The above images are from Titus Kaphar’s exhibition Shifting Skies at Jack Shainman Gallery in 2017. Kaphar recently created the cover of the June 15th issue of Time Magazine covering the George Floyd protests.
From the press release-
Safe House is so termed for being a place of refuge. It is also a phrase used more colloquially as a space where one escapes the dangers affiliated with the law. With these eight single-panel paintings, Abney invites us into a place of reprieve, showing us people partaking in everyday activities. Abney’s scenarios offer sincere portrayals that counter how black life is represented in the mainstream media. The decision intentionally explores black joy as a means of resistance.
A deeply accomplished artist associated with innovating history painting, Abney took a multipart strategy to reclaim a space for creativity for this exhibition. To begin, she sourced graphics from posters dating from the 1960s that addressed aspects of safety for occupation, home, and leisure, abstracted these, and made them grounds for large-scale compositions. Then, against this backdrop Abney painted figures, objects, and letters to articulate the complex dynamics of contemporary urban life. She unequivocally is in pursuit of a depiction of commonplace activities and things. With each intuitively developed composition, each element such as the figures is often obfuscated by another element such as text, which in turn is challenged by a direction, such as an arrow. The imagery is reminiscent of sign painting, and each move made by Abney necessitates another. This chain of forms turns each element over to a type of writing, which opens a narrative and its reception to many readings. The abstracted source material (safety posters), combined with the abounding narratives from the detailed scenes, returns us to the title of the exhibition. The phrase prompts us to ask directly or obliquely: What caution and care are these narratives invoking and advocating? What danger might not be readily apparent to the viewer here?
Part of what makes Andy Warhol such an incredible artist is the variety and volume of work he created in his lifetime. Currently in both of Jack Shainman Gallery‘s locations are a selection of Warhol’s photographs that are not often seen. Photo collages, “stitched photos”, nudes, and, of course, photos of celebrities, come together to give new perspective on Warhol’s work within the medium of photography.
From the press release-
Warhol’s photographic oeuvre remains one of the most central and enduring aspects of his creative process. Initially inspired by commercially available press photos of celebrities, such as iconic images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Marlon Brando, as well as newspaper photographs of death and disasters, Warhol incorporated photographs as source material for the creation of his silk-screened paintings and prints. With the creation of a singular visual vocabulary, Warhol articulated his sensibilities while conveying his detached, observing eye through the use of a dispassionate machine: the camera. Photography spanned the entirety of Warhol’s career as he fused numerous genres of photo-making.
By the mid-1960s, Warhol’s eye turned to the moving image as he began making 16mm black and white short films, dubbed Screen Tests, which featured his “Superstar” Factory crew. Several Screen Tests are on view in this exhibition, including films that highlight Factory life, some very early notions of performance art, and the raw visual materials for Lou Reed’s The Velvet Underground EP. These films catalyzed into Warhol’s revolutionary conceptual feature-length films, including Sleep, Empire, and Heat.
Concurrent with his exploration of film, Warhol utilized photobooths in Times Square to create serial images of art dealers, collectors, and bright young creatives who frequented the Factory. These strips became source material for some of Warhol’s most iconic early portraiture, including paintings of art dealer, Holly Solomon, collectors, Judith Green and Edith Skull, and Warhol Superstars, such as Jane Holzer and Edie Sedgwick. Towards the end of the 1960s, Warhol began carrying with him a Polaroid camera used largely to document friends in his inner circle, including Mick Jagger, Diana Vreeland, Lee Radziwill, and Nan Kempner. Warhol referred to the Polaroid camera as “his date” – always with him, a tool for both engaging with his subjects, as well as a distancing mechanism.
In 1977, Warhol’s Swiss dealer, Thomas Ammann, presented him with the gift of a 35mm Minox camera, which became the artist’s primary photo-making instrument until the time of his death in 1987. The resulting unique silver gelatin prints, which were produced during the final decade of Warhol’s life, illuminate most comprehensively the artist’s personal and artistic sphere. Warhol’s final and most obscure body of work, a series of “stitched photos,” was created by sewing together these silver gelatin prints in serial panels of four, six, or nine identical images. Nearly five-hundred stitched photo works were created in all, most of which are now in the permanent collections of global institutions.
This exhibition brings together one of the largest selections of Warhol’s stitched photos, created within the culminating moment of Warhol’s photographic oeuvre and, indeed, his entire career. In January 1987, Robert Miller Gallery opened the sole photography show ever presented during the artist’s life, as Warhol intended to make an incredible push for photography as a medium to be appreciated as a central part of his narrative and art-making processes. Six weeks later, Warhol died unexpectedly.
This exhibition closes 2/15/20.
Jack Shainman Gallery is currently showing two solo exhibitions of recent paintings by Meleko Mokgosi. The first, (a painting from which is pictured above) is titled The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future.
