Jul 092024
 

“Jeff Way In His Tribeca Loft”, 2023; “Turtle Owl Death Mask”,2018 and  “Egyptian Violet Gorilla Mask”, 2017

Kimiko Fujimura “Party-3 (Party at Peter’s), 1990, and “Kimiko Fujimura in her Chinatown Loft”, 2023

For his current exhibition, Loft Law, on view at Westwood Gallery, documentary photographer and filmmaker Joshua Charow photographed artists living and working in the remaining spaces still protected by Loft Law in NYC. The well-crafted portraits offer a chance to see how the artists have made these spaces home over the years.

The gallery has also included artwork by eleven of the artists featured in the photos- Carmen Cicero, Loretta Dunkelman, Betsy Kaufman, Kimiko Fujimura, Joseph Marioni, Carolyn Oberst, Marsha Pels, Gilda Pervin, Steve Silver, Mike Sullivan, and Jeff Way.

From the gallery-

In 1982, Article 7-C of the Multiple Dwelling Law, also known as the Loft Law, was passed in New York City. The law gave protection and rent stabilization to people living illegally in manufacturing and commercially zoned lofts. Hidden behind this legislation were thousands of artists who needed a live/work environment at an affordable rent. These artists protected by the Loft Law changed the trajectory of New York’s cultural landscape.

Three years ago, Charow found a map of the remaining buildings with Loft Law protection. He rang hundreds of doorbells to find and photograph over 75 Loft Law tenants across the city to document the last of these incredible spaces and the creative individuals who made them home. Charow’s interest in the Loft Law and the vanishing history of New York stemmed from his early teenage years when he became immersed in a subculture called ‘Urban Exploring,’ the practice of illegally climbing skyscrapers, bridges, and abandoned subway stations. One of the rooftops he visited was an old factory building in South Williamsburg, where a tenant explained to Charow about the building’s remaining tenants under Loft Law protection.

The photos are a living visual document of the expansive spaces: old flophouses on the Bowery, garment factories in Tribeca and SoHo, glass factories in Greenpoint, and even a former ice cream factory in DUMBO. From the 19th to the 20th century, many buildings in NYC, including SoHo, were manufacturing centers for items from sewing machines to textiles to printing houses. The massive light-filled loft spaces with high ceilings were left empty when these businesses vacated in the mid-1900s and moved to other areas outside of New York City. The industrial-zoned lofts were not legal to live in, as they did not meet the building requirements for residential use, and oftentimes were completely raw spaces without a kitchen, shower, plumbing, or even heat. However, artists were attracted to these large spaces where they could work and create at any hour of the day. At the end of the 1970s, loft living started gaining attention in the media and the wealthy started to become attracted to this lifestyle. Soon landlords began to evict the artist tenants in favor of a wealthier clientele. A group of artists formed the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants and spent years lobbying in Albany to gain legal protections and rent stabilization. At the time the Loft Law was first passed, there were tens of thousands of artists living in lofts across the city. Today, only a few hundred artists protected under the original 1982 Loft Law remain. This exhibition marks one of the first documentary insights into this vanishing history.

The majority of Charow’s images depict painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, and filmmakers captured amidst their industrial loft spaces. Notable portraits include experimental music and film artists Phillip (Phill) Niblock (1933-2024) and Katherine Liberovskaya (b. 1961); Phill was instrumental in the avant-garde music and film scene from the 1960s to the present. Visuals artists include 97-year-old abstract and figurative expressionist Carmen Cicero (b. 1926), who has works in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and Whitney Museum; Kimiko Fujimura (b. 1932), who in 1965 was selected as “Japan’s Top 5 Female Painters in Contemporary Art” by Geijutsu-Shincho, a Japanese monthly art magazine; minimalist painter Loretta Dunkelman (b. 1937), a co-founder of the all-female artists cooperative A.I.R. Gallery; and Gilda Pervin (b. 1933), whose studio occupies the top floor of a 1790s Quaker building linked to the Underground Railroad and happens to be the old studio space of famed sculptor Eva Hesse, who worked there from 1965-70. Also included is Chuck DeLaney, co-founder of the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants, an early activist group that was responsible for the lobbying and passing of the Loft Law.

