The wordplay of Knobl Hearts, the title of Casey Carsel’s show in the windows of the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Chicago, could not be more perfect. “Knobl” means garlic in Yiddish, and “noble” is how Carsel presents the pungent plant in yards of quilted textiles, pages of words, and gallons of soup. The project is reclamatory, as Carsel explains in a series of related texts, garlic having once been deeply linked with Jews both culturally and prejudicially. To hand-dye fabric with garlic peels, to embroider it with little cloves, to cook those bulbs up into soup and offer it for the taking, is to embrace that cultural history while refuting the anti-Semitic one. Did Jews really have such a sulfurous stink that it warranted our expulsion from Spain? Think of that next time you nosh on gambas al ajillo in a tapas joint. Meanwhile, I’ll be busy filling my home with the scent of good old roasted knobl and calling it by a name that my dear departed bubbies would understand.
—Lori Waxman 2021-02-16 2:29 PM