From the press release-
The title of Mokgosi’s 20th Street installation, The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future., is taken from Karl Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. This text points to the limits of revolutionary discourses and proposes that it is only through disavowing the past that revolutionary action can occur. Similar to this argument, this body of work argues both for a disavowal of past grand narratives as well as the recuperation of non-Western forms of knowledge that were not privileged to coexist with conventional or established discursive frameworks. All twelve paintings are paired with a text that is taken from the writings of women either from Africa or the African Diaspora. The texts and paintings examine a wide range of issues, from African feminism and the struggle for liberation by African countries, to love, solidarity, and aesthetics. By pairing text and image, Mokgosi’s work aims to further questions around the politics of representation and strategies of resistance.
The second exhibition is Pan-African Pulp, pictured below.
From the press release-
…Mokgosi’s body of work at 24th Street, uses popular southern African pulp magazines or photo-novels to examine, broadly, the history of Pan-Africanism. These photo-novels, colloquially referred to as look-books, were first printed in the 1960s as an off-shoot of Drum Publications. Unlike Drum magazine, which addressed politics and issues of race in South Africa, photo-novels such as Lance Spearman avoided engaging with debates around politics, instead choosing to offer entertaining James Bond-like episodes of crime fighting. The photo novels—a less expensive alternative to filmmaking—are composed of staged photographs depicting action scenes, and follow a script conveyed with speech bubbles written in English, combining elements of comic books, films, and magazines.
Mokgosi has appropriated this trope and created new dialogue and plots within the existing imagery. By specifically focusing on Pan-Africanism, Mokgosi hopes to find meaningful ways of reconceptualizing the importance of a movement that sought to build alliances towards Black consciousness and foregrounding the rights and aspirations of Africans to self-determination and self-governance. Mokgosi reflects, “There is no doubt about the injustices, inhumanity, exploitation, violence, and racism caused by and associated with the Euro-American slave trade, European imperialism in Africa, and institutionalized racism in the Americas; the effects of these are ongoing and reflected not only in cultural and geopolitical contexts but also in the very reproduction and circulation of capital.” This work is the first of many stages through which Mokgosi intends to engage with and ask urgent questions around Pan-Africanism and solidarity.
Both of these exhibitions close 12/21/19.
This month there are a lot of excellent exhibitions on view in Chelsea.
At David Zwirner is God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin, a group show curated by writer Hilton Als. The works are varied and include portraits by Richard Avedon (shown above), a friend of Baldwin’s who also attended De Witt Clinton High School with him, as well work by Njideka Akunyili Crosby (seen below), Kara Walker, James Welling, Beuford Delaney, Glenn Ligon and many more.
At Marianne Boesky Gallery is Pure, Very, New, Paul Stephen Benjamin’s first solo exhibition in New York. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs, sculpture, and single and multi-channel video installations, as well as a new site-specific black light installation in the internal passageway between the two spaces.
From the press release–
Benjamin’s practice is rooted in a vigorous meditation on blackness, considering: “What is the color black?” “What does black sound like?” “Is it an adjective, a verb, an essence, or all of these components mixed to create a nuanced whole?” For his large-scale monochromatic paintings, Benjamin thickly coats the canvas in varying shades of black, producing a sensation of boundless depth. This is further accentuated by Benjamin’s application of the particular tonality’s name within the field of color—the words appearing to float and dissipate within the richness of the paint itself. The development of these paintings followed an ordinary visit to a hardware store, where Benjamin was confronted with the many permutations of commercial black paint. Shades of black came with emotive titles like “Totally Black,” “New Black,” and “Pure Black,” among numerous others. For Benjamin, this sparked a multi-layered investigation of the color and whether it could be distilled or understood differently within the context of a painting or the color itself.
… Benjamin’s practice also extends into a conceptual investigation of sound, and how “black” can be conveyed and experienced aurally. In these works, he often uses single and multi-channel video installations to loop portions of particular historic and cultural footage to isolate fragments of collective memories or internalized narratives. With Black is the Color (2015), which will be included in the exhibition, Benjamin arranges a towering cluster of antiquated televisions, forming a glowing grid that endlessly repeats a segment of Nina Simone’s 1959 performance of “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Here, Benjamin appropriates only the words “Black is the Color,” creating an abstraction of the song that reveals the contradictions and parallels between the notion of black being the color and it being a color. Moving fluidly from sound installation to painting to photography and sculpture, Benjamin’s practice is driven by the idea that blackness, whether explored as a matter of conceptual inquiry or identity, cannot be captured in a single action, emotion, or language.
At Yancey Richardson is Blue Sweep, an exhibition of Andrew Moore’s beautiful photographs, taken in Alabama and Mississippi over the course of three years.
At Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is Oliver Jeffers’ charming painting exhibition For All We Know. If his work looks familiar it may be because Jeffers is also the author of several critically acclaimed picture books.
From the press release–
This series of paintings illuminate a dream-like nocturnal world populated by astronauts, deep-sea divers, sinking ships, floating pianos, and burning matches. Omnipresent throughout are the night sky and the ocean – the two great and unknown frontiers – glittered with the imaginary lines that create constellations, serving in this case as a mysterious key to unlock our world.
