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If thread plus fabric usually equals clothing, in the hands of Elnaz Javani and Annette Hur they add up to something far more expressive and stirring. Javani, an Iranian living in Chicago, uses embroidery on cloth as other artists might apply ink on paper. String upon string of red conjures hair, water, blood. Black Farsi and Ansari script sewn across the surfaces of gentle, odd stuffed figurines suggests the comfort of mother tongues. Hur, a South Korean living in Brooklyn, stitches scraps of silk and other textiles to paper as would a collagist. Much female eroticism results: triangular crotches, curly tangles of pubic hair, shoulder pads turned sideways like breasts. The title of EXO, a two-person show of their work curated by Azadeh Gholizadeh and recently on display at Devening Projects in Chicago, indicates that derivatives of that prefix could be useful here. But forget exotic and go instead for exoskeleton, exodus, even exoteric: Javani and Hur make work out of the stuff that goes on the outsides of bodies, that comes from a place of departure, that can be widely understood because of its familiar materials.

—Lori Waxman 2021-02-12 10:44 AM