Igshaan Adams, installation view of “Kicking Dust,” 2021. Photo: Mark Blower, © Igshaan Adams, 2021

Igshaan Adams


Hayward Gallery

In the hands of Igshaan Adams, a sculpture is in endless evolution. As the South African artist explained during the opening of his current exhibition (on view through July 25, 2021), “My sculptures are a never-ending work. I add materials in different moments, and leave them aside in the studio for years at times because with my sculptures there is no intention or agenda. It is about trying out new ideas.” Encapsulating this ethos, the works in “Kicking Dust,” which come together in a powerful, immersive experience, translate Adams’s abstract ideas into tangible form.

Adjacent to the exhibition entrance, Cloud VII (2019) hangs from the ceiling, rotating almost imperceptibly in the dark. Made from wires that weave together a variety of beads, charms, and ropes, it offers a magnificent introduction to Adams’s way with woven materials. Despite the eye-catching appearance of his work, his creative process is driven by the tactile feel of materials and the memories attached to them. From a young age, he developed a deep connection with the sense of touch, a skill cultivated in his craft-loving family, which he honed and perfected during long Sunday afternoons spent experimenting with materials in his grandfather’s garage.

In the main exhibition space, a group of new works—suspended and freestanding sculptures made of wire and translucent materials, floor weavings that echo the laterite color of the South African soil, and wall-hung tapestries inspired by the format of prayer rugs—celebrate a multiplicity of patterns that not only reflect the different threads of Adams’s identity, but also reimagine the nature of the social landscape. As the exhibition title “Kicking Dust” suggests, the idea of movement is central to this body of work. Adams’s floating sculptures evoke the rising clouds of dust produced by the intricate and rapid-fire footwork of dancers performing the “Rieldans,” one of the oldest Indigenous dancing styles in southern Africa. The floor weavings add another kind of movement, their placement mapping the unplanned pathways, or “desire lines,” created by people walking between neighboring communities in the suburbs of Cape Town. These spontaneous routes of communication crossed the lines of racial segregation enforced by the government before the 1990s, and they continue to join communities today. The tapestries also transcribe pathways, this time taken from inside homes, reproducing them together with flooring motifs in colored and textured rope, metal, and beading. Like the “desire lines,” these tracings, which Adams calls “documents,” interpret personal maps inscribed through use and presence.

Growing up in Cape Town, Adams suffered the racial hierarchy and divisions of the apartheid period, which still persist. Despite his challenging upbringing and the difficult social context, he nurtured “a desire to find [his] own way,” which is clearly expressed in his constant striving to push the boundaries of sculpture. As Adams explains, “It is a mental state to be able to break free from patterns and expectations.” His work is an unequivocal reflection of his inner state.