This exhibition closes on 7/13/24.

Jul 052024
 

Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning, at the Museum of Modern Art, showcases the artist’s long and varied career. The exhibition includes her videos as well as props, sculptures, paintings and drawings. It’s a celebration of her collaborations (including Volcano Saga with actress Tilda Swinton), performances, installations, and her use of play to create all of these inventive works.

From the museum-

“I didn’t see a major difference between a poem, a sculpture, a film, or a dance,” Joan Jonas has said. For more than five decades, Jonas’s multidisciplinary work has bridged and redefined boundaries between performance, video, drawing, sculpture, and installation. The most comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States, Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning traces the full breadth of her career, from works that explore the encounter between performance and technology to recent installations about ecology and the landscape.

Jonas began her decades-long career in New York’s vibrant Downtown art scene of the 1960s and ’70s, where she was one of the first artists to work in performance and video. Drawing influence from literature, Noh and Kabuki theater, and art history, her early experimental works probed how a given element—be it distance, mirrors, the camera, or even wind—could transform one’s perception.

Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning presents drawings, photographs, notebooks, oral histories, film screenings, performances, and a selection of the artist’s installations. Jonas continues to produce her most urgent work through immersive multimedia installations that address climate change and kinship between species. “Despite my interest in history,” she has said, “my work always takes place in the present.”

The museum’s website has several videos of her work online, as well as an interview with the Jonas in her NYC loft (seen below).

Art21 also has some great videos worth checking out to learn more.

The exhibition at MoMa closes 7/6/24.

Jul 012024
 

Laura Letinsky’s has created several intriguing photographs for her exhibition, For, And Because Of…, at Yancey Richardson. Her unique assortments of objects- half eaten and smashed fruit, dying or dead flowers, loose papers, ceramic pieces- form works that challenge the idea of the still-life.

From the gallery’s press release-

The work in For, and because of… was made mostly during Letinsky’s 2023 residency in the South of France at La Maison Dora Maar, the former home of Maar, the French photographer, painter, and poet, who was also the romantic partner of Picasso. Inspired by the light of Provence in contrast to the dark weather of her home base in Chicago, Letinsky began a series she titled Who Loves the Sun in which she used natural light together with artificial light to provide her images with a radiant glow. Her subjects included borrowed objects such as a ceramic vase and glassware from La Maison that may have belonged to Maar. The detritus left behind from other artists-in-residence, as well as flowers and weeds growing nearby also found their way into her images. Yet, her photographs are not necessarily about what objects appear within them but rather about the medium of photography itself.

Letinsky explains, “I make pictures of very ordinary things in a way that destabilizes and questions the camera’s authority while also indulging in its sexiness, solicitating a visual pleasure that is tethered to other senses.” Letinsky complicates the singular point of view of the camera by building frames within frames and precariously positioning objects in relation to one another. In reference to her innovative picture spaces, Letinsky notes, “Cezanne’s still lifes described objects from multiple perspectives so as to refer to perception being a constantly shifting process. I try to harness this, to articulate that we’ve two eyes and are ambulant living beings.”

Through her work, Letinsky questions what is necessary to make a photograph that is considered “good.” Dissonance and interruption are components of her language in which objects’ perspectival positions are abstracted and gravity is elided. By working with objects associated with the home, she makes images that evoke tenderness and project an uneasy and fragile beauty.

The exhibition title, For, and because of… refers to the incommensurability of things, suggesting that there is not a concrete metric by which to measure or to reckon with life events. Letinsky notes, “So the show, the work, is for, and because of the wars, because you never called me back, for the rain that watered my garden, because the train was late, for my sons, because flowers bloom…”

This exhibition closes 7/3/24.

