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London Selling Exhibition

AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN

8–25 November 2017


1. Mequitta Ahuja (detail)


13. Shinique Smith (detail)


London Selling Exhibition

AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN 8 – 25 November 2017

Exhibition Dates & Location 8 – 25 November 2017 30 Berkeley Square, London W1J 6EX

Curator Dr. Arnold Lehman alehman@phillips.com

Viewing Monday – Saturday 10am–6pm Sunday 12pm–6pm

Exhibitions Manager Susanna Graves +44 20 7901 2909 sgraves@phillips.com


Introduction by Dr. Arnold Lehman

Dr. Arnold Lehman Senior Advisor to the CEO

In a truly dynamic reshuffling of the American art world, AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN looks anew at the exciting and increasingly powerful signature of a growing number of American artists who both happen to be black as well as those who look deeply into their blackness and/or black culture to create exceptional works of art. This exhibition brings together articulate and engaging works by twenty-six important American artists - works  created primarily over the period of nearly four decades leading up to today. Several major early works are included – such as an amazing painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat of 1981 – as critical markers of an artistic trail leading back to what is now seen as the formative and sometime revolutionary years of the 1960s and 1970s.  In her groundbreaking 2001 exhibition Freestyle at the Studio Museum in Harlem, then curator and subsequently director Thelma Golden, carefully assessed that critical and transitional moment in time for African American artists as well as forecasting what was ahead when she wrote “They are influenced by hip hop, alt rock, new media, suburban angst, urban blight, globalism, and the Internet - the felicitous device of international communication and new optimism in the wake of the initial postmodern urge to define the avant-garde as dead. They live in a world where their

particular cultural specificity is marketed to the planet and sold back to them. As a group, they exemplify the presence of art school training in that they create work that refers to multiple histories of contemporary art and culture -- both non-Western and that of the Western modernist tradition... They are both post-Basquiat and post-Biggie. They embrace the dichotomies of high and low, inside and outside, tradition and innovation with a great ease and facility. Like the generations before them, they resist narrow definition. Most importantly, their work, in all of its various forms, speaks to an individual freedom that is a result of this transitional moment in the quest to define on-going changes in the evolution of African-American art and ultimately to on-going redefinition of blackness in contemporary culture.” For those museum visitors who had the opportunity to see Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at Tate Modern over the past several months, the artists of AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN offer a brilliant next chapter in the art made in the United States with new vocabulary and redefinition at every turn. 

Arnold Lehman Director Emeritus Brooklyn Museum


1. Mequitta Ahuja

b. 1976

Sales Slip, 2017 oil on canvas 84 x 80 in. (213.4 x 203.2 cm) £22,250 ‡


Born 1976, Grand Rapids, MI Lives and works in Baltimore, MD 2003 MFA, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL 1998 BFA, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA Selected honors Houston Artadia Prize (2008), Joan Mitchell Award (2009), and Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2011). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Selected public collections include Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Saatchi Gallery, London; and Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto. In the New York Times on June 1, 2007, critic Holland Cotter said of Ahuja’s work, “Referring to the artist’s African-American and East Indian background, the pictures turn marginality into a regal condition.” Ten years later, Mequitta Ahuja further explored the questions of representation and heritage in answering questions posed to her in Elephant magazine on February 29, 2016: “My aim as an artist is to engage in the conversation about representation that has been going on for millennia. By employing the languages and idioms of art from the past to address my contemporary position, I update and alter the pre-existing meanings of those various art idioms and create new meanings. In addition to the Western art canon, I study stories and imagery representative of my ethnic heritage. I am African American and Indian American. By combining ideas sourced from outside of the Western canon with large format oil painting, I weave my complex cultural experience into the history of art.”

© Courtesy of the artist

In response to the question of self-portraiture, Ahuja continues her story: “Largely related to my unusual ethnic heritage and wanting, needing to have imagery in the world that reflected my identity, I have always made self-portraits. I turned to the exclusive use of self-portraiture for the figures in my work in 2007. This was a gradual shift. As a graduate student, in order to produce source material for my work, I started photographing myself. Over time, this became an essential part of my artistic process. While I have made many changes in the imagery and themes of my work over time, one thing that has not changed is my insistence on positioning in art, a woman of color as the central creative agent.” In speaking of herself and her work, the artist said: “A variation of the term coined by author Audre Lorde, I refer to my work and process as ‘Automythography.’ I define Automythography as a constructive process of identity formation in which nature, culture and self-invention merge.  Proposing art as a primary method of this process, my works demonstrate female self-invention and self-representation through the deployment of her own tools… I view painting and drawing as a cumulative process of time and marks.  Whether using crayon, brush, palette knife, collage or printing block, I build form and surface through the accumulation of lines and strokes.  The physicality of my technique is mirrored by my female protagonist’s assertive presence.  She is both subject and maker of her world.”


Born 1977, Los Angeles, CA Lives and works in New York, NY and Beijing, China 2001 MFA, Yale University, School of Art, New Haven, CT 1999 BFA, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA Selected honors US State Department Medal of Arts (2015); The Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award for Artistic Achievement (2014); Cultural Ledership Award, American Federation of Arts (2013); Americans for the Arts, Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence (2008). Selected museum exhibitions include The Brooklyn Museum, New York; Phoenix Art Museum; The Jewish Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon. Selected public collections include Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Denver Art Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Seattle Art Museum and many private collections. Starting with the obvious, Kehinde Wiley was just selected to paint the official portrait of former president Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. One of his works takes on Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps atop his favorite horse, Marengo. Wiley’s reinterpretation shows the same white horse, but ridden instead by a black man in camouflage and Timberland boots. Wiley told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in 2015 that “What I choose to do is to take people who happen to look like me -- black and brown people all over the world, increasingly -- and to allow them to occupy that field of power.” Critic Roberta Smith made the announcement in the New York Times on October 16, 2017. “Barack and Michelle Obama don’t like to waste an opportunity, in word or action, to make larger points about contemporary life and culture. In that vein, their choices of artists for their official portraits… shine a spotlight on the state of American art. In their selection of Kehinde Wiley, for Mr. Obama’s likeness… the Obamas continue to highlight the work of contemporary and modern AfricanAmerican artists, as they so often did with the artworks they chose to live with in the White House…Their choices then and now reflect the Obamas’ instincts for balancing the expected and the surprising, and for being alert to painting’s pertinence to the moment. Mr. Wiley, who is 40 and known for his art-historically savvy portraits of young black men and women, has been on collectors’ must-have lists for more than a decade. His visibility expanded exponentially when his work was featured in 2015 on the television series “Empire,” in the art collection of Lucious Lyon, the record label founder played by Terrence Howard.” “The Obamas’ choices come at a time when figurative painting and portraiture are growing in popularity among young painters interested in exploring race, gender and identity or in simply correcting the historic lack of nonwhites in Western painting. Mr. Wiley is adept at heroicizing his subjects — some of whom he found through open calls or simply by approaching people on the street. He endows them with the poses and gestures of kings and nobles borrowed from portraits by Velázquez, Holbein, Manet and Titian and also sets them against bold, sometimes jarring patterns of rich brocades, Dutch wax fabrics or Liberty’s wallpaper. One of his most reproduced works is an equestrian portrait of Michael Jackson that recycles Velazquez’s portrait of King Philip II mounted on a white charger while a battle rages in the distance.”

© Tony Powell 2015

“Mr. Wiley’s flamboyant portraits of men, in particular, give them a worldly power and often a gravitas that they don’t necessarily possess in real life. That is part of his work’s irreverent, perspectivealtering force. It will be fascinating to see if Mr. Wiley rises to the occasion of painting a world leader like former President Obama, who already has a big place in history and plenty of dignity…. If flamboyance is not the best way to go, Mr. Wiley certainly has alternatives, as exemplified by his more restrained half-portraits based on the work of the Northern Renaissance painter Hans Memling. Mr. Wiley has at times delegated painting to assistants in the manner of a Renaissance master. It seems safe to assume that this is one commission he will tackle himself.” Two years prior to his new presidential commission, on May 22, 2015, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered interviewed Wiley who said that the first time he stepped into a museum as a child, it was incredibly intimidating. “Great big paintings, history, gilded frames, a sense of power, a sense of majesty,” he said. “It was alienating but it was fabulous at the same time, because I was trying to learn how to paint. And here you had images where people had spent hundreds of years trying to figure out how to coax reality into form, and here it was.” Wiley continued to speak on why he chooses to work in traditional forms rather than create something new. “My love affair with painting is bittersweet. I love the history of art — you asked me about that moment that I first looked at the stuff and when I first fell in love with it. It was only later that I understood that a lot of destruction and domination had to occur in order for all of this grand reality to exist. So what happens next? What happens is the artist grows up and tries to fashion a world that’s imperfect. Tries to say yes to the parts that he loves, and to say yes to the parts that he wants to see in the world, such as black and brown bodies — like my own — in the same vocabulary as that tradition that I had learned so many years before.” “It’s an uncomfortable fit, but I don’t think that it’s something that I’m shying away from at all. In fact, I think what we’re arriving at is the meat of my project, which is that discomfort is where the work shines best. These inconvenient bedfellows…are my life’s work…. What I wanted to do was to look at the powerlessness that I felt as — and continue to feel at times — as a black man in the American streets. I know what it feels like to walk through the streets, knowing what it is to be in this body, and how certain people respond to that body. This dissonance between the world that you know, and then what you mean as a symbol in public, that strange, uncanny feeling of having to adjust for ... this double consciousness.”


2. Kehinde Wiley

b. 1977

Portrait of Quentin Lee Moore, 2017 oil on canvas, in artist’s wood frame 39 x 33 in. (99.1 x 83.8 cm) £53,000 © Courtesy Kehinde Wiley Studio


© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ DACS, London/ADAGP, Paris/ARS, New York 2017.


