Suchitra Mattai: Myth from Matter

A large fabric tapestry made of multicolored saris and gold tinsel mounted on a white wall. Five beaded tassels hang from the bottom of the fabric.
Sep 20, 2024, to Jan 12, 2025

Combining richly colored textiles, found objects, beads, and more, multidisciplinary artist Suchitra Mattai (b. 1973, Georgetown, Guyana) explores themes of history, identity, and belonging. The forces that lead certain stories to be remembered, or forgotten, are central to her art. Drawing on her Indo-Caribbean roots, Mattai weaves together personal narratives, collective mythologies, and colonial history. Her two- and three-dimensional works offer a reimagined vision of the past that centers the perspectives of women and people of color, especially those from Southeast Asia.

Suchitra Mattai: Myth from Matter is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Washington, DC. Large-scale textile installations, sculptures, collages, and paintings by Mattai are presented with a selection of related historical artworks from Europe and Southeast Asia. The juxtapositions initiate a visual conversation between old and new, East and West, and history and mythology.

Mattai’s work also interrogates other binaries, such as male and female, art and craft, and labor and leisure. By questioning whose presence persists throughout history and who is monumentalized in visual culture, the artist draws attention to those who have been left out. In doing so, she begins to create new mythologies that reclaim colonial spaces, materials, and histories. With bright, warm hues and soft materials, Mattai’s art manifests a more egalitarian future.

Mattai is a multidisciplinary artist of Indo-Caribbean descent whose work explores how memory, myth, and oral traditions can be harnessed to unravel colonial and patriarchal narratives. Mattai received an MFA in painting and drawing and an MA in South Asian art from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been presented in group and solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas), Boise Art Museum (Idaho), Center for Visual Art at the Metropolitan State Museum of Denver, and the Sharjah Biennial (United Arab Emirates). In addition to Suchitra Mattai: Myth from Matter at NMWA, the artist is featured in solo exhibitions in 2024 at Socrates Sculpture Park (Queens, New York), Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, and the Tampa Museum of Art. She lives in Los Angeles and is represented by Roberts Projects.

A needlepoint depicting, in profile, a seated, young girl with medium skin tone and dark hair in a yellow dress reading a book. A halo of black beads surrounds her bowed head.

Suchitra Mattai, future perfect, 2023; Embroidery floss, found objects, freshwater pearls, and trim on vintage needlepoint, 25 x 19 in.; Collection of Julie and Bennett Roberts, Los Angeles; Courtesy of Roberts Projects; © Suchitra Mattai; Photo by Heather Rasmussen

Exhibition Sponsors

Suchitra Mattai: Myth from Matter is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The exhibition is made possible by Denise Littlefield Sobel with major funding provided by Tara Rudman. Additional support is provided by the Sue J. Henry and Carter G. Phillips Exhibition Fund and Stephanie Sale.

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