Jul 012024
 

For Stephen Shore’s latest exhibition, Topographies, at 303 Gallery, he has created stunning landscapes using a drone. The compositions draw you in and the details keep you transfixed.

From the gallery-

Beginning in 2020, this body of photographs was shot using a drone, resulting in sharply detailed aerial views of rural and suburban landscapes. Topographies builds upon concepts Shore has examined in his large-format landscapes from the 1970’s: pictures which uncover certain qualities intrinsic to the American vista. By employing a far-reaching, elevated perspective, Shore demonstrates how, from altitude, landforms are revealed, and conversely, how the built environment interacts with the land. In viewing these photographs, it becomes apparent that every detail of Shore’s pictures– from edge to edge, whether near or far– is as carefully considered and articulated as the next.

Shore has persistently explored new possibilities within the photographic image. Since his early practice, he has incorporated new formats and technologies, utilizing innovations as a means to achieve his own ends. Shore’s pictures seem straight forward at a glance but surprise with their ability to draw out the subtlest moments, distilling quiet sublimities from unassuming subjects.

This show closes 7/3/24.

Jun 132024
 

For the exhibition  Ming Smith: On the Road at Nicola Vassell, a variety of work from the artist’s impressive career is on display throughout the space.

From the gallery-

Nicola Vassell is pleased to present Ming Smith: On the Road, a selection of photographs from the artist’s archive that encapsulates the arc of her exploratory impulses as she sought and probed new subject matter and formal innovation from 1970 through 1993. Encompassing never-before-seen vintage and contemporary prints of images captured during her travels around the world, On the Road embodies the spirit of adventure and curiosity that advanced Smith’s singular entry into, and scrutiny of, the provinces of urban existence, nature’s quietude, family intimacy, popular culture, military life, and jazz milieus.

In the 1970s in New York, Smith’s practice was propelled by inquiry—both through her immersion in the Kamoinge Workshop and her preoccupation with the ideas of prominent twentieth-century American and European photographers. Cultivating her own radical sensibility in early experiments, she alluded to the virtuosity of Brassaï, Roy DeCarava, Diane Arbus, and Robert Frank. These artists set a tempo upon which Smith developed her own dexterity in portraiture, landscape, and street photography—highly attuned to the textures, geometries, and thrums pulsing through every spectrum of life. She recognized the haunting allure of an oil-slicked roadside and the liquid lightning of brass instruments in musicians’ animated hands.

Smith listens through her camera, sensitive to the harmony and dissonance that enliven her subjects and surroundings. At times, it is easy to forget that she works in a static medium, since each photograph transports its viewer into the energetic nucleus of the moment she captures. Through paint application, double exposure, and low shutter speed, Smith pushes photography’s form to the point of its brim and break. Like harnessing a memory, Smith underlines the evanescent—at once vivid and obscure.

This exhibition closes 6/15/24.

Jun 072024
 

Shaun Pierson

William Eric Brown

Sophia Chai

Sheida Soleimani

Gonzalo Reyes Rodriguez

Kevin Landers

Brittany Nelson

The seven artists on view at Luhring Augustine for the exhibition Tiptoeing Through the Kitchen, Recent Photography, each bring a unique vision to their practice. The artists included in this show are William Eric Brown, Sophia Chai, Kevin Landers, Brittany Nelson, Shaun Pierson, Gonzalo Reyes Rodriguez, and Sheida Soleimani. Below is more detailed information on the work from the gallery.

From the press release-

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.”  – Diane Arbus

Materialized in varying ways, kinship and cultural inheritance are frequent touchstones for many of these artists. William Eric Brown’s works — the source images for which were taken in Antarctica in the 1950s by the artist’s father while serving in the US Navy and stationed on an icebreaker — are instilled with new significance through his manipulation and reconceptualization, which address the current reality of climate change and its effects on the arctic. Sophia Chai explores her memory of learning the Korean alphabet as a child through her work. By drawing and painting the shapes and lines of the characters on the walls and floor of her studio, Chai reimagines them in space, thereby abstracting written communication into an embodiment of the sensation of each word being formed inside the mouth.

