Igshaan Adams’s (b. 1982) practice coalesces performance, weaving, sculpture and installation. Born in Bonteheuwel, a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa, Adams draws upon his background to contest racial, sexual and religious boundaries. This intersectional topography remains visible throughout his practice and serves as a palimpsest upon which traces of personal histories are inscribed and reinscribed. He explains; ‘I’m interested in the personal stories recorded on the surface. What is recorded is not necessarily always a factual account but can be what is imagined - a combination of myth-making and meaning-making.’


Adams approaches materiality through his own subjectivity. Often, cultural and religious references are used in conjunction with surfaces that have always been present throughout his life; thread, beads, wire, linoleum, cotton twine, fabric. His interest in material oscillates between the intuitive process of handling different substances and a formal inquiry into how various materials behave in different contexts and how they transfigure or evolve. Likening the material’s potential for transformation to his own potential for evolution, Adams is engaged in broadening his ideas of selfhood in an ongoing process of covering and uncovering, doing and undoing.


Adams has held solo exhibitions internationally, including at Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Boston MA, USA (2024); Thomas Dane Gallery, London, England (2023); The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL, USA (2022); Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland (2022); Hayward Gallery, London, England (2021); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah GA, USA (2020); Akershus Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway (2019); and The Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2018). He has participated in numerous group shows, including Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art at Barbican Centre, London (2024); the 35th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2023); Awwal Bayt (First House), the Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (2023); Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter at Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (2023); Narrative Threads at Moody Center for the Arts, Houston TX, USA (2023); The Milk of Dreams, the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy (2022); Unknown Unknowns: An Introduction to Mysteries, the 23rd Triennale Milano, Milan, Italy (2022); Slowly Arriving at Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel, Switzerland (2021); Allied with Power at Perez Art Museum, Miami FL, USA (2020); Ngoma: Art and Cosmology at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa; Mapping Black Identities at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis MN, USA (2019); Material Insanity at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakech, Morocco (2019); and In This Imperfect Present Moment at the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle OR, USA (2018).


In June 2024, Adams will present a solo exhibition at Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield, England.


Adams has been selected for a number of artist residencies, among them A4 Arts Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa, the Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, and the IAAB Pro Helvetia residency in Basel, Switzerland. In 2018, Adams was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art. In October 2022, Adams was selected for a six-months-long residency at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.


His works are represented in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; Inhotim Museum, Brazil; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Standard Bank collection, Johannesburg; and the University of Cape Town.

Photo: Mario Todeschini
Photo: Mario Todeschini