Devraj Dakoji
Rhonda Khalifeh

May 9, 2023 – July 14, 2023

Image: Left: Devraj Dakoji, detail from On the LIRR series, 2001, ink on train ticket, 2.125 x 3.25 inches; Right: Rhonda Khalifeh, detail from More Bad Geographies, 2019, Screen print on cotton and cotton flannel, cheesecloth, dye, polyester thread, d-rings, Multi-panel installation, dimensions variable

Opening Reception: Tuesday, May 9, 2023, 4–7pm

The Yeh Art Gallery, St. John’s University is pleased to present the exhibition Devraj Dakoji and Rhonda Khalifeh, on view from May 9th through July 14th, 2023. This project presents works in conversation by artists Devraj Dakoji and Rhonda Khalifeh that address—both directly and indirectly—the movement of people from one place to another and the artifacts that retain the markings of these passages. As both artists share an intimate knowledge of printmaking, and also bookmaking in Khalifeh’s case, this exhibition considers the relationship between printmaking, seriality, duration and movement over time.

Comprised of over one hundred drawings created over an eight-year period on Long Island Rail Road ticket stubs, the works in Dakoji’s LIRR series were made during a period when the artist was traveling between Manhattan and Babylon, NY. These energetic drawings mark a period where the artist had little time, except during this time in transit, to make his own work but was concurrently working in collaboration with many renowned artists as a Master Printer at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. Dakoji’s LIRR series presents drawing as a form of daily journaling, an utterly essential creative force that is undeniable and constant. Many of these small drawings incorporate elements of animals or figures that can be found in Dakoji’s larger works, or have been studies for larger works.

Rhonda Khalifeh’s textile installation More Bad Geographies consists of hand-dyed and screen printed cotton sections hanging from straps in an arrangement that is modular and suited to the site. Reflecting upon the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, Khalifeh began this project considering both the utility, materiality and security of garments people wear as they traverse vast distances fleeing unlivable conditions in their home countries. Layering of screen-printed elements and materials such as cheesecloth connect back to Khalifeh’s personal memories and associations with home, while the objects together signify a group of people and their chosen items conceivably taken along a treacherous journey. More Bad Geographies presents these materials as possible garments that hold both utility and memory, as they both protect and might possibly remind one of the place they have left behind.

Devraj Dakoji (b. 1944, Dharmoj Gudam, India) is a visual artist working in printmaking, drawing and painting. Dakoji’s heritage is a strong influence on his work and worldview, as we can see in bodies of work titled, Pranamu and Wheel of Life. He looks to tradition to develop a visual vernacular of animalistic and phantasmagoric imagery. Pranamu, or life force, is a concept at the heart of his work. He is a Master Printer at Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop and is based in New York City.

Rhonda Khalifeh is a Syrian-American textile artist based in New York. She received her MFA from the fiber department at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2017 and has been an artist in residence at the SVA Bio Art Lab, Textile Arts Center, and Center for Book Arts. Rhonda has exhibited her work across the country and is included in the collections of the Met Museum, Center for Book Arts, and New York Public Library. In 2018 she published her first book, Project Z, with Open Projects Press and is currently working on a second Project Z book.