Sheida Soleimani stages elaborately constructed tableaux to address interwoven narratives of family, politics, and caregiving that trace both personal and public histories. Her carefully fabricated scenes demonstrate her commitment to approaching her practice with measured sensitivity; rather than divorcing her subjects from their own realities, Soleimani creates a contemplative space in which each incorporated object or image conveys an intentional message. Similarly, Shaun Pierson’s work illuminates the complex dynamics in the relationship between photographer and subject. Entwining conflicting sensations of inhibition and desire, Pierson lays bare the often simultaneously transactional and vulnerable apparatus and process of making photographs. Kevin Landers’ photographs, taken on the streets of New York and across the country, are rooted firmly in the here and now. He documents a collection of seemingly unnoticed moments, paying careful attention to unexpected details that, more often than not, most people would simply walk past — ephemera such as an abandoned shopping cart or an intricately woven spider web, expanding our notion of landscape beyond simply the pastoral.

Queer desire and a longing for another space and time are explored through the re-authoring of found or archival images in the works of Gonzalo Reyes Rodriguez and Brittany Nelson. Reyes Rodriguez pairs images from his own history with a series of photographs he purchased from a bookshop in Mexico City — dated between 1987 and 1993, the found snapshots evidence the personal experiences of a young, presumably queer, man known to us as “Technoir.” By combining the two archives, Reyes Rodriguez invites us to dwell in a space of merged memories, neither of which we can fully inhabit, and of the desire to know more. While at first glance Brittany Nelson’s use of archival materials is less overtly personal, her work considers themes of otherness, isolation, and the desire for connection. In one of the series on view, she perceived a sense of romantic devastation in the images taken by Opportunity, the Mars rover, which she amplifies by re-printing them using the 1920s analog bromoil photographic process, thereby infusing them with an added eerie, otherworldly quality.

Though varied in their approaches to photographic practice, what unifies these artists is their investigation of longing, care, and lineage — familial and otherwise — and the way in which they use the medium and the process of making the work as a means to engage with others, with themselves, and to challenge expectations. Generating a constellated conversation that draws upon photography’s history, yet turns toward something altogether new, the artists included in Tiptoeing Through the Kitchen, Recent Photography imbue the seemingly unknown with flashes of recognition.

This exhibition closes 6/8/24.

Jun 012024
 

It’s easy to become a bit overwhelmed at Arthur Jafa’s exhibition BLACK POWER TOOL AND DIE TRYNIG at 52 Walker. His latest show includes a large installation, photography, sculpture, painting and a new film. Passing the reflective black surface and walking through his sculptural installation, Picture Unit II,  you’ll find portraits of bikers, a photo from the Manson murders, a subway car, and a stripper at a club next to a photo from a Rwandan genocide memorial. Next to where a video plays a collage of clips, an installation of cut out figures includes himself, Miles Davis, The Sex Pistols, and artists Cady Noland and Adrian Piper.

Death plays a large part in the show, as does personal and collective history. His best friend of forty years, cultural critic Greg Tate, recently passed away, also contributing to the heaviness of this recent work.

From the press release-

Lauded for his achievements as a filmmaker and cinematographer as well as a visual artist, Jafa has developed an incisive, chameleonic practice, through which he seeks to unravel the cultural significance and strictures ascribed in tandem upon Black existence in the Western world. In BLACK POWER TOOL AND DIE TRYNIG, Jafa invokes the body’s personal, political, and industrial guises in one fell swoop, deftly interweaving images and objects to create a forceful and maximal space that beckons toward engulfment and revelation alike.

