Ibrahim Mahama uses large-scale installations of found materials to reference the movement of goods and people around the world. He has wrapped entire buildings with tapestries of jute sacks sewn together by hundreds of volunteers, stacked wooden crates to create imposing walls, and replaced the flags of the United Nations with tattered food sacks. By using these containers for shipping goods, Mahama points to how it’s often easier for commodities to transverse borders than it is for people. For Mahama, it is important to bring together objects from different times and places, as often you can see things clearer from a distance than close up.
For the High Line, Mahama presents 57 Forms of Liberty, an inverted industrial tank from a defunct manufacturing facility in Wilmington, North Carolina. The work is inspired by a rusted smokestack the artist saw at the locomotive workshop in Sekondi, Ghana that now has a tree growing from its mouth. For Mahama, the workshop is an important reference to the British use of railways to divide and exploit resources until the country regained its independence in 1957. While the British railways, a former industrial tank from North Carolina, and the High Line have very different industrial histories, Mahama notes that it’s often when we zoom out, and remove ourselves from a specific space and time, that we can come to see our shared history all the better. The sculpture on the High Line also has a tree growing from its top, an important image for the artist that mirrors the torch of the Statue of Liberty to the south, and the non-human agents that continue to reinvent the conditions for living on this planet, even among the structures built and abandoned by humans.
Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987, Tamale, Ghana) lives and works in Accra, Ghana. Recent solo exhibitions have been featured at institutions including Fondazione Guiliani, Rome, Italy (2019); The Whitworth, University of Manchester, Manchester International Festival, Manchester, England (2019); Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan, Italy (2019); and daadgalerie, Berlin, Germany (2018). Notable group exhibitions include Dirty Protest, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California (2019); Histórias afro-atlânticas, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2018); and Future Generation Art Prize Exhibition, Venice, Italy and Kiev, Ukraine (2017). Mahama’s work has been presented in major international exhibitions including the Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia (2020, forthcoming); 6th Lumbashi Biennale, Lumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo (2019); Ghana Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale (2019); La Biennale de l’Art africain contemporain: DAK’ART, Dakar, Senegal (2018); documenta 14, Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece (2017); and 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2015).
Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support for High Line Art is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and Charina Endowment Fund. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.