Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art debuts “Project Space” with new works by Diedrick Brackens (pictured) features all new tapestries and premieres Brackens’ first handwoven basket boats. “Diedrick Brackens: Ark of Bulrushes” kicks off Feb. 20 and will be available for viewing through Aug. 22. 

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Project Space” debuts Saturday, Feb. 20, with new works by award-winning artist Diedrick Brackens.

Brackens’ first exhibition in the southwest is called “Ark of Bulrushes” and features all-new tapestries and introduces his first handwoven basket boats.

The collection was inspired by a discussion in 2017 between Brackens and curator Lauren R. O’Connell about depicting Black bodies via abstract tapestries.

“We are thrilled to be presenting all new work by the extremely talented and humble artist Diedrick Brackens,” said O’Connell, assistant curator at SMoCA. 

“Every aspect of the artist’s weavings – color, figures, animals and patterns – layer together meaning that is often rooted in dark histories, but with the intention to find hope wherever it may exist. The complexity that he achieves is done so by creating rich textiles that offer alternative perspectives and narratives about Black bodies, humanity and survival throughout history and today,” O’Connell continued.

 “Ark of Bulrushes” depicts colorful and textural landscapes filled with constellations, rivers, coded patterns, boats and Black figures.

Brackens chose cotton as the primary material not only because it’s easy to manipulate, but also because of its historical significance. 

“It takes color beautifully and its historical significance in the United States relative to enslavement, violence and subjugation that has had lasting effects on Black bodies,” Brackens explained.

“I think of the process of handweaving cotton as a small way to pay tribute to those who came before me and worked with the material under very different circumstances.”

By combining symbols from the Underground Railroad and Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Brackens “offers a new way of thinking about navigating world systems in relation to how it has been used in the past to seek emancipation,” O’Connell said.” Brackens work is a guide for finding hope in times riddled with fear about the unknown.”

Brackens, winner of the 2018 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize that honors the artistic achievements of African American artists, said the exhibition at SMoCA has enabled him to expand into sculpture. 

“It means so much to have a platform and the support of an institution to continue to push the work and to dream wildly,” Brackens said. “I am excited to be working with Lauren and SMoCA to bring this new body of work to fruition.”

On display through Aug. 22, “Ark of Bulrushes” is the inaugural show in SMoCA’s new initiative, “Project Space.” 

Jennifer McCabe, director and chief curator at SMoCA, said “Project Space” highlights SMoCA’s belief in supporting emerging artists and more established artists interested in thinking outside their typical practice.

Also starting Feb. 20 at SMoCA is “VOICE-OVER: Zineb Sedira” by London-based artist Zineb Sedira.

As part of the solo-exhibition, Sedira will premiere “Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go” in the U.S.

The installation was first shown in 2019 at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and this new version of the installation was created specifically for SMoCA.

Inspired by the 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers, a celebration of post-colonial African nations and a call for liberation for the rest of the continent, the installation offers four “scenes” that include a life-sized diorama of artist’s Sedira’s London living room and archival footage of Algerian militant films. 

“Zineb Sedira’s work is personal and political,” said Natasha Boas, curator of “VOICE-OVER,” an exhibition that also features Sedira’s own voice-over work in the videos.

“Although her work is most often based in the investigation of her own identity and history in relationship to the African diaspora, it remains universal,” Boas continued. “Sedira creates work with expansive themes around memory, migration and the archive.”

“VOICE-OVER” also includes works by Gordon Parks and Emory Douglas that highlight the United States-based Black Panther connection to Algeria. 

The exhibition will be on display through Sept. 5. 

If You Go: 


What: “Ark of Bulrushes,” Feb. 20-Aug. 22; “VOICE-OVER,” Feb. 20-Sept. 5

Where: 7374 E. 2nd Street

Tickets: $10 adults, $7 students/seniors/veterans, free for members and children under 15

Call: 480-874-4666