Expanding on years of observation, from the history of his upbringing in Belfast, to contemporary New York City, Jeffers’ evokes the precarious state of our home and its inhabitants. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s seminal book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, he presents pianos as dubious flotation devices and our planet presented as a cumbersome motor vehicle, overheating as we argue over what to play on the radio. From researching astronaut’s descriptions of looking at Earth from the distance of the Moon, Jeffers noticed certain recognizable patterns to the way in which he discussed the politics of his hometown from a vantage point of across the Atlantic Ocean. In finding that few people outside of Northern Ireland knew or cared of the intricate conflict there, a great waste of time was revealed: a divided population identical to each other in every way save for the flags they flew and the stories they told. Tragically, each side’s identity are still firmly rooted to the existence of the other, and therefore locked into a spiral of repeated patterns.
At both of Jack Shainman’s locations are a series of impressive paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
For a new kind of exhibition experience, Asad Raza has organized the group show Life to Come, at Metro Pictures which “brings together works that meditate on the creation of new worlds and new models for living.” There are no labels or listings for the works included in the show. Instead there is a guided tour by hosts who take you around the various works to help you draw connections between the objects. Adding to the uniqueness of the experience, at one point the host pauses while talking and partially in motion, recreating a work by artist Tino Sehgal, and at another they show you that they have changed their eye color, a work by Rirkrit Tiravanija.
From the press release–
Experiencing these works together incites intellectual, physical, and spiritual understandings of what it means to make an entirely new world, one in which reality is made from fiction. Raza asserts that “by re-immersing ourselves in the strangeness and fecundity of attempts to create worlds that have gone before, our imagination of a world beyond the present may be renewed.” The uncertainty about what new paradigm awaits us is unsettling in the wake of the modernist 20th century, but it links us to previous generations who experienced radical reinventions of biological and social life.
All of these exhibitions close 2/16/19.
Gordon Parks was an incredible photographer whose influence continues to be felt in photography today. He had a long creative career that also expanded beyond photography to include writing several books, composing music, and directing films- the most famous being Shaft.
The Gordon Parks Foundation recently hosted the exhibition ELEMENT, which focused on several of the photographs that inspired Kendrick Lamar’s video from his album DAMN, seen below. The photo pictured above can be seen as part of the exhibition of Gordon Parks’ work I Am You Part 2 at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. It is from his series Segregation Story for Life magazine which focused on the daily lives of three black families in Alabama in 1956.
To see more of Parks’ work and the work he has influenced, The Gordon Parks Foundation’s website is a good resource for upcoming exhibitions around the world.
If you are heading to Chelsea this weekend, stop in to these galleries which have excellent shows closing 10/21/17.
From the press release-
In Free Experience, I have returned to the figure-ground relationship as a way of exploring the range of possibilities for the representation of an illusion in as many different ways as possible, from trompe l’oeil to verisimilitude, while still remaining undeniably within the confines of a traditional painting. These paintings are a collision of abstraction and representation, of illusion and three-dimensional form. They are defined not so much by the shape of the objects they represent, but by the perceptual slippage between object and illusion. They are, like all my work, somewhere between sculpture and painting, and perhaps in Krauss’s view would simply be considered painting in the expanded field.
Looking at art is a free experience. It costs you nothing. But it should also be an experience that is free from encumbrances, one that inspires you to see the world as if for the very first time. But perception is a tricky thing. It is never without personal history. How do we see, what do we think we see? And what makes the experience of looking at a work of art so compelling? The answer lies outside of language, in that transformational moment between looking and seeing, between information and knowledge. In that moment before the need to translate the experience into language moves from the id to the ego. Seeing is indeed forgetting the name of the thing one sees.
Upstairs at David Zwirner’s 20th Street location, is the gallery’s first exhibition of the work of Ruth Asawa (pictured below). It includes many of her famous wire sculptures as well as works on paper, paintings, and vintage photos of her and her work taken by Imogen Cunningham.
Carrie Mae Weems currently has two exhibitions in Chelsea at Jack Shainman Gallery’s spaces. Included in the work at the 24th Street space is All the Boys (2016), in which slightly blurred images of young black men wearing hooded sweatshirts are placed next to text panels that include information, some of it redacted, about the black victims of police violence. While those images are more subtle, the most affecting piece in the exhibition is the video All The Boys: Video in Three Parts. It includes some of the cell phone footage from several of the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police, including Eric Garner and Philando Castile, and is incredibly difficult to watch. This is interspersed with funeral scenes, the dreamlike image of a man running on a treadmill with a clock in the background, and Weems’ calm voice speaking over the scenes.
In the 20th Street space are images that will be more familiar to those aware of Weems’ previous work Roaming and Museums and is an interesting contrast to the work in the other gallery. In Scenes & Take (2016), she places herself, with her back to the viewer, on the sets of various successful television shows created by and starring black people, including Empire and Scandal. She then includes commentary in text on the side of the images.
In a recent interview with the New York Times she mentions the reasoning behind this focus on Hollywood-
I decided to go and stand in spaces where I think significant transformations are taking place in television as a way of pointing, trying to understand the role of black actors. Directors like Lee Daniels and Shonda Rhimes are laying the foundation for what can be imagined within the context of American culture. Most people go for their programming to paid television, so there’s an economic shift. Network television has been left to poor people.
Both these exhibitions close Saturday 12/10/16.