At the center of N. Dash’s work (b. 1980, Miami, Florida, US) is a commitment to the energy of transformation, movement, and care. The artist incorporates materials such as earth, paint, plastic bottles, string, agricultural netting, strips of Styrofoam, cast-off cardboard, and jute, into complex, often multi-panel compositions that draw from the languages and methods of sculpture, photography, and printmaking. With a notable economy of means, N. Dash’s work expresses the tension between industrially produced goods and naturally occurring substances in an ecological vision that honors the land and its unseen energies.
The ground for many of N. Dash’s compositions is earth from the desert, which is applied in smooth, graded surfaces that crack and fissure during the drying process, creating topological fields. These earthen grounds frequently serve as a base for various layers of graphite, ink, or paint, conjuring the sequential formation of planetary strata. This sense of geologic time is imbricated with materials that evoke biological cycles: N. Dash embeds and removes string from the smoothed-earth grounds, and coats lengths of cloth in pigment to act as wrapped or hanging elements, creating compositions that subtly blend diverse plant and mineral matter.
A preoccupation with undoing and remaking is also apparent in N. Dash’s practice of creating miniscule fabric sculptures. Working small pieces of machine-loomed fabric between fingers and thumb for long durations until the gridded threads collapse into suggestive, disorderly tangles, N. Dash literally unfastens a structured industrial product to create a new form that magnifies the power of touch, gesture, and ritual. Tiny in scale, gritty and stained, the abject qualities of these prelingual totems are magnified when silkscreened onto the prepared grounds. In this final stage, each sculpture’s protean strangeness acts as a projective device, in which a viewer may identify all manner of imagined forms.
N. Dash’s more recent compositions incorporate new groups of ready-made everyday objects such as rags, rulers, and broomsticks—items used to protect, clean, and order. This simple attitude of custodianship lies at the heart of N. Dash’s compositions: by applying the energy of human touch and ingenuity, humble materials are transmuted into transcendent, vital forms.
N. Dash lives and works in New York and New Mexico.
Dash’s work was presented in one-person exhibitions at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, WA (2019); Fondazione Guilliani, Rome ((2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2014); White Flag Projects, St. Louis, Missouri (2013) and others.
The works have also been featured in thematic exhibitions such as Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture, 1900 to Now, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (2022); Body Ego, Dallas Museum of Art, TX (2018); Third Space: Shifting Conversations about Contemporary Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL (2017); Repetition and Difference, Jewish Museum, New York (2015); The Possible, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA (2014); Notations: Contemporary Drawing as Idea and Process, Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, MO (2012).