You Can't Cut It Into Pieces
By Larry Rinder and Colter Jacobsen
Sahar asked me and Colter Jacobsen, my partner, to write something about her show in part because her current work plays with the idea and energy of couples.
There isn’t much in Sahar’s recent work that reads overtly as pertaining to couples. Perhaps the closest she comes is a pair of cast bronze opium poppy stems--a sly nod to Jasper John’s famous pair of Ballantine Ale Cans--that poke out from the top of a precarious tower of filigreed ceramic. And the double-headed snake-like wooden spoons carved from an apple tree outside Sahar’s studio suggests how awkward togetherness can sometimes be.
There is another ceramic tower that she has adorned with two bronze falafel balls. These hint at coupledom, though they read equally as simple ornamental finials; that is, until you find two more half-eaten falafels (also in bronze) hiding elsewhere on the sculpture, at which point they are revealed as unquestionably gastronomic.
As Sahar’s title for the show (You Can’t Cut It Into Pieces) suggests, the kind of couple explored here is one that is indivisible. If you are in a relationship and you have a regular day, the sort of things that might stand out are the blueberry in your breakfast cereal that was a little bit off, the funny way your cat held its paw over its eyes, the cover of a book your partner got in the mail, or a golden net you saw in a dream: none of it is that important but you can’t take any of it away.
All couples are precarious and incomprehensible. Somehow, they hold together. Through love, I guess, though other things come into it, like animals and sharing the passage of time. One sculpture features Sahar’s half-blind poodle, Esther, who appears in multiple, one poodle for each of the seven days of the week. In Untitled (Alicia, hello forever) the dates 2021-2022, 2023-2024 and so on become lacey bricks which, in turn, are stacked into transparent walls. The temporal architecture of love.
In contrast to her abstract armatures, Sahar presents several pictorial works that sometimes verge on traditional landscape painting, with trees and clouds—even a horse and rider--and colors reminiscent of Hockney, Hodgkin, and Hartigan. They remind me of Duchamp’s encyclopedic Boite, souvenirs jam packed with sentiment and small enough to carry off in an emergency. And I love that they are made from Friskie’s boxes.
Sahar is not about to sum it all up. She joins fragments into contingent associations that are less like a resolution than a pause in an animated conversation. An American-style football meets a black and white keffieyeh in the company of a ring of metal fleurs de lis; a rickety TV tray floats above the word Orientalism; a collection of red belts loops in and out of a curvilinear ceramic maze. Couples talk like this, in layers.
EXTRACT THE SAP
Sahar Khoury (b. 1973) was born in Chicago, IL and lives and works in Oakland, CA. Trained as an anthropologist and working for many years on community-based research projects concerning structural vulnerability within Latinx migrant labor communities, Khoury did not receive a formal art education until later in her career. Rather, she developed her practice within the Bay Area’s queer community of the late 1990s and 2000s, making works for music shows, theater performances, and street protests. Khoury’s work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (where she was the recipient of the 2019 SECA Art Award), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Oakland Museum of California, the Wattis Institute, UC Berkeley Art Museum, Scripps 77th Ceramic Annual, Rebecca Camacho Projects, and CANADA Gallery. She received her BA in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 1996 and her MFA From UC Berkeley in 2013.