Born 1960, Brooklyn, NY Died 1988, New York, NY Selected museum exhibitions and performances include

3. Jean-Michel Basquiat

1960-1988

Untitled, 1981 acrylic, oil stick, pencil, spray paint, paper collage on wood Signed, dated and inscribed “NYC 81 Jean-Michel Basquiat” on the reverse. 48 x 30 x 1 1/2 in. (122 x 76.2 x 4 cm) Price on request

Barbican Art Gallery, London; Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Fondazione La Triennale di Milano, Milan; Serpentine Gallery, London. Selected public collections include Museum of Modern Art, New York; Menil Collection, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, CT; Daros Collection, Zurich; Musee du Luxembourg, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Basquiat’s paintings of African American athletes and cultural heroes are among his most personally and politically charged works. In the figure of Jackie Robinson, Basquiat recognized a resilient hero and a captivating icon of self-made success, who managed to triumph against all odds in the form of deep-rooted racial prejudices of the 1950s. Untitled, 1981, is one of Basquiat’s first images of the famed ball player, and one that predates most of his “famous negro athletes.” It is also a metaphorical selfportrait of Basquiat as a defiant competitor of his day. The human figure quickly emerged as the central theme in Basquiat’s work, employed as a platform for combining autobiography with African American history and popular culture. In a 1983 interview with curator Henry Geldzahler, Basquiat said “I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them,” and that “theblack person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. Yet while he commemorated icons such as jazz luminary Charlie Parker and boxing champion Joe Louis later in his career, it was the context of Jackie Robinson within the world of baseball that made it the most attractive and urgent of his early subjects. It is an image steeped in both American history and Basquiat’s own personal gratitude for those who have paved the way in breaking barriers. Without such heroes to guide him, Basquiat may never have persevered as one of the greatest contemporary artists of the end of the 20th century. Basquiat’s obituary, written by Michael Wines on August 27, 1988 in the New York Times summed up his meteoric career. “In a city that exalts successful artists in the fashion of rock stars, Jean Michel Basquiat seemed blessed. When he burst onto the art scene in 1981, his paintings of anguished figures were hailed by some critics as works of genius…. Mr. Basquiat was 27 years old when he was found dead in his apartment in the East Village on Aug. 12 from what friends say was an overdose of heroin. The precise cause of his death awaits the results of tests by the New York City medical examiner, which will take several more days. Mr. Basquiat was the most famous of only a small number of young black artists who have achieved national recognition. Art experts have called his death a personal tragedy and a major loss to the art world.  While Mr. Basquiat outwardly enjoyed the life of an artistic and social prodigy, he was viewed by many friends, art dealers and critics as ill-starred. Friends say he was exploited. Some say he resented being a black man whose fate twisted with the whims of an all-white jury of artistic powers. Others say he pined for fame but was crushed by its burdens.


Some friends believe greedy art dealers and collectors exploited him. Some say wealth fed his longtime appetite for drugs… Mr. Basquiat’s struggle hints at the hazards posed by quick fame and wealth in the 1980’s artistic world. But it is not unlike the struggle of many gifted young people in sports, business and other fields where unusual talent breeds not only rewards but unbearable demands for even greater success.” From Marc Mayer’s essay on “Basquiat in History” in the catalogue of the Brooklyn Museum’s critically important 2005 Basquiat exhibition, he wrote: “Basquiat speaks articulately while dodging the full impact of clarity like a matador. We can read his pictures without strenuous effort—the words, the images, the colors and the construction—but we cannot quite fathom the point they belabor. Keeping us in this state of half-knowing, of mystery-within-familiarity, had been the core technique of his brand of communication since his adolescent days as the graffiti poet SAMO. To enjoy them, we are not meant to analyze the pictures too carefully. Quantifying the encyclopedic breadth of his research certainly results in an interesting inventory, but the sum cannot adequately explain his pictures, which requires an effort outside the purview of iconography ... he painted a calculated incoherence, calibrating the mystery of what such apparently meaning-laden pictures might ultimately mean.” A summary of the Brooklyn-organized exhibition, which toured a number of major museums in the United States, said: “JeanMichel Basquiat (1960–1988) was born and raised in Brooklyn, the son of a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. At an early age, he showed a precocious talent for drawing, and his mother enrolled him as a Junior Member of the Brooklyn Museum when he was six. Basquiat first gained notoriety as a teenage graffiti poet and musician. By 1981, at the age of twenty, he had turned from spraying graffiti on the walls of buildings in Lower Manhattan to selling paintings in SoHo galleries, rapidly becoming one of the most accomplished artists of his generation. Astute collectors began buying his art, and his gallery shows sold out. Critics noted the originality of his work, its emotional depth, unique iconography, and formal strengths in color, composition, and drawing. By 1985, he was featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine as the epitome of the hot, young artist in a booming market. Tragically, Basquiat began using heroin and died of a drug overdose when he was just twenty-seven years old… The exhibition seeks to demonstrate not only that Basquiat was a key figure in the 1980s but also that his artistic accomplishments have significance for twentieth-century art as a whole. Basquiat was the last major painter in an idiom that had begun decades

earlier in Europe with the imitation of African art by modern artists such as Picasso and Matisse. Inspired by his own heritage, Basquiat both contributed to and transcended the Africaninfluenced modernist idiom.” A dozen years after the Brooklyn show (and a second Brooklyn show of Basquiat’s notebooks in 2014), London’s Barbican Art Gallery brought together hundreds of works and ephemera in every medium to create an amazing and more complete context for Basquiat and his work. Entitled Basquiat: Boom for Real, this exceptional project was reviewed by Gunseli Yalcinkaya for Dezeen (October 23, 2017) and explored how the “artist drew on a vast range of design influences – including comic books… and illustrations from Gray’s Anatomy, with …direct connections between Basquiat’s early work and everyday product designs, such as sweet wrappers and train tickets…[Basquiat] …was constantly absorbing influences and references from the world around him…Some of his earliest works are these amazing collages he made with artist Jennifer Stein that take materials from around the studio and off the street, and paste them onto pieces of paper and photocopy them….In these collages, Basquiat and Stein would take PEZ sweet wrappers, cut out the letters and rearrange them…..Later work would include intricate allusions to iconography found in Egyptian mythology and African rock art, as well as direct references to pictorial texts such as Black Beauty, White Heat: A Pictorial History of Classic Jazz 1920-1950 and Gray’s Anatomy… Basquiat was fascinated by anatomy, he drew anatomical studies from many of his paintings and drawings – the book by Leonardo da Vinci and Gray’s Anatomy.” “In 1981, Basquiat was included in the exhibition New York/ New Wave at PS1 in New York – a show that featured over 100 artists, musicians and writers. Basquiat was the only artist in this exhibition to be given a prominent platform to show painting. [Basquiat scrawled several] variations on the name Aaron.[on paintings] ,,, Basquiat occasionally used Aaron as a pseudonym, which is likely a reference to Hank Aaron, the celebrated baseball player, as well as Moses’ brother Aaron, who helped free the Israelites from Egypt. The scattered letters A and O, which also persistently appear in many of Basquiat’s works, could provide a further biblical reference to “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” Also, “Basquiat designed the front and back cover for Beat Bop, a hip-hop single by American rappers Rammellzee and K-Rob and produced by Basquiat himself. Released on one-time label Tartown Records, it has an abstract sound. The syncopation of the record is reflected in Basquiat’s design for the cover, which is characteristic of his drawings from the period…There are cartoon references – the phrase “bang” with lines and circles


“Here he is, blazing a trail not only in terms of the market but also in terms of how his work is perceived more widely,” said the artist Adam Pendleton, who is AfricanAmerican. “It speaks to the broader elements of American culture. And what a powerful moment to have that happen.”

coming out of it – that really connect to cartoons and slapstick comedy, like Pop Eye and Crazy Cat….. [And] ..the crown motif…. has become iconic for Basquiat’s practice. One reference that we often bring to light is that in jazz tradition, jazz legends would be given monarchical titles. There is also a legacy in graffiti, where graffiti artists would crown each other’s work to ascribe status… Basquiat would often use the crown in the context of the history of African American people in history and contemporary society too. It would then be associated with great black figures he admired, to place them back in a canon and to give them status.” In addition to playing in his band Gray “Music in particular had a great influence on Basquiat’s practice. He listened to everything, from Donna Summer to Bach, though his paintings are mostly dominated by the history of black jazz musicians. He had a collection of over 3,000 records and he would rarely work without something playing in his studio. Several books on the subject of jazz became frequent reference points. The fragments in this work, King Zulu, were sourced from the 1982 book Black Beauty, White Heat by Frank Driggs and Harris Lewine… Louis Armstrong …was crowned King Zulu at the Mardi Gras parade in 1949.” The last part of Basquiat’s story ends at a Sotheby’s auction on May 18, 2017, with the sale of “Untitled” a 1982 painting for $110.5 million. Reported, like his obituary also in The New York Times, by Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn on May 18, 2017, this early painting by Basquiat joins “the rarefied $100 million-plus club in a salesroom punctuated by periodic gasps from the crowd, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull brought $110.5 million at Sotheby’s, to become the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark. ‘He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon

and Pablo Picasso,’ said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, an expert on Basquiat. The sale of the painting, “Untitled,” made for a thrilling moment at Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary auction as at least four bidders on the phones and in the room sailed past the $60 million level at which the work — forged from oil stick and spray paint — had been guaranteed to sell by a third party…. Soon after the sustained applause had subsided, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed himself to be the buyer through a post on his Instagram account. “I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he said in the post. ‘When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.’” Mr. Maezawa later told Sotheby’s that he acquired his latest painting by the artist for a planned museum in his hometown, Chiba, Japan. ‘But before then I wish to loan this piece — which has been unseen by the public for more than 30 years — to institutions and exhibitions around the world,’ he said in a statement. ‘I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.’”  In the meantime, however, Basquiat’s vibrant painting set several records Thursday night: for a work by any American artist, for a work by an African-American artist and as the first work created since 1980 to make over $100 million. “Here he is, blazing a trail not only in terms of the market but also in terms of how his work is perceived more widely,” said the artist Adam Pendleton, who is African-American. “It speaks to the broader elements of American culture. And what a powerful moment to have that happen.”