Jafa’s exhibition at 52 Walker brings to the surface questions of form, force, and resistance— in addition to tensions that result from common slips and errors. The title of the show, BLACK POWER TOOL AND DIE TRYNIG, applies strategies of sequencing and juxtaposition, channeling various meanings in its wordplay—including political ideologies, industrial terminologies, and the specter of death—while also nodding to the complexities of the word “black” and its many inflections. Favoring intuitive arrangement over uniformity, the artist eschews traditionally monolithic modes of presentation and instead coheres multiple simultaneous events, applying a decidedly Black and non-Western viewpoint that confronts twentieth-century art historiography and museology’s indebtedness to African aesthetics.

In the video below, also on the 52 Walker website, Jafa discusses the show with screenwriter Judnick Mayard and is worth watching for additional insights.

This exhibition closes 6/1/24.

May 302024
 

Beverly Semmes’ exhibition Cut Paste, at Susan Inglett Gallery, expands on her previous work with new textures and fabrics. A red velvety robe hovers behind a sky blue painting containing a wave of blond curls and a partial eye looking out at you. Two pairs of hands on yellow mirror each other.  Duplicates appear again in the paintings adorning textured vests sewn to a gauzy orange fabric.

The materials enhance the details of their attached paintings, but they also create questions about their meaning. What is the purpose of the robe, the high heels, manicured nails, the fake (or real) white fur – do they represent luxury or the illusion of it?

From the press release-

I begin by drawing and painting on an image from a porn or fashion magazine page. I then use scissors and tape to further separate the image. from this context/environment. A new image is born from these parts, most of which belong to my longtime friend Nikie, who modeled in the early 2000s. The pair of hands, the foot in a shoe, those are all Nikie’s.

—Beverly Semmes

In Cut Paste, Semmes ups the ante in her perennial mixing of mediums, found images, scale and techniques. Early on Semmes brought her roughhewn ceramic pots literally into the folds of regal wall-to-floor sculptures, her signature works, setting them out like buoys in the pooling fabric. Now paintings enter the fray, no longer separate but equal. While several large paintings are presented conventionally, others are treated as accessories to the fabric pieces, where they appear at chest height. Smaller than a breast plate, too large to be a pendant, the odd coupling trades in the artist’s long standing engagement with Surrealism and the absurd. One of the assemblages has a companion piece–a full-size, independent version of the “worn” painting–amplifying the dialogue between historically cisgendered sewing and painting, the one grounded in the here and now, the other conjuring a world apart. The paintings are themselves hybrids resulting from a recursive process of hand painting on iterative hi-res scans of the cut, pasted and taped magazine drawings. But paint has the final word, variously altering, accentuating and concealing what lies beneath.

The group of work as a whole is set to the rhythm of repetition through doubling and Rorschaching. A pair of wall-mounted twins in orange organza, standing shoulder to shoulder like choir boys, wear matching paintings. Doubling down, the small canvases feature a mirrored composite image involving photographic and painted bare legs, red pitchers, a sofa and stripes. The image has then been further altered–abstracted–by its upended presentation as a vertical when it actually reads horizontally. The fluid positionality carries on throughout the exhibition in the way Semmes toggles between abstraction and figuration, digital or painted illusionism and IRL, pitchers and stilettos, dressed and undressed, power and vulnerability. Here Semmes levels the playing field, using her favorite models along with long-coveted fabrics, shapes, objects, and patterns as fodder for an unhinged formalism. Her restless process of cutting and pasting leads the way.

This exhibition closes 6/1/24.

May 222024
 

Artist and activist Andrea Bowers is based in Los Angeles but was born and raised in Ohio. This provides the connection to the work in Exist, Flourish, Evolve, currently on view at moCa Cleveland, which advocates for environmental protections for the area. The educational material informs the viewer, while the artwork reminds us how much beauty there is to lose.

From the museum-

LA-based artist Andrea Bowers bears witness in her work, drawing attention to and inspiring movement around the most urgent issues of our time. Her drawings, sculptures, installations, and films chronicle and preserve history as it occurs, documenting collective action and amplifying the labor and lived experiences of activists dedicated to socio-political change.

