Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson, “Passage by Night” at Classic Cars West

by admin on January 9, 2014

Passage by Night, now on view at Classic Cars West is a captivating and enveloping site-specific art installation by Oakland-based artists by Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson. Amala & Simpson have been a collaborative team since 2006; Amala is a painter, writer, and graphic designer; Simpson a photographer, sculptor, and garden designer specializing in native California plants. Together, they explore “incongruity within the physical and psychological space” of their diverse large-scale, site-specific installations and sculptures constructed from thousands of vintage neckties. The medium, with its assortment of fabrics from polyester to silk, and proliferated with many different colors and designs that range from the figurative to basic repeating patterns, offers a wealth of opportunities for reinterpretation. In previous work, they have created objects from massive monoliths to imagined tie quicksands into dark chasms. The public’s familiarity with the objects and their inherent tactile quality easily welcome them into the installation. Watching and participating in this perambulation evokes the exhibition’s title as people navigate and interact with these passive, yet foreboding surreal conical shapes within the lowly-lighted space in Classic Cars West.

The team source their neckties almost all from public donations, which perhaps makes their accomplished chromatically-gradient artwork all that more difficult and impressive upon completion. Says Amala and Simpson: “Our current body of work examines the necktie as a formal material rather than formal wear. Idiosyncratic in design and personality, neckties are normally viewed independently of one another. While we don’t necessarily aim to strip these objects of their popular psychological weight, we seek to better understand and ultimately reveal their properties by employing numerous configurations, repeated actions and processes that explore their physical attributes and associative impact.” As parts of a larger body of work, both the neckties and each hanging conical shape create a multiplicity of narratives, exploring relationships between individual components and the collective whole.

Passage by Night will be at Classic Cars West, 411 26th St, through February 22. You can also see Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson’s artwork in Metamorphosis: Clothing and Identity at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles opening January 29 and on view through April 27.