Imagine stepping off a paved road onto a swath of greenery, seeking a shortcut. Over the course of many years, many others do the same. In trampling the underbrush, a new path is created—together, unconsciously, you have carved what’s known as a “desire line.”

That phenomenon lends its name to the title for a new exhibition of Cape Town–based artist Igshaan Adams at the Art Institute of Chicago. His largest exhibition to date, “Desire Lines” is also Adams’s first major show in the U.S. and features more than 20 majestic, intricate tapestries and textile installations, dating from 2014 to ones fresh from the studio. To each he has added found objects drawn from his native South Africa—shells, rope, wire, glass, and beads—and he sculpts them with help from his friends and family.

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