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Diedrick Brackens at Craft Contemporary


In the exhibition Heaven Is a Muddy Riverbed by weaver Diedrick Brackens at Craft Contemporary, the artist presents his poetry alongside his artworks for the first time. Known for his narrative and figurative weavings, the poetry on view allows the artist’s narratives to come to life, with threads and language woven together into a robust personal language. 

“Bottom feeders, inked every hue / siphon dignity rarely given to them. / ready for betrayal, that is easy to carry,” one poem reads in an allusion to the catfish, a symbol that Brackens employs regularly in his weavings. Nearby, a weaving pictures the silhouette of a seated figure with his arms raised, a pink catfish in his grip. A piece of maroon fabric hangs over the piece, submerging the figure’s head. 

Brackens pulls inspiration from his upbringing in Texas, as well as from language, fiction, and political events. These influences mix on the loom to create an allegorical and symbolic kind of storytelling. A recurring motif of three silhouettes — or three catfish — symbolizes three Black men who drowned in a Texas lake while in police custody in 1981 after being arrested at a Juneteenth celebration. For Brackens, the catfish becomes a symbol of resilience and of rebirth in the face of brutality, and his almost hymnal poetry carries a sense of care and blessing, a window into a more peaceful world with the catfish as our spirit guide.

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Photo:  Diedrick Brackens, there is a leak (detail) (2020).© Diedrick Brackens. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Various Small Fires, Los Angeles and Seoul.