Vastrapplek translates from Afrikaans, Igshaan Adams’s native language, to mean “hold fast and stomp in place.” Adams’s exhibition here takes this word as its title, which alludes to a dovetailing of stasis and release, as this relates to a body fixed yet driving energy outward. The Riel dance, traditionally performed by young people from the Northern Cape region of South Africa known as Vastrapprs, embodies this form of movement in an intricate choreography of heels and toes beating into the ground, blurring the boundary between flesh and earth while leaving clouds of dust in their wake.
Adams’s works revivify and re-create the indexical traces left by the Vastrappers. Rather than depict their dance, however, Adams renders the clouds that are made by it. Their transient forms are captured in colorful and iridescent sculptures of wire and wooden beads, as well as sinuous tapestries crafted from, among other materials, more beads (made of wood, plastic, glass, stone, and metal), seashells, charms, ropes, and twine. There is an astonishing level of detail in these objects. Take Dit voel soos n ewige dans sonder einde of begin (It feels like an eternal dance without end or beginning), 2022, a tapestry comprising seemingly endless quantities of stuff that forces the viewer to negotiate between the macroscopic and microscopic. Attempting to take in the density of Adams’s woven pieces requires distance, but our bodies must sidle up close to them in order to enter their byzantine worlds, realized via extraordinary feats of labor.
Despite the deep physicality of these works, Adams captures the ephemerality of moving dust with elegance and invention—his brilliant merging of materials and effort produce their own dizzying movement, their own internal dance. Beads and threads overlap and snake around one another, creating fields of beautifully messy and alive entanglements that evoke the hilly vastness of Adams’s home region. Nimble and teeming with energy, his art sustains and suspends the restlessness of the dancers, along with their heavenly clouds.