Grada Kilomba “18 Verses”

Pace Gallery (540 W 25th St.)

poster for Grada Kilomba “18 Verses”

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Pace presents an exhibition of the work 18 Verses (2022) by Grada Kilomba at its 540 West 25th Street flagship in New York from May 12 to July 1.

The exhibition, organized in collaboration with Goodman Gallery, marks the artist’s debut presentation with Pace. Kilomba, who joined Pace’s program in the US in 2023, has nurtured a practice centering on decolonial storytelling. This exhibition will spotlight her sculptural installation 18 Verses, which has never before been exhibited in the US.

Through her work spanning performance, staged readings, video, and sculptural and sound installations, Kilomba— a Berlin-based Portuguese artist—draws on memory, trauma, gender, postcolonialism, and notions of selfhood to interrogate concepts of knowledge, power, and cyclical violence. Informed by psychoanalysis, the artist’s unique practice of storytelling gives body, voice, movement, and form to her own texts, creating subversive and poetic imagery. Her process interrupts the collective imaginary, and it is guided by a series of questions: “What stories are told? Where are they told? How are they told? And told by whom?”

Drawn from Kilomba’s acclaimed large-scale installation, O Barco | The Boat (2021), a 32-meter-long sculptural slave ship memorializing the Middle Passage, 18 Verses continues using the boat as a metaphor to explore the relationship between power and historical repetition. This sculptural installation reveals the silhouette of a shipwreck, alluding to migrant routes across the Mediterranean and other global waters today, while echoing images, gestures, and sounds that insinuate a sense of cyclical violence. As the artist states, “When history is not told properly, its barbarity repeats itself.”

The installation is composed of burnt wooden pieces, each featuring an engraved verse from a poem written by the artist and hand-painted with gold leaf. In a gesture of affection and warmth, these verses are translated into six languages: Kimbundu, Yoruba, Creole from Cape Verde, Portuguese, English, and Arabic from Syria, evoking a timeless and resonant narrative about old empires and post-coloniality. The burnt wooden pieces are mantled in long segments of black fabric, which can be understood as symbolizing water or an imaginary female entity, guardian of the verses. After the wood undergoes a traditional burning process, it is immersed in a sonorous landscape in which human breathing negotiates its own space amid the sound of wind and waves. As such, 18 Verses explores the material duality of ancient techniques and contemporary sound technologies.

An artist-led discussion with scholar Tina Campt presented by Pace Live on May 11 at 5 PM—ahead of the exhibition’s opening reception from 6 – 8 PM that evening—will complement Kilomba’s presentation of 18 Verses. Further details about this live conversation, which will take place amid the artist’s presentation, will be revealed in the coming weeks. Visit for updates.

18 Verses will be installed on the seventh floor of Pace’s 540 West 25th Street gallery from May 12 to July 1. The exhibition will be closed on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20. The show will reopen to the public during regular gallery hours on Tuesday, May 23.



from May 12, 2023 to July 01, 2023


Grada Kilomba

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