Developed through an ongoing partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and activist Tish O’Dell, Exist, Flourish, Evolve is a new, multi-site, multimedia campaign that builds awareness and action around the dangers facing Lake Erie and all of the Great Lakes ecosystems. It features a monumental neon sculpture installed on a waterfront balcony of the Great Lakes Science Center; a documentary investigating the impact of factory farming on Lake Erie’s ecosystem; and a presentation in moCa’s Lewis Gallery that includes a newly-created drawing of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, first-of-its-kind legislation protecting an entire US ecosystem that is part of the global Rights of Nature Movement.

Bowers was raised in the small town of Huron, Ohio and spent her childhood on the shores of Lake Erie, connecting to the lake itself like a member of her family to be cared for, cherished, and protected. Yet, Lake Erie and its watershed are abused and endangered by corporate practices such as contaminant dumping, toxic runoff from industrial farming, and the introduction of non-native invasive species. Exist, Flourish, Evolve demands justice for the Great Lakes, urging us to prioritize the preservation of our natural ecology over industrialization and capitalism.

Within moCa’s gallery, a timeline connects Bowers’s new and recent artworks with historical facts and archival materials using two catastrophic climate events as bookends to Bowers’s life thus far: the 1969 fire on the Lake Erie-connected Cuyahoga River (a result of oil slicks covering the water) and the massive 2014 algae bloom that blanketed Lake Erie and invaded Toledo’s water systems, preventing residents from using tap water.

From the Maumee to the Cuyahoga, the works in Exist, Flourish, Evolve come together to share the histories of our water, demonstrate the interconnectedness of ourselves and our natural world, and remind us, as Dr. Vandana Shiva states, “nature is not out there; we are a part of it.”

This exhibition closes 5/25/24.

May 192024
 

Ann Schaumburger, “Silver Moon in Darkened Sky House”, 2023, Flashe on wood

Ann Schaumburger

Ann Schaumburger

The three exhibitions currently on view at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn all focus on homes in unique ways. In the first gallery, Ann Schaumburger’s paintings of houses for New Work continue her exploration of color.

From the gallery-

For over fifty years, Schaumburger has used the house as a basic structure—a scaffold—for exploring how colors interact with one another. Schaumburger builds her houses with blocks of four pigments, using stencil brushes and tape to fill each house with modular forms. Influenced by the theories of Josef Albers, Schaumburger’s approach to color is meticulous yet playful. Different colors dazzle and dance when placed in proximity, creating a sense of surprise.

The paintings in this new body of work depart from Schaumburger’s earlier explorations in one key detail: the houses are now mounted on wheels. This choice was inspired by Schaumburger’s reading of the biography of Henry David Thoreau, whose family had attached wheels to their domicile, allowing them to transport the house across different sites in Concord, Massachusetts. “The idea of taking a solid house, attached to the ground, and letting it roll away,” Schaumburger says, “seems both comical and deeply suggestive of our times.”

Schaumburger has described her color choices as an attempt to “solve an aesthetic problem.” Yet the work is not entirely abstract. Titles like Forest House Under Summer Sky and Moonscape Moving House gesture toward the fact that certain color relationships become evocative of different seasons, places, and times of day. All of the paintings in the exhibition feature a crescent or small globe in the upper left or right quadrant. Sometimes, this globe is rendered in metallic gold or bronze, recalling the sun. Other times, it is a lunar silver. The round shape of the globe mirrors the house’s circular wheels. Just as the earth rotates around the sun, the wheels rotate around their own axles, allowing the house to move.

The wheeled house becomes a spirited metaphor for Schaumburger’s practice. Dynamic rather than stationary, it embodies the liveliness and energy of Schaumburger’s color choices, as well as the open-ended nature of her process.

Roberta Dorsett’s photos for Sleepwalking explore isolation and uneasiness in her family’s suburban home.