Born 1988, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Lives and works in New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA 2014 MFA, Yale University, New Haven, CT 2010 BA, The Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY Selected museum exhibitions include The FLAG Art Foundation, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo Stefano Bardini, Florence. Selected public collections include The FLAG Art Foundation, New York and the Mott-Warsh Collection, Flint, Michigan. Since his first show in 2011, there has been agreement that LA-based Awol Erizku is a young artist to watch. Installation, performance, photography, conceptual art and social media, especially Instagram, meld in his hands to create a vibrant currency. Speaking to the online art writer, Tahirah Hairston, on www.Vulture.com on May 21, 2015, Erizku said about his work: “Honestly, I don’t see it as just being about black culture; it’s about my culture, and I’m documenting my culture. If we label everything as black or white or yellow or whatever, then it becomes this thing of, this belongs here, this belong there. There’s an aspect in my work that I want to be universal. I never go into my studio and say, ‘Well, this is strictly for this group, and I don’t want this group to get it.’ There’s the visual aspect where you look at something and you classify it because that’s just what we do as humans, I try to play with that...I just want you to come in and view something and get that emotion and not try to place yourself in how to understand it.”

4. Awol Erizku

b. 1988

Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a Trillion, 2015 Mixed media with seven regulation size basketball rims and Spalding NBA Brooklyn Nets team basketball 148 1/8 x 18 7/8 x 24 3/8 in. (376 x 48 x 62 cm) Unique £64,000 © the Artist. Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

Erizku goes on to say why music and mixtapes is a critical element in his work: “Music is always playing in my studio, I’m always seeking out new music and underground artists, to hear new voices, to hear new perspectives. Inevitably, that content and the culture just seep into my work because I’m living it. I respect it as an art form, I think it’s the purest way of communication, I just want to show my appreciation for it by acknowledging it. I made this sculpture of stacked hoops, highly influenced by Jay Z’s ‘Picasso Baby,’ specifically the line, ‘Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a trillion.’ It’s a metaphor; people who understand hip-hop know what that means. I love doing that kind of thing with my work. Say someone doesn’t have a fine-art background and they don’t have any way of interpreting my work, well, I’m trying to create an alternative entry point, which is music. I also use music and mixtapes as a way of making an artist’s statement, a lot of artists’ statements are a bunch of fancy words that people put together, and although I find that to be a good thing, I also know who I’m trying to speak to, and I also know that part of it goes over their heads, not in a way that’s like putting anyone that’s viewing it down, it’s just the reality. Art talk can be too much sometimes, and I just want to have an alternative way to communicate the same thing that’s being said in the press release, but in a way that’s maybe more digestible and enjoyable.”


Born 1939, Bessemer, AL Lives and works in Queens, NY 1964 BFA, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY 1960 Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA 1959 Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, AL Selected honors Skowhegan Medal for Painting (2017); The Aldrich A2A Award (2017); National Medal of Arts (2015); and Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship (1976). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include Tate Modern, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; MoMA PS1, Queens, NY. Selected public collections include Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Tate, London. Before others delve more deeply into the long and successful career of Jack Whitten, Elisabeth Kley, writing in Artnet Magazine (September 15, 2011) offered both some unusual facts and an interesting comparison: “When veteran abstract painter Jack Whitten first began experimenting with art as a child in Alabama in the 1940s, his canvases were the leftover pelts of the raccoons and muskrats he hunted with his friends and peddled for 30 cents each. Whitten said “I’ve always thought of the picture plane as a skin,.” (This was, of course, 60 years before David Hammons used rich people’s fur coats as targets of his painterly expressions.” Lauding Whitten, no longer using pelts but with an extensive and admiring aud on a career spanning almost a half century, Holland Cotter in the New York Times (October 3, 2013) wrote that he “is still making work that looks like no one else’s, which is saying something, given the flood of abstract painting in New York in the past few years. He invented new forms of abstraction and standards of beauty to match them. Even more to his credit, he’s still restless enough to make every picture a complex oneoff formal event. And he’s stayed invested enough in art as an intimate medium to make those events personal.” Quickly going back two decades, Whitten underwent an extremely thorough interview by Kenneth Goldsmith for BOMB Magazine in the summer of 1994. Whitten significantly talked about “growing up in the South in a segregated racial society. When you are raised with hate all around you, and then you got a family who teaches you love, you have people in the church who are teaching you love, you got a family network. And making an emphasis on how much hate surrounds you, you don’t have to be that way. That’s a sickness, when people hate, when people get all into this racial stuff, that’s a sickness. My mom and grandmom would quote from the Bible: ‘Revenge is mine, said the Lord.’ You can’t go out there seeking revenge, you can’t go the hate pattern, it’s just gonna destroy you. If you get involved with that, you self-destruct.” Goldsmith asked him about the attention he received after his big break at 35 with a 1974 exhibition at the Whitney: “No, no. Black artists at that period were not getting any kind of attention. My having that show at the Whitney Museum was primarily because of Marcia Tucker, a curator at the Whitney. There was a social consciousness in ’74. The gallery at the Whitney that I used was

set aside for people who did not have commercial representation, and I fit the bill.” Goldsmith pressed Whitten saying “It seems that stuff would have been snapped up and sold, with the museum confirming a sort of status and value of the artwork,” but Whitten countered by saying,”Only if you have commercial representation and you have someone who is a believer in you and the work, and is willing to promote it, is work sold. Work sold through gallery situations comes through an endorsement of the gallery/museum world with a bag of collectors to back it up. If you don’t have that kind of an interest, you can stand on your head out there for 20 years, and it won’t sell. It’s just recent, what you see, people like Lorna Simpson, Adrian Piper, Martin Puryear, myself, David Hammons... This is recent man, very recent. We’ve had to live with this right from the beginning.” And the ‘80s were even more difficult for Whitten, as he told Goldsmith, “I’m not one for knocking my head against a brick wall, so I went underground into the woodshed. But I realized that the works I was doing could not participate in the sort of thing that was going on in the ’80s.” Goldsmith suggested that Whitten had a major emergence in the 1990s and Whitten agreed: “It strengthened me spiritually, it strengthened me conceptually. Those site paintings, which were acrylic skins, came out of the early ‘80s when I first started laminating a piece of acrylic back down to the canvas. I took the paint up off the canvas and then put it back down on the canvas. This was a major breakthrough. I’m dealing now with paint as a collage, paint as sculpture. I have changed the verb “to paint”: I don’t paint a painting, I make a painting.” Whitten described his earlier life, “I went to Tuskegee Institute as a pre-med student, on what was called a work scholarship program... an all-black college where the African-American scientist George Washington Carver did all his experiments. His laboratory is still intact. He was also a painter. I’m convinced today that a lot of my attitudes toward painting and making, and experimentation came from George Washington Carver. He made his own pigments, his own paints, from his inventions with peanuts. The obsession with invention and discovery impressed me.” And after Tuskegee Whitten, “Went down to Baton Rouge …as an art student. Stayed there for a year. Got involved with sit-down demonstrations and all the upheaval that was going on down in the South. I’m one of the people who lead a march through downtown Baton Rouge. Horrible experience... we marched to the state capital, with people throwing shit on you, piss on you, hitting you with pipes and shit, people bleeding… Then I took a bus from Baton Rouge to New York City. Ended up on the Lower East Side. In 1960, beautiful artists down there; poets, writers—Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), David Henderson, Calvin Hernton, Ishmael Reid... there is a community in the arts.” Ending the conversation, Goldsmith asked Whitten if he had a glamourous life as an artist and Whitten responded, “People in western society have this view of the artist, some romantic thing. We live our lives and we do what we have to. But people outside see us as some glamorous, exotic creature… I work. I do my work. I teach. Art is something we do. It’s like we have a purpose in life, being artists. That’s a position. That’s a job. So where’s the glamour? We’re doing what we’re supposed to do. People do not understand the sacrifice that


artists go through to do what they have to do. If they went into the artist’s life and saw what the artist has to do on a daily basis to keep their act together.” In September 2016, President Barack Obama presented Jack Whitten with the National Medal of Arts for remaking the American canvas. As an abstract artist, he uses “casting,” acrylic paints, and compounds to create new surfaces and textures, challenging our perceptions of shape and color. His powerful works of art put the American story in a new light.

5. Jack Whitten

1939

Site VII, 1987 mixed media on board 12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm) £142,500


6. David Hammons

b. 1943

Basketball Installation, 1995 Tree trunk, basketball hoop, African vessel, dirt, and basketball Dimensions vary with each installation Signed and dated on drawing of authenticity: “David Hammons 10/1/98� Price on request


Born 1943, Springfield, IL Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY 1968-1972 Studied at Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA 1966-1968 Studied at Chouinart Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA Selected honors American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellowship (2008); Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2005); DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Award, (1992); Brendan Gill Award, Municipal Art Society (1991); Prix de Rome for Sculpture, American Academy of Rome (1991); MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1991); Tiffany Grant (1990); New York Foundation for the Arts (1987); Art Matters Award (1987); National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1983-84); New York State Council on the Arts Award (1983-84); Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Award (1983-84). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Documenta; Aspen Art Museum; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitechapel Gallery, London. Selected public collections include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris; Francois Pinault Foundation, Venice; and Tate Britain, London. Over 30 years has passed since David Hammons told art historian Kellie Jones, “I can’t stand art actually. I’ve never, ever liked art.” Holland Cotter recounted this episode last year in his New York Times article (March 24, 2016). “Then why do you make it? Ms. Jones asked. Because, Mr. Hammons offered, art is about symbols and ‘outrageously magical things happen when you mess around with a symbol….At the time of the interview Mr. Hammons was already a star, known for his formal and conceptual brilliance and his unpredictable ways. At various points in the 1980s, he sold snowballs on a sidewalk near the Bowery, erected three-story-high basketball hoops in Brooklyn, and made sculptures from hair swept from Harlem barber shop floors. He was creating — in public places with found materials for non-art-world audiences — odd, witty, barely graspable objects that were also emblems of wealth, class and race. And after making them, he’d change course, and location, or disappear, following a career GPS of his own.  In line with his untrackable ways, his first official career survey in 25 years is not in a museum on the Bowery or in Harlem, but in a commercial gallery of the blue-chip persuasion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And if Mr. Hammons hasn’t technically organized the show of 34 objects, about half on loan from public and private collections, he has seriously messed with it. He arrived when the original installation was finished, yanked out several major items, inserted some new ones, and added a soundtrack. The result is effectively a giant new multipart Hammons work, and pure enchantment, from object to object and room to room….”


