Holly Graham
Sustaining a Weight

On September 28, If Body presented Sustaining a Weight, the first solo exhibition in Italy of artist Holly Graham, who previously resided at the British School at Rome between January and June 2023. The exhibition, held at Lateral Roma from Sept. 28 to Oct. 15, showcased a series of Graham’s new works that span between audio and text, sculptural forms, still and moving images.

The artist’s research cross different epochs and geographies, to question how ideas of identity and otherness take form and are shaped over time, particularly in relation to the perception and understanding of blackness, ethnicity and race.The works on display focused on the figurative motif of the blackamoor in Italian furniture design and visual culture, from Baroque art to the present, and documented sculptural representations of a black “other”, often depicted in gestures of servitude and positioned as a functional element supporting tables, trays or candelabra. This line of investigation moved alongside the analysis of passages from the Latin treatise De Architectura, a key text at the basis of the Western architectural canon, in which the Roman writer Vitruvius discusses the function and meanings associated with caryatids, atlases, and talamons – sculptural elements of human figures carved in the round or in high relief, employed as structural support or decorative component in buildings.

Graham developed a layered reasoning to question how images and imagery from the past are carried through and reverberate into the present, affecting bodies.