Roberta Dorsett, “Sleepwalking”

Roberta Dorsett, “Sleepwalking”

Roberta Dorsett, “Sleepwalking”

From the gallery-

Dorsett’s Sleepwalking is a series of photographs examining isolation in the suburbs and how a sense of danger often accompanies seemingly idyllic environments. The work depicts three women, Dorsett’s aunt, her cousin, and Dorsett herself, occupying the shared space of a suburban home in Connecticut. Tension arises from the camera’s interaction with the women. The camera acts as an intrusive person, an interloper, and a voyeur as it captures the women in moments of discomfort and vulnerability.

In Dorsett’s previous work, she took on the role of family historian, photographing moments of in-betweenness that result in candid and uncontrived images. Her obsession with taking photographs of her family is driven by their lack of extant family albums or other visual documentation. Because of the family’s socioeconomic status, photography was considered a luxury and only done for special occasions. Moreover, Dorsett’s mother had to leave behind her family’s photographic history when she immigrated from Jamaica to the United States.

Dorsett initially intended Sleepwalking to be a straightforward documentation of her aunt and cousin’s experience as first-time Black homeowners. But she found herself drawn into the project’s narrative and began photographing her family in a more constructed and story-driven way, drawing inspiration from slasher and horror films. Dorsett captures the visceral thrills of these types of films by continuing to utilize her family to explore the concepts of voyeurism and anxiety. The single-family home, once a symbol of milestone achievement, now becomes a surreal site of both safety and terror. As she stood behind and in front of the camera, registering the uneasiness and distress of these three women inside their home, Dorsett dreamed up a distorted reality and asked herself, “Am I awake or sleepwalking?”

Finally, Denisse Griselda Reyes multimedia installation for Did you have a hard time finding me?  explores home and identity using a combination of original artwork and family archives.

Denisse Griselda Reyes, “Did you have a hard time finding me?

Denisse Griselda Reyes

From the gallery-

Featuring short films and familial ephemera alongside a new body of paintings, this exhibition humorously meditates on questions of self-formation, reparative representation, and archival preservation, inviting us to dwell in the absurdity these ambitions unintentionally generate. This is Reyes’s first solo exhibition in New York City.

Presenting what Reyes has called a “maximalist constellation of memory,” the exhibition juxtaposes materials from their family archives with paintings and multimedia projections within an installation space that recalls, yet does not perfectly reproduce, the domestic interiors of Reyes’s family. Anchoring this exhibition is a short film that ties together two threads. First, the border crossings of Reyes’s grandmother Anita that were necessitated by the peril of the Salvadoran Civil War, and this history’s impact on Reyes’s mother. Second, the queer dating life of Reyes’s indignant and savvy alter-ego, Griselda. Part-narrator, part-drag-persona, part-survival-strategy, Griselda offers Reyes a means to dictate the terms of their own representation against the expectations that constrict queer Latinx artists in the United States. Still, Griselda is also beholden to identitarian demands. Reyes allows their avatar to straddle the line of spectacle, flirting with failure, acknowledging that self-formation might be an impossible endeavor. By juxtaposing Griselda’s exploits with the narrative of their grandmother, Reyes interrogates whether familial, social, and historical processes have the final word on what generates a self.

Reyes has produced Griselda as a mediating figure—one who negotiates their own identity between femininity and non-binary gender, and who personifies the absurdity of any singular narrative of origin. In its plenitude and play, the exhibition exceeds the ostensible facticity of the familial and historical archive. Featuring new paintings that hazily recreate family photographs, a vitrine full of childhood teeth that parodies genres of museal presentation, screens that toggle between home videos and the simulation of archival footage, and striking blue-green walls that recall the past domestic spaces of Reyes’s family in El Salvador, the exhibition transforms processes of preservation into acts of mythmaking. The exhibition is less a recreation of the artist’s family’s domiciles than a space of critical reflection and ambiguity. Guests are invited to join in this meditation—and may find their own notions of selfhood implicated as a result.

These exhibitions close 5/19/24.