“The arrangement is only vaguely chronological, though there are early pieces near the start. They’re from the 1960s, when Mr. Hammons… was in Los Angeles... Watts still smoldered; Black Power was in forward drive. It was a red-alert moment. Mr. Hammons responded to it… he turned racist clichés on their head. In others, he invented a cast of imaginary characters, a kind of African-American ‘Our Town.’ There’s a lingering myth that beauty and politics can’t coexist. Mr. Hammons finesses that myth… [In] the 1980s, after he had settled in New York, picked up assemblage as his primary medium, and based it on materials grounded in black urban life… Mostly, though, his turf is inner-city America, mapped out in abject fragments...Music, long one of the few routes to big-time success open to African-Americans, is part of the picture, referred to in an installation of three microphone stands titled ‘Which Mike do you want to be like…?’ The implied choices are Jackson, Jordan and Tyson, but the mouthpieces that represent them are too high up for most people to reach. Sports are another way up and out, but again uncertain. Mr. Hammons gave the sky-kissing hoops he erected in Brooklyn the wry title ‘Higher Goals.’ And he brings a reduced version. ..in the 1997 ‘Basketball Chandelier.’ In this case, the basket is at normal height, but unusable, made from ropes of cut-glass beads and flanked by ornamental sconces…” “However you read Mr. Hammons’s recent art, and many ways are possible, one central fact holds true: He is messing with — expanding, exploding — ideas of what art means, and especially what ‘black art’ means, making it broad enough to be borderless, useless as a descriptive label by a controlling and abidingly racist market culture. The soundtrack for his survey speaks to this. Years ago it might have been jazz; this time he has filled.[these].. imperious quarters with classical Japanese court music, further shaking up fixed notions of Otherness. Not that this makes art easy to love, particularly in a time of bloated prices and small ideas. The American writer Marianne Moore began a poem about poetry with these clipped words. ‘I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it, after all, a place for the genuine.’ That’s what Mr. Hammons has evidently found in art — the genuinely political, the genuinely beautiful and the outrageously magical — and has been passing on to us these 50 years.” From August 2015 to May 2016, the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco convened a small group of artists, curators and art historians from the Bay Area and formed a research group dedicated to thinking about, talking about, reading about and writing about the work of American artist David Hammons. The study was introduced by Anthony Huberman, director of Wattis, who wrote: “Rather than attempting to make visible those who might not be, David Hammons (b. 1943, US) explores the very nature of invisibility. His works threaten to disappear, whether by being situated out of reach, by hiding behind tarps, by dissolving into darkness, or by replacing concrete objects with abstract sounds. Raw, spiritual and always politically charged, Hammons’s work plays with art the way a jazz musician plays with sound — he gets inside it, bends it, twists it around and keeps it from sitting too still or getting too comfortable…Binta Ayofemi, another researcher, compared “Hammons’s work… to Toni Morrison’s discussion of languaging as the measure of our


lives. Is Hammons exploring a way of being present? Or, more specifically, a way of articulating presence and absence at the same time? In his earlier works, a saxophone can be stuffed with a spade or with rubber tubing. In Hammons’s juxtapositions, the forms are most full when they’re ready to be emptied out — emptied of any expected content or usual hierarchies — to become essentially free material….Hammons’s works set conceptual rhythms or chords that nearly cancel each other out: a woman’s fur coat that’s been singed and coated with cool violet paint; or white snowballs — cold textured spheres as temporary voids set on the sidewalk against a warm-hued textile. But there is always some internal conceptual shift, something unresolved that keeps each work still and yet slowly blinking. What is the scale or progression that is latent in these works? Is it a reference to jazz? To a larger theory of improvisation and deliberation?” Critic Peter Schjeldahl, writing in the New Yorker (October 9, 2017) only a month ago, is delighted with the news: “Sometimes an idea comes along that’s so good you fear for it. I have in mind the proposal for a monumental sculpture by David Hammons, ‘Day’s End,’ on the watery site of bygone Pier 52, in the Hudson River, across West Street from the Whitney Museum of American Art. Thin stainless-steel rods—the minimum required for structural soundness—would trace the contours of the pier’s original shed.

Public art to a fare-thee-well. The art part is patent: beauty, in a massless immensity that would be barely perceptible on bright days, agleam in lesser light, and, at night, invisible. The public part inheres in at least three historical associations: halcyon commerce on the riverfront, a legendary gay-hookup scene of the nineteen-seventies, and a 1975 art work titled ‘Day’s End,’ by the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark. Matta-Clark, a selfdubbed ‘anarchitect,’ brought poetic genius and athletic audacity to derelict sites of the then recessionary city, and his death, from cancer, in 1978, at the age of thirty-five, was a wounding loss for art in New York and worldwide. Hammons’s design is a palimpsest of losses.” “For his original ‘Day’s End,’ an evanescent masterpiece, MattaClark chainsawed several apertures in the decrepit shed. The westernmost admitted, starting in late afternoon, a semicircular glory of sunlight that migrated, clocklike, through the interior, until being extinguished by nightfall. The effect was laconically cathedral-like: sacredness in slang, unforgettable. Parallels abound between the African-American Hammons and the halfChilean Matta-Clark. Both were born in the war-baby year of 1943, and both were charismatic figures of guerrilla creativity. The works of each pose inexhaustible questions about aesthetics in relation to physical, social, political, and imaginative realities.”


© Nick Cave. Photo by James Prinz Photography. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Born 1959, Fulton, MO Lives and works in Chicago, IL 1982 BFA, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO 1984-1986, Graduate studies, North Texas State University, Denton, TX 1989 MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI Selected honors Americans for the Arts 2014 Public Art Network Year in Review, in recognition of Heard – NY (2014); Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2008); Creative Capital Grant (2004 and 2002); and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2001). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Trapholt Museum, South Jutland, Denmark; Denver Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum. Selected public collections include Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. “I was always a gatherer… collecting and assembling things, making shrines. I would make stuff for my mom all the time. She was my critic and also my supporter. With five brothers, I had hand-medowns, so I’d try to reinvent my clothes,” remembered Nick Cave - the performance artist, dancer, and sculptor - of his childhood in an article in Time Magazine, March 26, 2012 by Richard Lacayo. Three decades after he was born, in 1991, he made the first of his now famous Soundsuits responding to the police beating in LA of Rodney King. Cave said, “That incident was so traumatic for me. It flipped everything upside down…But art has been my savoir. I was able somehow to translate those emotions.” Cave suggested that the Soundsuit became for him a “kind of outerwear to protect my spirit.” In wearing the Soundsuit, he heard the noise it made. “I started to think about the role of protest…In order to be heard, you’ve got to speak louder. I thought about the body as an alarm system that could go off any second.” In 2015 Cave memorialized another death, that of Trayvon Martin, with a Soundsuit made of a beaded net barely exposing a sneaker and a hooded sweatshirt.

Being interviewed in Hyperallergic, July 2015. by Sarah Rose Sharp, Cave spoke to the meaning, many hundreds of Soundsuits later, of his creations: “Right, I think that’s the thing with the work, it’s that we can’t really identify it. We tend to want to categorize things, we want to find its place in the world — but when you’re looking at something, and it’s something other, you really are not quite sure how to enter it. How is the form identified? Where does it come from? You’re trying to find that link to something familiar. And yet, it’s familiar from the perspective that it’s figurative, and then that becomes where the difficulty falls in — because there’s a sort of humanness to it, but yet it’s not of this world….And then, you sort of try to identify — what is your position here? How do you stand up to this object? How do you come to it, without any sort of judgment? So I think there are a lot of things that we’re encountering — you can’t identify a gender, race, or class, so you’re just looking for that one thing.” Of the artist’s many other amazing sculptures made of bits and pieces of both kind and not-so-kind history, the outrageousness of “King of the Hill,” made for Cave’s show at the Jack Shainman Gallery in fall 2014 called “Made by Whites for Whites,” caused critic Blake Gopnick to write in ArtNet on September 25, 2014: “The 1940s Golliwog costume that some whitey wore to amuse his friends now seems to come packed with all the threat that it must have had all along for black people, but which its owner was blind to (or maybe rejoiced in). There’s something especially unsettling about its leering, king-of-the-castle perch atop a pile of blankets, the iconic symbol of comfort and nurture.”


