Keli Safia Maksud: worried notes

Keli Safia Maksud: worried notes

CUE Art Foundation

January 17, 2024
Keli Safia Maksud
worried notes
January 25–March 16, 2024
Opening reception: January 25, 6–8pm
CUE Art Foundation
137 West 25th Street, Ground Floor
Between 6th and 7th Avenue
10001 New York NY
Hours: Wednesday–Saturday 12–6pm

T 212 206 3583

CUE Art Foundation presents worried notes, a solo exhibition by Keli Safia Maksud mentored by Abigail DeVille. The exhibition, selected as part of CUE’s open call, will open on Thursday, January 25 and remain on view until March 16. Gallery hours are Wednesday–Saturday, 12–6pm.

worried notes builds upon Maksud’s ongoing interest in the formation of national identity, particularly in relation to post-colonial African statehood. Through sound, sculpture, installation, text, printmaking, and embroidery, she explores notions of replication and standardization as enduring influences of colonialism—and as processes that continue to shape individual and collective understandings of self.

Utilizing diagrammatic systems of notation as a starting point, worried notes examines inherited identities, cultural memory, and received histories. A “worried note”—also called a “blue note”—is a term in musicology that refers to a note that falls slightly below one that exists on the Western twelve-tone major scale. Present in blues, jazz, and gospel music, and derived from African vocalization that is not based on the major scale, worried notes are often thought—within the construct of Western music—to contribute to sound that is expressive and intense, conveying emotions such as pain, longing, melancholy, and despair.

It is in this space of dissonance that Maksud plays with boundaries often considered to be objective or inherent. Using embroidery as a language, she exposes traces of the past that inform our present context, stitching and embossing fragments of architectural blueprints, cartography, mathematical formulas, and music onto carbon paper. The musical fragments, in particular, represent pieces of various African national anthems, which were developed in the wake of colonial departure from the continent and sought to create shared identities for citizens of newly independent nations. However, they were often modeled after the anthems of former colonial powers in notation, structure, and concept. In repeating the musical norms of the West, they reinforced sonic—and cultural—borders analogous to those created through the haphazardous geographic partitioning of Africa.

worried notes engages with the complexities of this context, asking us to consider the spaces in between and beyond that which can be measured. Maksud’s “notes” map representational conventions such as shapes, symbols, lines, and numbers that have been codified in various industries and realms of inquiry. In abstracting them from their source material, she seeks to call attention to how we order space, time, and distance, and to challenge the legacies that constrain our movement to predefined limits and trajectories.

Reflecting upon drawing as a political act, Maksud utilizes straight lines and rigid forms—geometric devices often associated with modernism that project aspirations of rationality, enlightenment, and control. However, she generates a unique visual language that resists translation and embraces opacity as a right of those who exist outside of systems of global influence. Standard sized sheets of carbon paper function as a reprographic device that speaks to modes of repetition. The act of stitching by hand results in entwined, rhizomatic threads on the reverse side of the paper, materially referencing the leakage that begs to exist outside of imposed demarcations. The puncturing of the paper with a needle and thread creates incisions—or scores—that evoke the violence embedded in systems of representation. The works are framed by metal armatures that serve as infrastructural delineations, but also allow viewers to navigate around, between, and through them. Throughout the installation, sound and film keep time at various paces, creating new frequencies that reverberate and make perceptible forms of interference.

Through this layering of gestures, Maksud composes both an elegy to the agony of embodied hegemony and a hopeful ode to future hybridities. worried notes provokes an awakening to the overlapping physical, spatial, and emotional traumas of colonial entanglement, and urges us to chart pathways of resistance to that which is known.

worried notes by Keli Safia Maksud, mentored by Abigail DeVille. Catalogue essay by Jordan Jones, mentored by Renee Gladman.

CUE staff: Jinny Khanduja (Executive Director), Jasmine Buckley (Gallery Associate), Keegan Sagnelli (Communications Associate).

*Images above: Recent work as part of old blues new bruises at A.I.R. Gallery.

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CUE Art Foundation
January 17, 2024

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