribbean heritage and her background studying both textile design and ceramics. Inspired by the pattern design and mark-making techniques of West African art and architecture, the artist creates freehand and intuitive patterned ceramic tiles embodying the tradition of Nigerian Uli and Kassena painting—hued with rich earthen tones and recombined by the artist in a large-scale loose grid assemblage. Created using Jamaican clay, Barnett’s work connects the craft traditions at the heart of the Black diaspora—linking African traditional design with contemporary art via the artist’s own Caribbean heritage.

Each of Jaq Belcher’s works starts with a fresh sheet of paper on which the artist meticulously plots her designs in fine pencil lines. Methodically and meditatively, she cuts into the paper with fine X-Acto blades to produce her work’s characteristic ‘seeds’: small oval forms sliced from the surrounding paper that the artist will often leave attached along one edge. Belcher ultimately ‘lifts’ these attached seeds, elevating the unattached edge from the surface of the paper so that the complex gridded and spiraling geometries of her designs gradually reveal themselves. Beginning in plotting and geometry, the artist’s work ultimately unfolds outward into materiality and presence.

Ellen Carey’s Dings & Shadows are color photograms created by the artist entirely in the darkroom without either traditional subject matter or a negative stage in between. The artist crushes and manipulates her photographic paper by hand before exposing it to the filtered lights of the photographic process, producing remarkable abstract images in intense and highly saturated colors. Her work is freewheeling and experimental—untethered by rules, formal structures or conventional procedures—and at the same time, anchored to the origins of photography, with its literal meaning “drawing with light”. Carey’s work represents a deft interplay between the random and controlled elements of her process, allowing the photo-object to speak: in color, in form, in composition.

Samantha HolmesGeometric Application works stem from the artist’s interest in work patterns found in sources as varying as ancient Islamic mosaics, Puerto Rican lacework, and new discoveries in modern physics. As much concerned with the irregularity found within patterns as in their underlying geometries, Holmes allows imperfections introduced by the individual hand to develop and magnify across a work as it moves from soft maquette to its final form in painted steel. In doing so, the artist foregrounds the unruliness of life as it is lived, over the illusion of order, be it scientific, cultural or spiritual.

The sculptural installations of Karen Margolis explore the linked processes of creation and destruction at the heart of the cycle of life. Employing rescued and recycled materials including paper, plastic, wire and found objects, the artist accrues her materials into fantastical bio-constructions as densely layered and intensely colored as a coral reef. Often working site-specifically (her installation Continuum is currently on view as part of the Art at Amtrak public art program at Moynihan Train Hall), Margolis’s installations can appear to emerge organically from the building’s architecture, engulfing and outgrowing its underlining form. Frequently rehabilitating elements of previous sculptures in new installations, the artist’s process embraces decay and rebirth—life in all its glorious chaos and constant transformation.

Mia Pearlman’s mixed-media works The World Below the Brine are made with cut and painted paper, into which the artist incorporates elements of “ghost gear”—waste pieces of fishing nets, rope and tackle salvaged from oceans around the world. The free-flowing and often turbulent forms of her pieces evoke the drama of the ocean, as well as the brutality of humankind’s impact on the natural world. The remarkable fluidity and invention of the artist’s work echoes the depiction of water and waves in Japanese woodblock art, just as Pearlman’s visually ravishing forms channel the imaginative richness and “other spheres” of the Walt Whitman poem after which the series is titled.

Julie Peppito’s constructions and multi-media works on paper reclaim discarded objects and materials, transforming them into works of exuberance and wonder. From street trash to old toys, mangled cutlery, knick-knacks and electrical wiring, the artist accumulates the detritus of consumer culture, transfiguring her source material through the addition of painted, drawn and collaged elements to birth whole new ecosystems of form. Her work includes an inherent social and political message, foregrounding oneness, recuperation, and repair of the earth.

Writing about the work of Golnar Adili, artist Kevin Beasley has noted the centrality of play to both the artistic process, and to an open and explorative life in the broadest sense: “Play is essential for the growth and well-being of the mind. The building blocks of cognitive development, mental acuity, and social confidence are at their greatest benefit in the young. But play is itinerant in regards to the scope of its role in an individual’s life. Work is not the opposite of play; the two are, in fact, best served in concert with one another.”

The eight artists in Structural Play produce work that in varying ways exceeds formal limits, engaging with the dynamics of play to create new models for how to view and comprehend the world around us.

Open on Thursdays. 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Fridays. 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturdays & Sundays. 10:00am – 3:00pm
Closed Monday – Wednesday


March 9 @ 10:00 am
May 26 @ 3:00 pm
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JHB Gallery
212 255 9286
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Golnar Adili, Malene Barnett, Jaq Belcher, Ellen Carey, Samantha Holmes, Karen Margolis, Mia Pearlman, Julie Peppito
JHB Gallery


Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling
898 St. Nicholas Avenue @ 155th Street
New York, NY 10032 United States
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(212) 335-0004
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