7. Nick Cave

b. 1959

King of the Hill, 2014 mixed media including Golliwog costume, afghans, mannequin and metal 1141/2 x 95 x 47 in. (290.8 x 228.6 x 119.4 cm) £113,250 ‥


8. Fred Wilson

b. 1954

I Saw Othello’s Visage In His Mind, 2013 Murano glass and wood 64 x 51 ½ x 7 ¾ in. (162.6 x 130.8 x 19.7 cm) 3 of 6 + 2 APs £139,500 ‡ © Fred Wilson, courtesy Pace Gallery


© Kerry Ryan McFate, February 2005

Born 1954, Bronx, NY Lives and works in New York, NY 1976 BFA, State University of New York, Purchase Selected honors include the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2003), representing the United States at the Venice Biennale (2003), and at the Cairo Biennale (1992). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Venice Biennale; Cleveland Museum of Art; Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore; Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Selected public collections include Tate Museum, London; The Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Denver Art Museum; Long Museum, Shanghai; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In conceptual artist Fred Wilson’s commentary on blacks, slavery and Native Americans in his 1992 exhibition “Mining the Museum” at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, to his fake designer bags sold by a fake street vendor at the 2003 Venice Biennale, he began the process of deconstructing our ideas of art and history in every possible way. And from Venice until today, Wilson has continued to present elements of the world as he prefers to arrange them. Wilson recently spoke about his view of museums on the PBS series Art:21, January 28, 2017: “When you go into one of my [museum] projects, a lot of times you’re scratching your head. You’re scratching your head because the information—like any artwork—makes you question your own thoughts and have to work a little bit. It’s not telling you everything. Your emotions and your feelings about what you’re

seeing and your experience are as important as any specific information that I’m giving you. So, it’s a very different experience when you’re in one of my projects. And it’s even a greater experience if you didn’t know that I did it, because then you’re just having this experience without knowing that it’s an artist who created it for you.” Wilson’s 2013 mirror, I Saw Othello’s Visage In His Mind, derives from his work beginning in 2003 with Venetian craftsman to create one of his extraordinary chandeliers for the 50th Venice Biennale. Also attracting Wilson’s interest, starting in the Renaissance, there was an important participation of Africans in the making of glass in Venice. To Die Upon A Kiss, 2011, which also related to Shakespeare’s Othello was a seventy-inch tall chandelier which was the first to feature a tonal gradation, which shifted from transparent and light to opaque and dark. For the design of Iago’s Mirror – the title referring to the Shakespearean character who figuratively trapped Othello, among the most famous black figures in literature -- also for the Biennale, the innovative process for layering traditional Murano glass mirrors together combined with an newly developed technique that reversed the centuries-old mirror making tradition—etching and painting the verso black rather than silver—lent a ghostly appearance to the reflection that the mirror casts. Also developed at the same time was another signature work by Wilson. It was comprised of drips of Murano black glass appearing to seep out of the gallery walls. Their imagery can be read as representing water and oil, blood and semen.


Born 1970, Los Angeles, CA Lives and works in Harlem, NY 1999 MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL 1996 BA, Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA   

Selected honors Rome Prize in Visual Arts (2017), Creative Capital Award (2008).

Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ; Brooklyn Museum, NY; SculptureCenter, NY; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; Studio Museum in Harlem; The Menil Collection, Houston; Perez Art Museum Miami; Institute of International Visual Arts, London; MoMA PS1, Queens, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Selected public collections include the Brooklyn Museum; MoMA; Studio Museum in Harlem; Walker Museum of Art, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Although Sanford’s work spans the visual, installation, music and performative arts, among his most engaging mediums has been his paintings on quilts that had been gifts to him from descendants of slave owners. Sanford talks about his relationship to the “figure” in his work in a 2016 article in Interview. “I’ve had a very ambivalent relationship with the figure in my work, partly because I think every artist has a bit of autobiography in their work, and I find being an African American male, there are times when I end up being the piece, and people have a hard time getting past me to get to the work. So I’m very ambivalent about, even in performance, if the performance will be me. I usually have other people; I try not to put myself in that position. Even in my band [Moon Medicin], I wear a mask, so it’s really about sort of obscuring that sense of identity. But I also started to respond to a lot of the recent killings of black men, and thought it was time to go back into the figure in a more obvious way.”   “Although that triggered, no pun intended, me revisiting the figure, obviously those events have been happening for 500 years. I’ve been very aware of them for years and I myself have been held at gunpoint by police at least three times in my life, starting from the ‘80s all the way up through the ‘90s, and stopped and frisked on the streets of New York several times around my house near Columbia University, where I teach. There is a thing about being a black male in this society, and so it was a time to get back into it. As you can see here [gestures to the quilts on the wall in the studio], there are figurative elements that are sort of visible but invisible, like these figures are silhouetted and shadows but no direct depiction of a face.”   It should be noted that “Slimm” – the title of this work – was the nickname used by friends to refer to Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old African American who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.


9. Sanford Biggers

b. 1970

Slimm, 2014 Three antique quilts, assorted textiles, spray paint, spray glitter, treated acrylic paint, tar, felt, thread 61 x 113 in. (155 x 287 cm) £71,250 ‡ © Courtesy Massimo De Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong

© Alexander Stein; Instagram tag for credits: @alexanderstein, @bfa


10. Lyle Ashton Harris

b. 1965

Ecstasy #1, 1987-88 Black and white silver gelatin print 60 x 40 in. (152 x 102 cm) Edition 3/6 £34,000 ‡ © Courtesy David Castillo Gallery


Born 1965, Bronx, NY Lives and works in New York, NY 1990 MFA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA 1988 BFA, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT Selected honors John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2016), David C. Driskell Prize (2014), Goddard Award (2009), American Academy in Rome Fellow (2001). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; New Museum, New York; American Academy in Rome; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Selected public collections include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, León, Spain; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1999 artist Chuck Close had a conversation with Harris about his “Chocolate Portraits” that was included in a book Excessive Exposure, with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., entitled “Troped in Chocolate: Lyle Ashton Harris’ Portraits of Blackness”: The portraits and Gates’s foreword would be in an exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2011. Quoting Gates, “Harris’s collection of over two hundred ‘types’ serves to democratize and, simultaneously, destabilize the very concept of a black—indeed, of an American archive itself. The only thing ‘excessive’ about what Harris has accomplished here is his profound and sublime aesthetic and intellectual contribution to a new way of seeing, of representing, the diversity at the heart of any meaningful definitions of representative democracy and transcendent, timeless art.”

CC: Why did you decide on the sepia? What do they call it, chocolate? LAH: Chocolate, yes…I have created a chocolate Chuck Close. CC: Am I semi-sweet or bittersweet? LAH: [Laughs] I love the color. I think it’s a way of having my own little brown set of folks, if you want to call them that! I think people come in shades of brown, so I like it… They’re not pretty pictures by any stretch of the imagination, but they possess a timeless quality reminiscent of nineteenth century toned albumen prints. I can appreciate the shock some of my subjects have upon seeing their portraits for the first time. I began taking self-portraits in the 1980s to explore the dissonance and ambivalence I experienced in relation to my own image. About a year ago [1998], I started photographing myself using this Polaroid technique and initially had difficulty dealing with the result—it seemed somewhat heavy. When I looked at the photograph again after several weeks, I said to myself, “If I’m going to be subjected to this, I’m bringing in my friends as sitters!” That’s when I began the project and invited you down to the studio. It’s amazing how shooting portraits has affected my relationship with people in the street, because now I’m constantly looking at people’s faces. I’m like a kid in a candy store, watching people in public. I’ve become much more observant of physiognomy and how people engage with one another. I’m often asked when this portrait project is going to be finished, but I can really see it going on for quite a while. CC: Jeez, stop making portraits—why would you ever want to do that? In looking almost a decade later at Harris’ years of work,

the…”images of himself… don’t add up to self-portraits in the straightforward sense. Sure, Harris is present in body, but the artist’s body acts as a canvas on which he conjures psychic states -- rage, rapture, eroticism. These theatrical pictures, each with its own pulse and vitality, document Harris assuming a variety of roles. Here he’s a boxer; there he’s Billie Holliday; here, a transvestite prostitute. As such, they are portraits of various selves, which many of us may be able to identify with, but selves that may or may not be part of the real Lyle Ashton Harris,” reported Jessica Dawson in the Washington Post (February 1, 2008) in reviewing a current gallery show. Dawson continued: “Harris is African American and gay. Since his student days in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he has mined those aspects of his identity. Early efforts included posing in whiteface, often graced with false eyelashes, mascara and lipstick. Straddling both gender and race, the works reflected the concerns of the artist and of the times -- it was in those years that identity politics ruled art. (Thelma Golden included Harris in the Whitney Museum’s 1994 show “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” one of the era’s formative survey exhibitions.) Two decades into his career, Harris still concerns himself with the game of appearances and perception: how we present ourselves in public, how our bodies -- and the meanings they carry -- are received by others, how gender and race are constructed…He also reveals a poetic sensibility: a desire, shared by writers and poets, to make visible our complicated inner worlds. He acknowledges the ambivalences we carry… Many have suggested the point of all this is a refutation. To prove that he is not a body first and human being second, Harris overemphasizes his body so that we are forced to move past it. There’s just too much here, too much to read simply at face value or to accept as mere titillation. It’s a tricky strategy, one based on identification with the aggressor, but Harris makes it work.” Most recently reflecting on his work going back to the 1980s and 1990s in Artforum (May 22, 2015) and how that informed his exhibition of that year “Nero su Blanco,” which focused on a series of unstaged photographs going back to the early 1990s. Harris said his vision for this exhibition was to examine the “radical shifts in perceptions of African identity, subjectivity, and agency.”  Harris had a request from his friend Isaac Julian to use several of Harris’ images for Julien’s 2013 autobiography, which reconnected him with his vast archive of 35-mm Ektachrome reversal slides. It was a “cathartic” experience. “There are candid portraits and snapshots… such as the late Marlon Riggs taking AZT while on break from shooting his last film, Black Is, Black Ain’t (1994); bell hooks in repose at home in New York; Nan Goldin applying eyeliner in Berlin; and Catherine Opie in an embrace….. It is the quotidian quality of these images, which captured people, places, and moments long—and often tragically— gone, that most intrigues me and stands in stark contrast to the theatricality of the more iconic works that have become a hallmark of my practice.” Harris remembered that “as part of Carrie Mae Weems’s ‘Live Past/Future Tense’ retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum…. I staged a performative lecture with projected images from the archive accompanied by a mash-up of Grace Jones’s Nightclubbing album. This presentation functioned as a memento mori of sorts for several of the audience members who were intimately familiar with the subjects and the texture of that period.”


© Courtesy Brian Kaminsky

Born 1982, San Bernardino, CA Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and New York, NY 2016 MFA, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 2004 BFA, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, New York, NY Selected honors Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant (2017); Jackman Goldwasser Artist-in Residence, Hyde Park Arts Center, Chicago (2014). Selected museum (group) exhibitions include The New Museum, New York, The Studio Museum, Harlem, New York. Selected public collections include The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In 2010, when the artist was asked by writer Alex Bacon why he was so drawn to portraits, Sepuya replied: “Why the portrait. Oh, because I can’t imagine anything I like doing more than taking portraits.” Sepuya’s simple response took on rich layers of additional meaning as his work evolved conceptually. In an eloquent assessment of the work in his 2017 article “Playing with Mirrors” in The Nation, critic Barry Schwabsky articulates what was happening in contemporary photography as encapsulated in Sepuya’s recent work: “Photographs, and photographs of photographs; cameras, and cameras pointing at cameras; models, and models posing as models: A kind of brooding over these—and the conundrum of whether, by distancing and framing portions of reality, photography thereby deconstructs itself—typifies a technical formalism that has become widespread of late. Artists in this cohort are not so much concerned with making photographs as with examining them in their manifold and contradictory capacities as objects (sheets of chemically treated paper), manifestations of social praxis (ways of relating to other people and the environment), and immaterial entities circulating freely in the world (as digital information). Rather than offering viewers immediate access to information about the world or simply how some given portion of it looks, artists working in this mode see the techniques, conventions, and history of photography as an interpretive grid that makes some things harder to see and

other things easier. They consider that their work can only reflect on the world by looping back on itself—by rendering visible its photographic character as a pre-interpretation of the world that it claims merely to show. Only by pinpointing the fact of its own fictiveness does this kind of work gesture toward some significant aspect of the world beyond. That’s how it happens that an artist like Paul Mpagi Sepuya, whose photographs are as insistently reflexive and formally refined as any being made today, can nonetheless proclaim that in his work, ‘the sum total of content lies outside of the conversation about art. It’s better served by gossip and friendship.’”
 “But daydream too much in front of Sepuya’s pictures and you might miss a lot. With some of them, at least, if you don’t start out a little confused—if you don’t feel the need to puzzle out what it is you’re really looking at, that is, to intellectualize— then you’re not really looking. At the center of Mirror Study (_Q5A3505) (2016) for instance, you can see a young man’s right arm and hand and just the tiniest slivers of his naked torso and blue track pants. This is part of a picture within the picture, a photograph whose right side has been casually cut off; we can see the white border at the left and top of it, and a piece of tape that affixes it to another surface. Is that surface another photograph, or is it the mirror of the title? Hard to tell. What I see in this mirror/photo, mostly blocked out by the taped-up image of the arm, are the naked arms of a black man and two of the three legs of a tripod. So this could well be the photographer using the titular mirror to take a picture of himself—or, for all I know, of the same young man whose arm I see in the tapedup shard of a photo. It could also be, not the mirror, but the photograph that was taken in the mirror….Photographs, in short, make it hard to tell what’s a photograph and what’s not. And the photographic studio, as I understand it from Sepuya’s images (and from his installation in “Compassionate Protocols”), is a place where what desire represents can be elicited precisely through this strategic indistinction between a represented reality and a re-represented image. In other words, he is not indicting the camera’s ability to construct illusions any more than he is simply indulging in it. He’s playing with it, observing it, and taking note of how much such mechanisms of willful distortion have to do with how our minds and hearts and eyes already work.”


11. Paul Sepuya

b. 1982

Self-Portrait study with Two Figures (1506), 2015 Pigment print with artist frame and wood 80 x 60 in. (203 x 152 cm) Edition of 5 £13,000 ‡


12. Rashid Johnson

b. 1977

Color Men, 2016 Ceramic tile, spray enamel, soap, wax 96 x 80 ¼ in. (244 x 204 cm) £281,250 ‡


Born 1977, Chicago, ILLives and works in Brooklyn, NY 2002-2005, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL 2000 BA, Columbia College, Chicago, IL  

Selected honors David C. Driskell Prize (2012); Hugo Boss Prize finalist (2012).

Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Grand Palais, Paris; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Selected public collections include the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and many private collections. In October 2003, for the press release of his first solo gallery exhibition with Monique Meloche in Chicago, Rashid Johnson wrote, “I am a Negro artist demagogue producing work that allows me to embrace and reject any cultural signifiers that I choose to confront…..The ideas addressed; hair and assorted products, language, violence and social uprising, all work as tools in my devious plan to spelunk the bottomless agenda of cultural identity politics…”   Indeed, confronting many of those cultural signifiers, such as Afrocentrism, has become central to Johnson’s work. In a 2012 article by Christopher Stackhouse in Art in America Johnson said “My mother would always have shea butter around, and she wore dashikis. I was celebrating Kwanzaa, hearing this unfamiliar language, Swahili, and seeing black soap and chew sticks around the house, things that were about applying an Africanness to one’s self. Then my parents evolved into middle-class black professionals, and I was kind of abandoned in this Afrocentric space they had created. I was forced to negotiate what that period and those objects meant for me. I saw these things, as I got older, in Harlem,in Brooklyn, being sold on the street…So I started playing with those ideas and objects on a formal level, fueled by my interest in abstraction and mark-making as well as my interest in the constructed object, in the recent shelving units, for example. How do these things become signifiers? What are these things when they no longer function in the way they were originally intended to function?”


13. Shinique Smith

b. 1972

Bale Variant No, 0021 (Christmas), 2011 Clothing, fabric, objects, wrapping paper and ribbon 84 x 30 x 30 in. (213.4 x 76.2 x 76.2 cm) £34,000 ‡ © Courtesy David Castillo Gallery

Born 1971, Baltimore, MD Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY 2003 MFA Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD 2000 MAT, Tufts University, Medford, MA 1992 BFA, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD Selected honors Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award (2016); Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship (2008); New York Foundation for the Arts, Gregory Millard Fellowship in Sculpture (2007); Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture Fellowship (2003). Selected museum exhibitions include Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville. Selected public collections include Denver Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Less than five years after the groundbreaking exhibition Freestyle, the Studio Museum in Harlem’s exhibition Frequency in 2005, curated by director Thelma Golden and curator Christine Y. Kim, was a critical juncture for the 35 artists chosen, among them Shinique Amie Smith. For that catalogue, Alena Williamswrote that “a sentiment that runs deep in the work of Shinique Smith is perhaps best voiced by Michel de Certeau in Culture in the Plural: the idea that housing, clothing, even family activities are ‘the ground on which creation everywhere blossoms.’ He argues, ‘Daily life is scattered with marvels…’“ “In Frequency she created her own six-foot bale using clothes she no longer wore or gathered from friends, a collection of past identities and old baggage tied up neatly in a bundle,” wrote Hilarie Sheets in a New York Times article of March 7, 2013. She quoted Smith as saying, “I think my work is very American, and the way we consume and cast off is unique to us…[Smith] was inspired to make sculpture from clothing after reading an article in The New York Times Magazine tracing the migration of a T-shirt given by a woman in Manhattan to her local thrift shop that was eventually included in a bale of used clothing shipped to Africa, where it was bought by a man because of the college logo…”

Sheets continued that “...fabric and castoff clothing has meaning to her personally, as well as social and cultural significance… She said she liked that the garments were subsumed in a composition of color, shape and form while still retaining their associations. ’I think the consumerism, the clothing, the trappings, the shedding skins, the little bits make us who we are,’ she added. ‘I try to string it all together.’” Exploring Smith’s foundation for her work, Sheets reported that the artist relied “bountifully on her formative experiences with dance, graffiti, Tibetan culture and fashion, synthesized with influences that range from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Japanese calligraphy. While her work shares certain attributes with Abstract Expressionism, she says she’s coming from a very different place. “I’m not a white man with an eye on redefining painting itself .” In a Huffington Post article of September 18, 2014, critic Katherine Brooks offered a reasonable summary of Smith’s work: “Given her history, Smith’s layered installations and chaotic paintings appear like the vibrant, carefully collected debris of her life and career. Any given piece can combine the dynamism of dance, the dripping aesthetic of street art, the textural complexity of forgotten clothing and the subtle brushwork of calligraphy, all in one frame… Like psychedelic versions of Rauschenberg’s multimedia canvases, or beautifully curated artifacts from a hoarder’s sanctuary, Smith seeks to tell human stories through her abstract creations. She’s conjured the spirit of the civil rights movement, the memories of an ex-boyfriend and the scribbles of an anonymous child, often without the faintest glimpse of a human form. Accumulation and consumption are themes that pierce through her work.”


14 . Adam Pendleton

b. 1984

Black Dada (D), 2012 silkscreen ink on canvas Two panels, each 48” x 76” (121.9 cm x 193 cm) Overall 96” x 76” (243.8 cm x 193 cm) No. 66888 £113, 250 ‡ © Adam Pendleton, courtesy Pace Gallery Pendleton Portrait © Matthew Septimus


Born 1984, Richmond, VA Lives and works in Germantown and Brooklyn, NY 2000-2002 Artspace Independent Study Program, Pietrasanta, Italy Selected honors Artspace Independent Study Program, Pietrasanta, Italy (2000-2002).

Selected exhibitions and performances include Baltimore Museum of Art; Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gatesheard; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; and La Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Selected public collections include the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Tate, London. Adam Pendleton is a conceptual artist who is often seen as changing the understanding of what that means today. Supporting the reshaping conceptualism, Pendelton’s Black Dada Manifesto continues to attract interest among artists and writers since he first articulated it in 2008. “Black Dada is a way to talk about the future while talking about the past. It is our present moment. The Black Dada must use irrational language. The Black Dada must exploit the logic of identity. Black Dada is neither madness, nor wisdom, nor irony, nor naiveté. Black Dada: we are successive. Black Dada: we are not exclusive. Black Dada: we abhor simpletons and are perfectly capable of an intelligent discussion. The Black Dada’s manifesto is both form and life. Black Dada your history of art.” Pendleton “is best known for his painting, publishing, and performance projects that investigate in the potential of language to shape subjects, re-engage history, and point toward new horizons,” reported curator Jess Wilcox in a March 2009 Art in America article entitled: ‘Black Dada: A Conversation with Adam Pendleton.’  In conversation with Wilcox, Pendleton was particularly articulate in regard to language as material in his work: “Language was my primary material when I began to seriously make paintings. It was (and still is) my way of addressing and moving away from the idea of the image in relationship to the visual. I’ve perpetually thought about the tenets of language in relationship to conceptual art: language as material/ material as language; language as image/ image as language. I realized early on my work was a response to these somewhat dominating ideas. I wanted to pluralize the types of languages that could be used and how they were used in regard to conceptual art. Language writing is important because it is one of only several writing traditions that frees language from the burden of having to “mean” or communicate. I’ve had some interesting encounters where people who admire the work of older, language-based, conceptual artists have approached some of my recent work and said, “I don’t understand, what does this mean?” So-andso’s work may often be abstract but you can always understand what it means.” Such encounters have led me to believe I’ve moved something forward. As it has been articulated elsewhere, thought does not always determine language. Language can also determine thought.”

The true conceptual nature of Pendelton’s work can be seen “in his ability to synthesize disciplines and mediums, and to steer with collaborators toward “total works,” which yet remain drafts of a larger essayistic practice” wrote critic Thom Donovan in Winter 2011 BOMB Magazine. “His works—like those of his many avant-garde forebears—are experimental in the truest sense. He sets up a laboratory in which our social and political desires can appear, however fleetingly. Historical materials (images, sounds, and printed language) become a point of departure for making present what cannot be grasped by representations of history (narratives, archives): the emergence of events and situations, which can only become known retroactively. Recent live art has rarely been more conscious of its origins in civil disobedience and the civil rights movement, where we view the body as a site of social antagonism, and as a ‘case’ for struggles for recognition and justice. With Pendleton’s work, even though we are often left with aporias and blind spots, we feel the force of historical matter self-organizing and finding form beyond representability and essence. We discover the protest of the object—works of art and performance resisting their subsumption by common epistemological frameworks and modes of narration posing as truth.” In the 2016 Brooklyn Rail, Pendelton responds to Allie Biswa’ questions about process and appropriation: “A lot of the things I do are very matter of fact. Let’s say for the Black Dada paintings, I use an image of LeWitt’s incomplete open cubes: Xeroxing it, cropping the Xerox, scanning it, enlarging it, and then laying this text over top of it. I take an object and do something to it, and then do something else to it. I would say everything is some sort of collage and has always been. This is true even in the earlier works that didn’t necessarily look like a collage, because what I was doing was taking someone else’s language and then I was sort of inserting myself on top of it—inserting my own rhythm and my own mode of presentation.” As to appropriation, Pendleton answered: “To borrow or steal? It’s a complicated question. I think that’s why I’m very slow, because I have to create the space where a kind of transition can occur—where it can go from being an image of an incomplete open cube to a mark or a line. That’s a conversation that you have with the material, slowly, over time. Now, because I’ve been using these images, these materials for so long, I no longer even think of my use as an act of appropriation. I think about it in a more discursive sense of just being in conversation with, or rubbing up against, something. I said once that we are appropriated as human beings, that’s what we are. I mean, how can anything be anything other than appropriation— which is why the term is so loaded and also so over-determined.”


Born 1970, Baltimore, MD Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY 2003 MFA, Columbia University, New York, NY 1996 BFA, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY Selected honors Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2009). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; MoMA PS1, Queens, NY; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Brooklyn Museum; PERFORMA, New York. Selected public collections include the Brooklyn Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and many private collections.   Derrick lives in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood of many cultures that has a great effect on his work. It is a community that was primarily African American for decades, but is now absorbing many new residents from West Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and from other parts of New York City.   Talking about his neighbors, neighborhood, and his culture in Interview in 2016, Adams has said “What’s more contemporary African than an African American? There’s so much history attached to the discussion about, ‘are we African? Are we not African?’ — like the group Dead Prez says in one song: ‘I wasn’t born in Ghana, but Africa is my momma.’ ….My relationship with Africa is based on storytelling, historical documentation, and things like that. Even my disconnect with the continent as an American is a romantic relationship because everything around Fulton Street (in Bedford-Stuyvesant) is based on that: the dashiki…All of those things are really geared toward African Americans who feel a desire to be reacquainted with their culture. You don’t see Africans around here wearing these things. It’s a positioning of African Americans saying, ‘I’m African too. I may be in this country and I may be part of this country, but I still think about my culture.’”


15. Derrick Adams

b. 1970

Pastime Paradise, 2014 mixed media collage on paper triptych; left and right panels, each: 29 7/8 x 37 3/4 in. (75.9 x 95.9 cm); center panel: 29 7/8 x 43 3/4 in. (75.9 x 111.1 cm) £30,250 ‡ © Courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery


Born 1976, Plainfield, NJ Lives and works in New York, NY 2004 MA, MFA, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA 1998 BFA, New York University, New York, NY

16. Hank Willis Thomas

b. 1976

Scandalously Good!, 2009 Aluminum letters on wood and inkjet print Overall 80 x 40 in. (203.2 x 101.6 cm) £22,500 ‡ © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Selected honors International Center of Photography 2015 Infinity Award for New Media (2015), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017); Aperture West Book Prize (2008). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; The Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; The Baltimore Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Cleveland Art Museum. Selected public collections include the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Brooklyn Museum, NY; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY. A recent project – responding directly to the 2016 presidential election – that readily distinguishes Hank Willis Thomas from most other American artists is that Thomas and collaborating artist Eric Gottesman, have created the FORFREEDOMS, an artist-founded and run political action committee. Unlike the typical PACS that more-often-then-not attempt to go against the public good, FORFREEDOMS – taking its name from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 “Four Freedoms Speech” (the freedoms of speech, of worship, from fear and from want), the funds raised by Thomas’ PAC are to commission artists to create political billboards, TV and radio advertisements, and other opportunities that supported progressive candidates at the state and national levels. Interviewed in artnet News on March 4, 2016, Thomas said, “If I’m going to spend all my time obsessing about political issues, I might as well make art out of it.”

© Hank Willis Thomas. Photo by Andrea Blanch. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Making art out of socio-political issues and popular culture has been Thomas’ primary direction. In the summer 2015 issue of Whitewall, Katy Donoghue discussed with Thomas about race and its effect on his art: “I’ve always been interested in how ideas about who we are, are shown by society. I think the issue of ‘black male identity’ is that it’s life-threatening. That even though black people never had anything to do with creating it, we’ve got to play by its rules, and many of us are put at risk by it…. I think people get confused that they think that because I’m a black man that that’s all I really care about. But really, I think, I’m using blackness as a signifier. I mean, it’s just a very obvious one because my skin is brown, but we call me black. Your skin is all kinds of colors, but it’s not white. So what are these definitions?”


Born 1969, Stockton, CA Lives and works in New York, NY 1994 MFA, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI 1991 BFA, Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta, GA Selected honors American Academy of Arts and Letters (2012); United States Artists Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship (2008); United States representative for the 25th International São Paulo Art Biennial (2002); MacArthur Fellowship (1997). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Camden Arts Centre, London; Art Institute of Chicago; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Tate Liverpool; and Fondazione Merz, Torino, Italy. Selected public collections include the Menil Collection, Houston, TX; the Tate Collection, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo (MAXXI), Rome; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In spring 2014, Kara Walker “confected” on behalf of New York’s Creative Time in “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby - an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” As reported in Creative Time’s newsletter, this gigantic sculpture was “sited in the sprawling industrial relics of Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar Factory, Walker’s physically and conceptually expansive installation—a massive, sugar-coated sphinx-like woman—responded to the building and its history.” In her review in the New York Times (May 11, 2014) entitled “Sugar? Sure, but Salted with Meaning” of Walker’s monumental installation of a sphinx meant to symbolize a black woman in the antebellum South, critic Roberta Smith applauded the artist and the work: “With her stinging, site-specific installation at the former Domino Sugar compound on the edge of the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kara Walker expands her imposing achievement to include three dimensions and monumental scale. In the process, she raises the bar on an overused art-spectacle formula as well as her own work. And she subjects a grand, decaying structure fraught with the conflicted history of the sugar trade and its physical residue to a kind of predemolition purification ritual…the Marvelous Sugar Baby… runs the gamut in its effects. Dominated by an enormous sugarcoated womansphinx with undeniably black features and wearing only an Aunt Jemima kerchief and earrings, it is beautiful, brazen and disturbing, and above all a densely layered statement that both indicts and pays tribute. It all but throws possible interpretations and inescapable meanings at you. This is par for the course with Ms. Walker, who is best known for wall installations in which cavorting black paper silhouettes depict the often sexualized, variously depraved yet comedic interactions of discernibly white slaveholders and black slaves in the antebellum South. Combining reality and metaphor with a great gift for caricature, these works demonstrate unequivocally that America’s “peculiar institution” was degrading for all concerned. A looming 35 feet tall, Sugar Baby is ensconced toward the back of an enormous warehouse, built in the late 19th century, that Domino once used for storing raw sugar cane as it arrived by boat from the Caribbean for

