Exhibitions > >


Sep 14 - Sep 25, 2021

Emma Safir

Raising Glitches III

Digital collage printed on silk and vinyl, spandex, smocking, appliqué, pine, upholstery foam, silk

57 x 37 x 1.5 in. (144.8 x 94 x 3.1 cm.)

Emma Safir’s work navigates the opacity of intersubjective experience and the transience of memory. Through the material exploration and manipulation of weaving techniques, smocking, lens-based media, rasterization, upholstery, among other methods, the objects she makes function as screen simulations, proxies and portals. Simultaneously convex and soft, absorbing and emanating light, the work employs illusion in order to both disorient and placate. The softness is deceptive. Although inviting, Safir’s pieces are resistant to being made sense of—creating an enticing object that cannot and will not allow itself to be totally understood.

The ethics of different modes of labor and how they are gendered are a throughline in Safir’s work; including the dynamics of digital labor. Through sewing and textiles, she interrogates western modernism, elucidating feminized histories. Her work exploits expectations of hardness and softness, which are both gendered. These ideas are exemplified through the interface, digital and otherwise, specifically Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s concept of “direct manipulation,” in which a user believes they have autonomy in the use of their screen, even if the manufacturer and AI hold the power.

Western modernism’s obsession with hardness and “simplicity,” brings Le Corbusier and the “curtain wall” to mind, a non load-bearing wall made of hard materials, notably glass, which exists to delineate space, functioning—or roleplaying—as a curtain. The curtain wall is seen as the modern solution to the fabric curtain. The desire to make something hard and undecorated is heralded as “progress”—while at the same time it actively shuns and belittles traditionally feminized labor and goods.

Smocking as a technique can be traced to the aforementioned problem within western modernism. The smocking Safir utilizes—often referred to as lattice smocking—allows the fabric to inhabit its own dimensionality because there is a tension—invisible but structural—supplied by thread and knots that hold the smocking in place. Fabric has an animacy that allows it to hold space or stretch (not only on the bias) without being stuffed. Smocking may be assumed to exist outside the modernist and digital canons, but like most patterning techniques, it is grid-based, and thus part of a long history of modernist interventions. Through rasterization, she creates semi-continuous photographs utilizing smocking, based on digital templates. Safir is smocking the grid, and thereby navigating the ambiguous space between the digital and the “actual.”


Emma Safir (b. 1990) is a Brooklyn-based artist who holds a BFA in Printmaking from RISD and an MFA in Painting/Printmaking from Yale School of Art.

Safir (pronounced 'sapphire') has presented her work in solo exhibitions at The Java Project, Brooklyn, NY (2019); Gallery Co.Co, Brooklyn, NY (2018) and Bunker Projects, Pittsburgh, PA (2017). Recent group exhibitions include Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA (currently on view through October 16, 2021), Lyles & King, Manhattan, NY (2021), and Yale School of Art's 2021 graduate thesis exhibition. She is currently a 2021-2022 Artist in Residence at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY.