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moniquemeloche presents

A Wonderful Dream Amy Sherald


Front cover image: Pupa, 2016 Oil on canvas 54 x 43 inches


Amy Sherald A Wonderful Dream June 11 – August 27, 2016

This publication was created on the occasion of Amy Sherald’s first solo exhibition with moniquemeloche in summer 2016.

© 2016


Following her much lauded inclusion in our 2015 summer group show, Look At Me Now!, moniquemeloche is pleased to present the first solo exhibition by our newest gallery artist, Amy Sherald. In A Wonderful Dream, Sherald employs race to explore the evolution of one’s identity as a reaction to external directives. Born in Georgia in 1973 and now based in Baltimore, she credits her early years negotiating as a minority in a mostly white community as a major influence on her practice. Inspired by artists such as Bo Bartlett, Barkley Hendricks, and Kerry James Marshall, she paints dynamic portraits, designed to divulge an erudite understanding of the psychological consequences of stereotyping and racism. Each portrait depicts a friend or acquaintance of the artist, suspended in vivid fashions before a non-descript background, which Sherald describes as “the amorphous personal space of my own existence within the context of black identity and my search for ways to clarify and ground it.” To add to the otherworldliness, skin tone is rendered only in shades of gray, made by mixing Naples yellow and black oil paint. Ever critical of African American cultural history and the representation of black bodies, the series is Sherald’s satirical manifestation of identities shaped by political, social, economic, and cultural influences.

Amy Sherald (American b. Columbus, GA 1973, lives Baltimore) received her MFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2004), BA in Painting from Clark-Atlanta University (1997), and was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama (1997). Sherald is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculpture Grant (2014), a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2013), and was the Juror’s Pick for New American Paintings Issue 88 (2010). Just this year, Sherald was the first female to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize, for which her work will be added to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery Collection. Along with her first solo exhibition in Chicago at moniquemeloche (2016), Sherald’s recent solo shows include the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore, MD (2013), Richard Demato Fine Arts, Sag Harbor, NY (2011), and the University of North Carolina, Sonja Haynes Stone Center, Chapel Hill, NC (2011). She’s exhibited in group shows at moniquemeloche, Chicago, IL (2015), US Embassy Dakar, Senegal (2013), National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2013), and will exhibit this fall in Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC (2016). Sherald’s work has been published in Transitions: International Review, The International Review of African American Art, New American Paintings, Hycide Magazine, Studio: Studio Museum in Harlem Magazine, and the New York Times. Among her many artist residencies, highlights include Tong Xion Art Center, Beijing, China (2008) and Odd Nerdrum Private Study, Larvik, Norway (2005), and currently, Creative Art Alliance, Balitmore (2016). Sherald’s work is in notable public collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian Museum of African American Art and Culture, and the United States Embassy, Dakar, Senegal.

Opposite: Pilgrimage of the Chameleon, 2016 (detail)


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


Previous: The Boy with the Big Fish, 2016 (detail)


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


Mother and Child, 2016 Oil on canvas 54 x 43 inches


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


The Make Believer (Monet’s Garden), 2016 Oil on canvas 54 x 43 inches


Being Themselves: The Portrait Paintings of Amy Sherald Essay by Dawoud Bey, June 2016 “My work began as an exploration to exclude the idea of color as race from my paintings by removing “color” but still portraying racialized bodies as objects to be viewed through portraiture.” –Amy Sherald Amy Sherald’s paintings don’t just stay politely on the wall. They push into the viewers’ space, creating an experience that is both an experience of the painted object, but more deeply, an intimate engagement with the subjects inhabiting her work. I say inhabiting because of the palpable sense of physical presence with which she imbues them. The fundamental trope in the making of portraiture is to create a psychological and emotional experience of the depicted subject that is credible enough that the viewer then begins to have an experience of the subject that in some ways transcends its quality as an object. Through idiosyncratic gestural nuance, direction of the gaze, and something which might be called “the fullness of human description,” we become almost involuntarily engaged. Sherald brings all of these devices to bear on black bodies, which changes something, if not everything. What changes are the ways that the history of the representation of black subject in visual culture is equal to the heightened and fraught social narrative of race. Here in the States, that narrative begins in the South, where the shape of that contentious relationship between blacks and whites was first forged. The institution of slavery, with its construct of the black body being solely a tool of forced labor and sexual exploitation was of necessity subjected to a radical and necessary reworking when the institution of slavery was abolished. But while the institution itself may have been abolished, the toxic residue of misshapen racial relationships, and their forms of representations, continued. Thus the visual representation of blacks has long been a field of considerable contestation, since the social relations—whether subjugation or tragically diminished human respect—were telegraphed to the larger public via their visual corollaries. And thus the stereotypical images of blacks that pervaded the public arena for centuries, and were meant to justify first slavery and later still racist intransigence and dismissal of black autonomy, were created. These images were contradicted, of course, by the actual lived experiences of black people as they knew themselves to be. But the portraits that occupied black homes, on mantle places and nightstands, did not have a visible public manifestation. If they had, the institutions that were buttressed by racism and a false projection of black inferiority would have crumbled.


The Boy with the Big Fish, 2016 Oil on canvas 54 x 43 inches


Amy Sherald was born and raised in the south, a fact that is central to both her identity and her work. As the original hotbed of America’s troubled and tangled crucible of black and white relations, the south exacted a code of behavior from its black citizens that was central to not only their very survival but also their sense of self. How to raise children in that genteel environment of freighted and caustic racial paradox; children who were secure in their own dignified sense of self, graceful in their own self-possession, but clear about the contexts in which they must suppress that while wearing the mask of benign and deferential obsequiousness? Once in the public arena, outside of the confines and safety of the home, a clear sense of the differences between being oneself and being who one needed to be in order to survive was crucial. So Sherald, as a daughter of the south, grew up with an inherited and keen sense of the tension between the real and the performative. Her paintings occupy a place of tension somewhere in between the two. Sherald’s paintings are not based on a meticulous restatement of the facts; they are not descended from the photo-realist tradition. They are rather her own inventions, based on an actual person who she meets and photographs, yet not literally about that person. Met in the course of various social interactions, these subjects are reinvented through the material and conceptual frame of Sherald’s intentions. Isolated from any clear social space, they are thus unmoored from the dictates of sociology and free to become characters animated in Sherald’s own subjective retelling and reshaping of the black subject. Often posed and holding objects whose meanings are largely allegorical, the subjects have one foot in the real world and another in a space of Sherald’s own making. While the resulting narratives and the absence of a literal skin color, along with the heightened color palette applied to their garments and objects are meant to transport the viewer to a place of the imagination, the exquisitely rendered idiosyncratic gestures and knowingly described folds and drapes of their inhabited garments pull us into a space of credible experience. The tension between these two entities—the imagined and the illusionary real—sits at the center of Sherald’s rigorous practice as a painter. Whether in the suggested heavy weight of the casually opened coat in Pilgrimage of the Chameleon, 2016 or the tilt of the head and placement of the hands in The Make Believer (Monet’s Garden), 2016, Sherald understands and amplifies the devices of human presence and behavior that enlivens the paintings, even as they implicate the viewer in a relationship with the subjects of these paintings.


And the titles! Just as the gaze of the subjects toward the viewer implicates the viewer, and catches some of those viewers in the uncomfortable web of their own suppositions, the titles more fully call this out. So just what were you thinking as you viewed these imaginary lavishly painted black figures who have become a very real presence on Sherald’s canvasses? Depending on what you may be thinking, the titles should give you pause and cause you to revisit the subject and their place in your imagination. Perhaps the titles will give you cause to check yourself. Thus the titles are as much a part of the conceptual construct of Sherald’s work as the painted figures themselves. In the end, Amy Sherald’s subjects are simply being themselves, in all of their exquisitely engaging and provocatively rendered ordinariness. But within the freighted firmament of American social and aesthetic discourse, can black folks ever just simply be themselves, without qualification? Without some dissonance? Amy Sherald’s arresting paintings keep these questions reverberating, even as they keep us deeply and complexly engaged.

Previous: Mother and Child, 2016 (detail)


Contributor Biography

Dawoud Bey began his career as an artist in 1975 with a series of photographs, “Harlem, USA,” that were later exhibited in his first one-person exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had numerous exhibitions worldwide, at such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Barbican Centre in London, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art among many others. The Walker Art Center organized a mid-career survey of his work, “Dawoud Bey: Portraits 1975-1995,” that traveled to institutions throughout the United States and Europe. The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago organized a survey exhibition in 2012 “Dawoud Bey: Picturing People” that traveled to museums in the United States. In addition to numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries worldwide, Bey’s works are included in the permanent collections of numerous museums, both in the United States and abroad, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the Guggenheim Museum, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and other museums worldwide. He has been honored with numerous fellowships and honors over the course of his long career, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2002) and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991). He is currently a United States Artist Guthman Fellow. His critical writings have appeared in publications throughout Europe and the United States, including High Times Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967- 1975, The Van DerZee Studio, and David Hammons: Been There Done That. He has curated a wide range of exhibitions at museums and institutions as well, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Weatherspoon Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Wadsworth Atheneum, GASP (Gallery Artists Studio Projects) and the Hyde Park Art Center. Dawoud Bey holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University School of Art and is currently Professor of Art and a Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998. He is represented by Mary Boone Gallery, New York, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago. He juried the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, at which Amy Sherald was awarded first prize.


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


Innocent You, Innocent Me, 2016 Oil on canvas 54 x 43 inches


Pupa, 2016 Oil on canvas 54 x 43 inches


A Wonderful Dream, 2016 Installation view


Pilgrimage of the Chameleon, 2016 Oil on canvas 71 x 51 inches


AMY SHERALD American, b. Columbus, GA 1973 Lives and works in Baltimore, MD Education 2004 MFA, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD 1997 BFA, Clark-Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA Solo Exhibitions 2017 new paintings, moniquemeloche LES, NY 2016 A Wonderful Dream, moniquemeloche, Chicago, IL 2015 Off The Chain: American Art Unfettered, 2nd Street Gallery Charlottesville, VA 2013 Reginald F. Lewis Museum Baltimore, MD 2011 Richard Demato Fine Arts, Sag Harbor, NY The Magical Real-ism of Amy Sherald, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sonja Haynes Stone Center, Chapel Hill, NC Group Exhibitions 2016 Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; travels to Speed Museum Art Museum, Louisville, KY Africa Forecast: Fashioning Contemporary Life, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today, Smithsonian Museum’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.; travels to Tacoma Art Museum, Washington, Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri. 2015 Look At Me Now!, Curated by Allison Glenn, moniquemeloche, Chicago, IL 2013 US Embassy Dakar, Senegal National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. 2012 Revealing the Presence of Africans in the European Renaissance, Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, MD Mosaic Project Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Lancaster, PA 2010 Gallery 101, Miami, FL Richard Demato Fine Art, Sag Harbor, NY 2008 Quasi-Painting, Randall Scott Gallery, Washington D.C. Urban Renaissance, Ramscale Penthouse, New York, New York 2005 Femme Effect, Sub-basement Gallery, Baltimore, MD 2004 Maryland Institute College of Art Thesis Exhibition, Baltimore, MD 2003 Earth Works, installation, The Labyrinth, Portobello, Panama Baltimore City Hall, Artscape, Baltimore, MD 2002 MFA First Year Candidate Group Show, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD Lipstick, City Hall of Atlanta Gallery, Atlanta, GA


Group Exhibitions continued 1999 Museum of Panama, collaboration with Dr. Arturo Lindsay, Panama City, Panama 1997 Museum of Panama Education Gallery, Panama City, Panama Selected Bibliography 2016 Lesser, Casey. “These 20 Female Artists Are Pushing Figurative Painting Forward”, Artsy, June 10. Lam, Jenny. “10 art gallery exhibitions to see in June” Time Out Chicago, June 3. Stafford Davis, Jessica. “10 Female Artists of Color on the Rise”, The Root, March 22.2016 O’Brien, Jane. “New faces in the US National Portrait Gallery”, BBC News, March 15. “Amy Sherald the first woman to win 2016 National Portrait Gallery Competition”, Black Art In America, March 12. 2015 Reichert, Elliot. “Review: Look at Me Now!/Monique Meloche Gallery”, Newcity, August 1. “’LOOK AT ME NOW’ AT MONIQUE MELOCHE GALLERY”, ARTNEWS, July 27. “Off the Chain: American Art Unfettered”, Second Street Gallery, May 1. 2013 “Presence of Mind- Revealing Africans in the European Art”, Transitions: International Review, Issue 111. “Resisting Homogeneity in the 21st Century”, The International Review of African American Art, Vol. 24 No.2. “Portfolio - Life Stories”, Baltimore Style Magazine. Hycide Magazine, December (cover). 2011 “An Artist Perspective on Social Ascent”, Sag Harbor Express, May 26. “Studio Visits”, Urbanite Magazine, January Issue No. 79. 2010 American Art Collector, December Issue. New American Paintings Ed. 88. 2008 Studio, The Studio Museum of Harlem Magazine, Fall Issue. 2006 “In This Exhibition The Subject Is Women”, Baltimore Sun, February 22. 2004 “Under Busy Baltimore Streets Art Flourishes”, Baltimore Sun, October 24. 2003 “El Recuerdo de Una Feria”, La Prensa, June 1. “A Tale of Two Cities”, New York Times, June 30. Artist Residencies 2014-16 Creative Alliance Baltimore, Maryland 2012 Open Atelier, Amsterdam, Netherlands Art Rules Aruba Teaching Residency 2011 Art Rules Aruba Teaching Residency 2008 Tong Xion Art Center, Studio Assistant Resident, Beijing, China 2005 Odd Nerdrum Private Study 2003 Taller Portobello Artist Colony Portobello, Panama May 1997 Spelman College Art Colony Portobello, Panama 1996 Maine College of Art Portland, Maine


Awards and Grants 2016 Bethesda Painting Award Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2015 Semi- Finalist for Sondheim Artscape Prize 2014 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptures Grant 2013 Pollock- Krasner Foundation Grant Public Collections Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery United States Embassy Dakar, Senegal Smithsonian Museum of African American Art and Culture National Museum of Woman in the Arts, Washington D.C. FTI Technologies Inc., Baltimore, MD

Next page: Innocent You, Innocent Me, 2016 (detail)


moniquemeloche was founded in October 2000 with an inaugural exhibition titled Homewrecker at Meloche’s home, and officially opened to the public in May 2001. Working with an international group of emerging artists in all media, the gallery presents conceptually challenging installations in Chicago and at art fairs internationally with an emphasis on curatorial and institutional outreach.


moniquemeloche 2154 W. Division, Chicago, IL 60622 p 773.252.0299 www.moniquemeloche.com

Profile for Monique Meloche Gallery

Amy Sherald: A Wonderful Dream  

Published on the occasion of Amy Sherald's first solo exhibition at moniquemeloche in summer 2016.

Amy Sherald: A Wonderful Dream  

Published on the occasion of Amy Sherald's first solo exhibition at moniquemeloche in summer 2016.

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