Jota Mombaça’s moving installation evokes the undulating motion of tides, imbuing the seas with an omniscient voice that warns of the cruelties inflicted by humans. THE SINKING SHIP/PROSPERITY (all works 2022), is part of an ongoing series of the same title in which Mombaça submerges fabric in bodies of water and then dredges it up weeks later via performative actions. Draped from metal armatures are swaths of the creased linen and cotton that have been soaked in Venetian lagoons and northern California bays. Falling like curtains from ceiling to floor, the mottled, natural textiles show the traces of their journeys: Kelp clings to a frayed corner of one, and rust resembling blood stains another.
A haunting, elegiac sound piece reverberates in the gallery. Distorted crying, bass vibrations, and drips of water form a composition that evokes the bitter intersections of humanity’s repugnant crimes within the oceans. The soundscape is opaque, and even ambient, but still conjures the horrors of the transatlantic slave passage, the damage caused by climate change, and the lives lost during the ongoing migrant and refugee crises. The interconnected nature of these tragedies becomes manifest, and time contracts.
One metal support, rising from a pile of sand, was left bare for the first two and a half weeks of the show, before being draped by a cloth that had languished in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. The work’s title, Ghost 4(b)L Visa denied is a poem upside down, references the artist’s difficulties obtaining a visa to come into the US. Intentionally unresolved, this somber exhibition continues to develop in tandem with ongoing, urgent conversations elicited by Mombaça’s quietly harrowing work.
— Jeanne Gerrity