Zoë Buckman: No bleach thick enough

24 January - 7 March 2020 The Box

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present, No bleach thick enough, a new work by Zoë Buckman commissioned for The Box. Running from 24 January to 7 March 2020, this will be the artist’s first solo project in the UK.


Buckman’s artistic practice draws on an explicitly feminist perspective, exploring gender, identity and violence. Her multi-disciplinary approach incorporates sculpture, textiles, ceramics and photography as well as large-scale public installations. No bleach thick enough belongs to the artist’s ongoing series entitled Show Me Your Bruises Then. This body of work, comprising text embroidered onto vintage textiles such as dishcloths and table runners, draws on the artist’s own experience to explore gendered violence in the domestic sphere, both physical and psychological. Buckman's use of text, intensely personal and often confessional in tone, establishes an intimate and emotionally charged relationship with the viewer. Her words draw on diverse sources, from the lyrics of hip-hop or Keats, to the work of her late mother, the playwright Jennie Buckman, as well as her own writings.


In this new work, fragments of text are embroidered onto two vintage handkerchiefs, each suspended within the space of The Box, one slightly obscuring the other: 'but as the pill kicks in', neatly embroidered in black capital letters and 'he was waiting in her kitchen', hand embroidered in loose mohair thread. By choosing textiles traditionally used and decorated by women, the artist makes visible labour that often goes unnoticed. Each vintage piece bears traces of its past, pointing to a history of oppression, but also to the need for, and to the comfort of intergenerational dialogue. Scrunched up in a pocket or tucked into a sleeve, the handkerchiefs recall their intimacy with the body, whilst their function points to the mess of tears and blood, and a desire to mop these up. In contrast, the work’s title alludes to a harsher form of housework, with the image of bleach used to explore the ways in which domestic violence is erased.


In the viewing room is also installed a new sculpture, Surely you touched mine. The work comprises two boxing gloves, one covered with white, vintage embroidered linen, the other with a green flowered dish cloth and hand-sewn foliage tumbling downwards. Balanced atop one another, the two are suspended by a heavy industrial chain, coated white. The gloves clasp hands in a gesture of hostility or friendship, reflecting their double function to protect the body and harm their opponent. Bringing together qualities traditionally perceived as conflicting – masculine/feminine, hard/soft, art/craft, decorative/functional – Buckman looks to articulate a space in between. 


Zoë Buckman (b. 1985, Hackney, East London) lives and works in New York. She studied photography at the International Center of Photography, New York (2009). Recent solo exhibitions include Fort Gansevoort, New York (2019); Gavlak Gallery, Los Angeles (2018); Project for Empty Space, Newark (2017) and Papillion Art, Los Angeles (2016). Her work has also been included in exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Camden Arts Centre, London; The National Museum of African-American History & Culture, Washington, D.C.; The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey; The Centre Regional D’Art Contemporain, Sète; Grunwald Gallery of Art, Indiana; Tarble Arts Center, Charleston; The Children’s Museum of the Arts, New York; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. Buckman’s large-scale public art installations include For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, Inaction is Apathy billboard at 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville, Arkansas and Champ at The Standard, Downtown LA with Art Production Fund. Public collections include Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; The Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.