Feb 292024
 

Today’s throwback is to Jenson Leonard’s solo exhibition Workflow, at Wood Street Galleries in Pittsburgh, from the beginning of February.

From the gallery about the work-

Workflow, the first institutional solo exhibition of artist Jenson Leonard, centers on a titular film that explores the velocity and momentum of Blackness as it relates to the philosophical concept of acceleration—the notion that the only way out of capitalism is through its intensification.

In Workflow, a spectral Michael Jackson Halloween mask recites a surrealistic quarterly earnings reports. Building on a 2017 essay by artist Aria Dean titled “Notes on Blacceleration,” the short film centers on the ways in which the Black subject grapples with its commodified status within the labor market despite—or, resultant of—its own history as a commodity, stemming back to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Completed during Leonard’s residency at Pioneer Works in 2021, the video utilizes uncanny humor as a mechanism to expose the shared grammars inherent in Afro-pessimism and speculative finance.

Within the exhibition, the film repeats simultaneously across two grids of computer monitors situated on ergonomic desks that flank the gallery, mimicking the workstations that can be found ubiquitously across stock trading floors and financial institutions. Sculptures modeled after computer keyboards and mouses are displayed on the desks, each rendered inoperable by concentric riffs that symbolize the erratic transformations caused by the flows of capital. The appearance of Jackson represents a transmogrification of its own; whereas many have aligned the controversial pop icon’s bleached skin and surgical procedures with Black self-hatred, Leonard positions his bodily modifications as a radical rupture from racial paradigms of being.

In Leonard’s own words, “Workflow is defined as the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. My film seeks to disabuse notions of completion, whether it be completion of the human, the nation state, or civil society. As Dean notes, Blackness is ‘always already accelerationist’ via its incongruence with Western humanism, a wrench thrown into the locomotive gears of ‘capital and subjecthood.’ Her essay prompts us to look toward the way that the Black has been historically constructed outside of the human, as coterminous with the slave. Slavery therefore represents a kind of proto-automation, a mass forced coercion of labor, and the Blacks’ transition from object to subject calls for a reappraisal of accelerationist ideas about the (non)human entity and its revolutionary potential.”

The artist continues, “There is something about going to work—the repetition of it—that gets inscribed at an epigenetic level, as an everyday, embodied violence. From there, I thought about the panoptic workplace (open air plan, transparent yet closely surveilled, management that does not have to be in the room to be monitoring you), the fetish of efficiency (ergonomic mouse and keyboards so you can work longer), biometric data of a labor force (fingerprint and facial scans to help reduce repeat processing tasks). All of these methods to maximize profits and production can be traced back to methods worked out and perfected in the cotton and sugar cane fields hundreds of years prior.”

The text from the video was included on one of the gallery walls (image above) but I’ve included it below as well as it is definitely worth reading.

“Looking out across the macro- Panoptic eyes are everywhere. Predictive models rendered bilious, You are scalable, You contain platitudes. Clean and renewable, black from the waste management down. These are micro-credentials too big to fail. Angel investors watch over you, guide you through your webinar. You are green with infrastructure. A Nick Land acknowledgment. A multiprocession of the tiniest micropixels in all of the Anglosphere. Plan your obsolescence. Chitin’ circuitry courses through you. Wayward modulation thrumming, throbbing like an old techno spiritual. A Self driving mythology Keloid optimized. Upload speeds faster than Drapetomania. A contactless, decentralized, hands free accumulation. The base salary determines the superstructure of your beast of burden of proof of concept. Perfection is the enemy of egress. Pay the heap of flesh no mind, live in the nanosecond. Fake it till you’re skeuomorphic. You’re more than the sum of your outsourced manufacturing components. Know your neural net worth. Walk with your overhead held high. There’s never been more exciting growth in the excrement sector! It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to unsubscribe from my Onlyfans. Rather, If you can’t handle me at my Linkedin you don’t deserve me at my locked in chastity. Will you risk it all to manage my assets? Are you willing to do my taxes from the back? Tax to mouth? From the overton window, to the overton wall, to the overton sweat drop down my overton balls. Going, going… Zong.”

Dec 222023
 

José Parlá’s majestic paintings, pictured above, are from his series CICLOS: Blooms of Mold. They are currently on view as part of the Brooklyn Museum exhibition, Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls. The other artists included are Maya Hayuk, Kennedy Yanko, and the late Leon Polk Smith.

From the museum about the work-

In his monumental compositions, José Parlá layers and scrapes paint to obscure, reveal, and abstract both text and narrative, creating landscapes with textured gestural skies interwoven with a unique code of writing to reveal a new horizon with a universal line. Parlá’s abstracted text visually recalls underground mycelium formations, complex and mysterious fungi communication networks he references that interconnect everything on earth through a web of life. The five newly created paintings on view draw upon his youth as a Cuban American in Miami in the 1980s, his world travels, his almost fatal battle with COVID-19 in 2021, and his survival and recovery.

