March 4, 2021

Cristal Sabbagh

Glass Curtain Gallery at Columbia College Chicago

Cristal Sabbagh, The King has returned to the ancestral plane, 2020. Stoneware with underglaze watercolors and cone 6 glaze.

Cristal Sabbagh, Justice for Tony McDade, 2020. Soft pastel and graphite.

Cristal Sabbagh, Stacey Abrams, 2020. Stoneware with underglaze watercolors and cone 6 glaze.

Capacity of gallery is 10 visitors, and masks are required.

OOPS! POW! SURPRISE! takes a deep look at Cristal Sabbagh’s interdisciplinary practice that includes traditional portraiture, ceramics, and performance. While movement is the spine of her practice and the core that all her other work emanates from, intentional spontaneity, reverence, and bliss are threads woven throughout.

Sabbagh’s performance practice, rooted in improvisation and Butoh, walks a line between the everyday, the divine, the personal, and the political. In embodying in her art transformational memories while simultaneously celebrating pop culture and the experimental, she challenges power structures and awakens viewers’ senses. Working both in a solo capacity and with collaborators, Sabbagh is equally attuned to individual perspectives and collective structures. As with Sabbagh’s previous projects, OOPS! POW! SURPRISE will also incorporate collaborative work. Her collaborators include Erin Peisert, Scott Rubin, Keisha Janae, Ramah Malebranche, and Sara Zalek. In various configurations, these collaborators have regularly engaged in improvised performances, opening up new avenues for Sabbagh’s material and conceptual exploration.

Although her work is defined in movement, her practice also looks outward to portraits of the world around, taking the forms of traditionally drawn portraits, figurative ceramic sculptures, and nontraditional portraits on ceramic mugs. Sabbagh labors over each piece, that act as homage and memorials and are a resistance to white-supremacy. Her traditional portraits include images of Black Trans lives that have been taken or disrupted. And her nontraditional portraits take the form of Black creatives lovingly emblazoned on ceramic mugs intended to be shared by friends and family. Not only do these works infuse the user’s everyday coffee and tea rituals, but their ceramic forms will stand the test of time, potentially outliving the user by thousands of years and leaving traces of how we lived recorded by Sabbagh’s hand.

During the run of OOPS! POW! SURPRISE!, a full-color catalog will be issued that includes a poetic essay, also on view in the gallery, by venerable artist and writer Abra M. Johnson.

This project is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Note: All programming for OOPS! POW! SURPRISE! will take place online.

Thursday, March 11, 6–7pm
Cristal Sabbagh in conversation
Register here.

April 2-3, 7pm
Freedom From and Freedom To
Presented in partnership with Elastic Arts
Join here.
Donation suggested

Thursday, April, 15, 6–8pm
OOPS! POW! SURPRISE! performance
With collaborators Erin Peisert, Scott Rubin, Keisha Janae, Ramah Malebranche, and Sara Zalek
Register here.

Cristal Sabbagh is a teaching interdisciplinary artist influenced by film, history, politics, Butoh, and improvised sound. She’s currently curating and performing in Freedom From and Freedom To, an improvisational, cross-medium performance piece. She was awarded a DCASE IAP grant to help fund an opportunity to combine most of her creative interests in a risk-taking and vulnerable way. It uses an ensemble of dancers and improvising musicians that are remarkably diverse in their approaches to dance, instrumentation, and backgrounds. She’s a core member of Marie Casimir’s Djasporas dance collective, seen at the Instigation Festivals in Chicago and New Orleans over the past four years. For the past three years, she’s also been a member of Move Move Collaborative, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her portrait prints are featured in Seer Gallery’s Collection in Chicago.

Exhibition contact: Mark Porter / mporter [​at​] / T 312 369 6643

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