May 302020
 

Nina Chanel Abney’s In the Land Without Feelings (2017) from her 2017 exhibition Safe House at Mary Boone Gallery in collaboration with Jack Shainman Gallery.

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?

Feb 132020
 

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.

 

Dec 202019
 

 

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.