Eric-Paul Riege at the Armory Show
Riege’s practice in soft-sculpture and durational performance honors and embodies his lived experience in relation to ancestral traditions in weaving and adornment, especially those passed down from his maternal family. As both a carrier and protector of knowledge, Riege creates new forms within the Diné (Navajo) worldview of hózhó, which encompasses the values of beauty, balance, and goodness in all things seen and unseen, in physical and spiritual realms.
New sculptures and video for the Armory Show 2023 extend Riege’s thinking with histories, economies, and cultures of the marketplace, especially as related to authenticity and what is perceived as authentically Native American. He notes that what is less seen in time and space—what is decayed and has lost pigment—is often considered most authentic and valuable. Subverting this ethnographic entrapment, his nearly achromatic tonal range honors birth, life, and survivance. Black, browns, and beiges approximate human skin tones and the hair of churro sheep, a sacred animal to Navajo communities whose population was nearly decimated by the United States government in the 19th and 20th centuries in an effort to destroy Navajo livelihood.
Further countering expectations around value and spectatorship, Riege enmeshes the precious and non-precious: hand-spun churro wool with faux fur, horse and synthetic hair, cashmere and polyester, plastic deer teeth and glass beads. His ongoing series of large-scale earrings, or “ear rope for the big gods/monsters” in Diné, mimics and embellishes the traditional looped form of stacked beads. The pairing that is jaatloh4Ye’iitsoh [14-15] has a rhythm of spherical and oblate bead-forms that support spider leg–like extensions, while black fringe and tin cones used as sound and meaning-makers invoke regalia traditions. Suspended on display stands, jaatloh4Ye’iitsoh [14-15] maintains a practice common in Diné weaving to leave an opening or line as a pathway to futures for Spider Woman, the Creator.
Welcoming the animate, Riege considers his sculptures as living beings, thus ever-changing and changeable over time. Two pairs of medallion-topped earrings, Hóló’s Rattles, the Yázhi 1z [1-2] + [jaatloh4Ye’iitsoh] and Hóló’s Rattles, the Yázhi 1z [3-4] + [jaatloh4Ye’iitsoh] were born from the remains and off-cuts of previously activated and newly adorned soft-sculpture regalia, parts of which the artist performs in a new single-channel video. As with his sculptural practice, Riege’s weaving dance[s], a segment performed for the screen (2023) playfully embraces both high and low materials, technologies, and aesthetics. With reference to video game character building, slow AI movement, and glitchy TikTok time, the iPhone-recorded work conjures self-made ceremony within new cosmologies of the internet and its spectatorships.
The Armory Show
New York, NY