First solo exhibition in the Netherlands with multidisciplinary and new work. 22 October 2022 – 5 March 2023

Bad Color Combos presents an overview of the recent work of artist Yto Barrada. Her multidisciplinary practice includes film, textiles, photography, sculpture. This solo exhibition presents a selection of Barrada’s work of the last five years, together with new artwork conceived especially for the exhibition. In it, she continues to explore cultural phenomena, personal histories and natural processes. In recent years, Yto Barrada has developed new series of works around themes such as the acceleration and deceleration of time; motherhood; the history of education; play; the artisanry of natural dyes and color as material; traditions of modernism and our futile attempts to control nature.


In her work, Yto Barrada often refers associatively to international modernism in an attempt to destabilize a western interpretation of art and to examine the local issues of globalization. In the After Stella series, she references a specific moment in the history of abstract painting: the color field paintings produced by the American artist Frank Stella in the mid-1960s. Stella drew his inspiration from his travels in Morocco and titled paintings after Moroccan cities. Alongside Stella, Barrada also invokes Mohamed Chebaa, Farid Belkahia, and Mohammed Melehi, painters affiliated with the Casablanca School in the 1960 who pioneered North African modernism in their abstract paintings.

Curator Leontine Coelewij: “Yto Barrada has a unique voice in contemporary art. She explores various forms of abstraction, which can be interpreted as a critical reflection on the exclusionary mechanisms of modernism and can equally be seen as metaphors for current global crises. At the same time, she tells very personal stories and refers to the transfer of knowledge and experience from mother to daughter.”

Director Rein Wolfs: “The exhibition is permeated by Yto Barrada’s long-standing research into the transformation of color. In a sense, her aesthetic (color) choices can be traced back to social themes such as migration and diaspora, major thematic lines within Stedelijk’s programming. Bad Color Combos complements recent exhibitions at the Stedelijk by Remy Jungerman and Sedje Hémon, Abdias Nascimento, and Imran Mir, which offer new invocations of twentieth-century modernism.”


This exhibition presents three of Barrada’s most important films in 8 and 16 mm: Tree Identification for Beginners (2017), The Power of Two or Three Suns (2020) and Continental Drift (2022). The Power of Two or Three Suns was shot in an industrial testing laboratory where a variety of materials and products are subjected to artificially simulated natural forces to assess their durability. The exposure of colors to the power of the (artificial) sun acts as a metaphor for the passage of time, for aging and decay, and for the impact of climate change and the ecological crisis.


Yto Barrada has made a number of works especially for this exhibition. The Mothership, the Strait, the Edge (2022) is a wall collage at the entrance of the exhibition, which refers to The Mothership, an eco-feminist research centre and residency she initiated, focusing on natural dyes and textiles, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar and the southernmost tip of Spain. The plant extracts from this garden provided the dyes for many of the artworks in this exhibition.

The new sculpture Tangier Island Wall (2022) refers to an island off the coast of Virginia in the United States, with a population of 378 inhabitants, which is slowly sinking into the sea due to rising sea levels. This small community, with a vanishing economy based on crab fishing in the famous Chesapeake Bay, has tried to control nature. In this sculpture, Barrada used the crab traps to create a minimalist structure, a porous ‘sea wall’.