While in a three-month-long coma after contracting the virus, Parlá experienced dreams that carried him through his healing process. While recovering in the hospital, he transformed these visions into acrylic on paper drawings and, once back in the studio, into these powerful, otherworldly paintings that evoke natural landscapes. Their distinct horizon lines and internal, precise, psychological geographies remind us of our shared humanity.

Blooms of Mold, this new body of large-scale paintings, was inspired by what the art historian Simon Schama, in describing the art of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, once called “blooms of mold,” which one encounters on decaying urban and natural landscapes.

Parlá chose the subtitle Ciclos (from the Greek Kúkos, meaning circle) to refer to the life cycle and the function of the mycelium. It connects to ecosystems, providing nutrients and information to trees, which, in turn, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, providing critical support for the respiratory systems of humans and all other living beings. Without mycelium, there would be no life.

The exhibition will be on view until 7/28/24.

Sep 122023
 

 

Above are two of the works from Athena LaTocha’s The Remains of Winter (Battle Hill, East), 2022, currently at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

From the cemetery’s website about the work-

Athena LaTocha creates large-scale works inspired by her close observations of the natural world, from the deserts and mountains of the Southwest to the Great Plains. She often incorporates elements of these environments, including soil, sand, bark, and rocks. Recently, she has been particularly drawn to trees, considering them as record keepers that bear the markings of time.

Inspired by Green-Wood’s centuries-old trees and its legacy as a place of remembrance, LaTocha has created The Remains of Winter. She cloaked the remains of two massive European beeches on Battle Hill in thin sheets of lead, a material that has been used for centuries in coffins to slow the decomposition of the body. By hand-forming this malleable metal onto the trees, LaTocha captures the unique details of their shapes and forms, even as they slowly degrade beneath the lead.

All around these sculptures, the Cemetery is in a continuous cycle of transformation. Felled trees are turned into mulch for new plantings, earth is removed then replaced for each new burial, and even the stone monuments themselves slowly erode. Through The Remains of Winter, LaTocha memorializes these shifts and changes while also raising profound questions about what we choose to commemorate and mourn—whether it is what we can witness before us or that which, like the movement of continents and land masses, unfolds over lifetimes.

The sculptures will remain on view through September 2023.

Nov 112022
 

Bosco Sodi’s outdoor sculpture installation, Perfect Bodies, presented by Pioneer Works, was on view in Redhook, Brooklyn from October 2020 until December 2020.

From Pioneer Works’ press release-

Sited on a once teeming commercial concrete parking lot two blocks south of Pioneer Works, Perfect Bodies speaks to, in artist Bosco Sodi’s words, “silence, contemplation and the passing of time—the small things in life and our relationship with the earth.” The installation consists of large-scale clay spheres and cubes made from local clay fired in the artist’s studio in Oaxaca, Mexico, which made the long journey by road across the Mexico-US border to Red Hook. A longtime resident of the neighborhood—itself named after the tone of its own clay soil—Sodi is known for his use of raw and organic materials to create textured paintings and objects.

Sodi’s ongoing dialogue with nature and landscape, shaped by his interests in Japanese aesthetics and Abstract Expression, puts himself in the lineage of both Arte Povera and Land Art—two post-war movements which emphasized, respectively, radically simple materials and an integral relationship between art and earth. As Spanish author Juan Manuel Bonet remarked in the artist’s 2020 eponymous monograph, his three dimensional works reconcile an interest in minimalism with the practices of Mexican heritage. On this topic, curator Dakin Hart further writes: “At his place in Oaxaca, Sodi hand forms large geometric sculptures from clay and fires them in a makeshift kiln on the beach. Cuboids in different formats recall the scale and how-did-they-do-that-craft of cyclopean architecture across the ancient world. While spheroids, each formed by eye in a landscape of unbelievable things, might be the petrified remnants—or organic vanguard—of a Jurassic invasion. The past seeding itself into the present, a starting point for nature’s revenge.”

Currently, as part of Art Biennale 2022, Fondazione dell’Albero d’Oro is showing What Goes Around Comes Around at Palazzo Vendramin Grimani, in Venice, Italy, until November 27th, 2022.  The art installation will include his paintings as well as recent sculptures.

 

 

Sep 182022
 

Unity, was created by Hank Willis Thomas in 2019 as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program. The 22.5 foot sculpture is a replica of NBA player Joel Embiid’s right arm.

From the artist on the work (via Downtown Brooklyn)-

“The sculpture is an homage to and celebration of the unique and multi-faceted character of the borough of Brooklyn. The spirit of Brooklyn has always been about upward mobility and connection to roots. The large-scale sculpture of a bronze arm pointing toward the sky is intended to convey to a wide audience a myriad of ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition, and perseverance”.

Thomas will be speaking with UCLA professor and author Robin D.G. Kelley today (9/18/22) at 2pm The Broad Museum about his art practice, his activism, and his piece in the museum’s current exhibition, This is Not America’s Flag.

The program will be live-streamed on The Broad’s website and their Facebook page.

Jun 052020
 

For more of Brooklyn artist David Barthold’s work, check out his website and Instagram