refinement and packaging. Once a luxury — subtleties were sugar sculptures made for the rich as edible table-decorations — sugar became more widely available due in large part to slave labor. No wonder its journey north may bring to mind the Middle Passage endured by Africans forced across the Atlantic.” Smith ends her review with present reality: “Which brings us to our own self-destructing present, where sugar is something of a scourge, its excessive consumption linked to diseases like obesity and diabetes that disproportionately affect the poor. The circle of exploitation and degradation is in many ways unbroken. No longer a luxury, sugar has become a birthright and the opiate of the masses. We look on it like money, with greed. Heavily promoted, it keeps millions of Americans of all races from fulfilling their potential — an inestimable loss in terms of talent, health and happiness. A final part of the web of meaning that Ms. Walker has woven around this resonant work can’t help including a black first lady trying to get people to avoid sugar, and a black president whose skin color alone has brought this country’s not-so-buried racism roaring back to furious, mindless life.” Examining Walker’s most recent work, Roberta Smith (September 7, 2017) was equally unequivocal in her praise. “Like most outstanding artists, Kara Walker is unrelenting. In a press statement for her latest show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., she wrote in her familiar, mock-serious yet dead-serious tone that she was ‘tired of “having a voice” or worse “being a role model”’ and of ‘being a featured member of my racial group and/or gender niche.’ But Ms. Walker’s desire to stand down from the demands of her particular brand of fame has not made her stand down in her art, which is as disturbing and challenging as ever, if not more so.” “Honing more insistently to her longtime theme — the bitter legacy of slavery in the United States — the works in this assured exhibition…enter new territory. Narratively, they land solidly where Ms. Walker has only lightly tread: the remorseless, racialized American present, which is suffused with the death rattle of white male domination and its multiple bigotries. Visually they find the artist returning fully to two dimensions after her triumphal public sculpture, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,”…. Now she is pushing with new rigor at the boundaries of her primary medium and material — drawing and paper — merging collage, political cartoon and history painting, and this gives her story line more force.” “The show’s centerpiece is the enormous ‘Christ’s Entry into Journalism’ (2017) an 11 by 18 foot collage crowded with over 80 ink drawings of heads and figures. Its title echoes numerous historical depictions of ‘Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem,’ the biblical event preceding his betrayal, trial, death and resurrection; but perhaps journalism’s death and resurrection is the main point. The images here are not exclusively contemporary — note a man resembling the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the lower left corner — but they implicate current events. Across the top of the piece a rebus depicts a rope salesman, a white farmer with a noose, a lynched figure and a Ku Klux Klan member whose parted robe reveals a figure in a suit and an extra-long tie who could be construed as the current occupant of the White House. More prominent images evoke Civil Rights protesters; a Confederate


flag and an arm raised in a Nazi salute; a policeman in riot gear pursuing a protester with a turkey leg and a cellphone; and Batman, carrying a figure wrapped as a mummy whose swollen black face may or may not refer to Emmett Till…Nearby the severed head of a young black man in a hoodie is seen, upright, on a tray carried by a white woman, like Salome with the head of John the Baptist. More than ever, Ms. Walker’s work piles personages, events and possible interpretations before us, daring us to face her reality — and ours. Ms. Walker emerged in the mid-1990s with incendiary works set adamantly and slyly in the past that were frequently criticized as politically incorrect for caricaturing slavery in the antebellum South. Scaling up the demure 19th-century genre of the blackpaper silhouette, she brought to elegant, repellent life an unending stream of vicious master-slave narratives — a continuum of violence, abuse and violation that consumed and corrupted almost all parties, regardless of age or race. Antic, profane and riveting, these mural-like scenes replayed history as farce and masqueraded tragedy as depraved comedy. They revealed the inevitable psychic corruption of humans owning humans, brought out the sexual component of oppression in any form and implied a country still shaped by the original sin of slavery.”

17. Kara Walker

b. 1969

Forging Freedoms, 1996 Cut paper and charcoal 56 x 48 in. (142.2 x 121.9 cm) £47,000 ‡


Born 1979, Rochester, NY Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY 2004 MFA, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI 2001 BFA, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Selected honors Guggenheim Fellowship (2013), Aaron Siskind Fellowship (2009).

Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; PS 1, Queens, NY; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Selected public collections include Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, MoCA, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2011, a brief interview with Lawson was published in The New Yorker. In it she was asked about her inspiration for her work and what was its unifying thread. Lawson answered, “Vintage nudes, Sun Ra, Nostrand Ave., sexy mothers, juke joints, cousins, leather bound family albums, gnarled wigs, Dana Lawson, purple, The Grizzly Man, M.J., oval portraits, Arthur Jaffa, thrift shops, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, acrylic nails, weaves on pavement, Aaron Gilbert, the A train, Tell My Horse, typewriters, Notorious B.I.G., fried fish and lace curtains.”   “I see photographs as visual testimonies. Familial relationships, sexuality, and life cycles are repeated motifs. I’m also interested in black aesthetics and how that is described in a picture. Some people are good storytellers because they have a knack for describing details in words and the narrator adds his or her own unique performance to the telling. I try to do that in pictures. Formally the images are unified by a clear directorial voice. The subject’s pose, lighting, and environment are all carefully considered.”


18.  Deana Lawson b. 1979 Wanda and Daughters, 2009 Inkjet print, mounted on Sintra 35 x 44 ¼ in. (88.9 x 112.4 cm), print 36 x 45 ¼ in. (91.4 x 114.9 cm), framed Edition 2 of 6 Signed on frame label on back £14,000 ‡


Born 1974, New York, NY Lives and works in New York, NY 2005 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York, NY 2005 Maggie Flanigan Studio, 2-Year Actor Training Conservatory, New York, NY 2004 BFA, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY Selected honors Visionary Artist Award Honoree, Art in General (2017); The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2016); The Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant (2015); The David C. Driskell Prize (2008). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; The Museum of Arts and Design, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Selected public collections include The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta; ICA Miami; The Agnes Gund Art Collection; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Xaviera Simmons is perhaps best known as a photographer but she also is committed to performance, sculpture, installation, and video. In her interview with Cara Despain in ArtPulse, the artist talks about the genesis of the work which ultimately produces the photograph in this exhibition. When Simmons is working on performance, she knows she is being influenced by her work in other mediums and when she takes up her photography, she returns to performance: “… it’s the possibilities of spontaneity and play that are at work in this image. I’m interested in the performative in this work, and I’ve always worked out of doors, and out of doors encompasses much more than the sublime.” “I think the biggest shifts for me are happening now. …These works are really looking at sculpture and how the sculptural can be contended with in the photographic and how the photographic can be contended within the sculptural. There is an entire new dialogue I am having with the sculptural, with taking things off of the wall, with working with wood and other materials besides the photographic and the installation. So, for me, the index series, of which Beyond The Canon was the first, is my reaching out to the sculptural in the photographic. These works are about a layering effect of the sculptural, the collage and the photographic.” In his 2009 BOMB Magazine comments on works also from earlier series, artist Adam Pendleton, who is also comfortable in numerous media, wrote that “Simmons, as an artist, doubles

down. She captures the fiction/truth dialectic as well as anyone, disarticulating assumptions about the quietly composed and staged images she makes. She’s a Brecht of the photographic endeavor. In her work, Simmons is not so much documenting the performance before the camera, but the performance itself. In one image from the series If We Believe in Theory, Simmons captures a young girl in the woods dressed like Little Red Riding Hood. It’s an example of Simmons using the suggestion of performance to capture the explicit and contradictory nature of individuality. Her subject becomes herself, and also a dismembered characterization of what we’re accustomed to look at. Still, it is not simply Simmons’s understanding of the imagistic theater of photography that is useful, but her way of using form to acknowledge that image is at the center of the creative construction of collective and personal histories. Simmons is a lexicographer who fuses live material and conceptual conceit; she deconstructs and retains a relation to specific times and places. Perhaps paradoxically, she often achieves this through unabashedly excessive detail, like in One Day and Back Then (Standing), where her character stands in a field of sea reeds in blackface, looking out at us, wearing all black (including stiletto boots), ready for a night out on the town. “As comfortable with taking a picture as she is with producing a theater piece or performing a DJ gig, she makes work that is perpetually in flux. Often one of her images will seem like the precursor to another manifestation of her work. For the photograph Jaamburr, an 18th-century African American coinage meaning “free black,” Simmons photographed a college-aged man sitting up in bed, pen in hand, writing in a notebook. Newspaper pages cover his wall. The image reminds me of Electric Relaxation, an installation that Simmons exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston (and previously at Art in General in New York) where hundreds of jazz, hip-hop, and soul LPs were affixed to the wall in a loungelike environment where viewers could relax and listen to the music. The installation created a decidedly literary space, a text commanding a problematic read, like the paper clippings that could have represented a theoretical extension of or a literal opponent to a young man’s mind.”


19. Xaviera Simmons

b. 1974

Index Seven Composition Seven, 2015 Photograph 65 x 50 in. (165.1 x 127 cm) Edition of 3 £26,500 ‡ © Courtesy David Castillo Gallery


20. Theaster Gates

b. 1973

Event of a Race Riot, 2011 Square patched wood and decommissioned fire hose, wood, glass 27 ½ x 27 ½ x 6 ¼ in. (70 x 70 x 16 cm) £146,250 ‡


Born 1973, Chicago, IL Lives and works in Chicago, IL 2006 MS (Urban Planning, Ceramics, Religious Studies) Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 1998 MA (Fine Arts, Religious Studies), University of Cape Town 1996 BS (Urban planning, Ceramics), Iowa State University, Iowa  

Selected honors Artes Mundi (2015), Creative Capital Grant (2012). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Fondazione Prada, Milan; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Seattle Art Museum; Musee du quai Branly, Paris; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Menil Collection, Houston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Documenta 13. Selected public collections include the Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem and many other public and private collections.   Theater Gates works as an artist, urban planner, curator, community organizer, social activist, and facilitator and he includes ceramics, sculpture, mixed media, installation, music and performance within his artistic repertory. Gates’ Chicago-based Rebuild Foundation and Dorchester Project – which he has called “real estate art” – are two examples of his activism rooted in a deep commitment to social responsibility.   In a profile of Gates and his community work entitled “An Island on the South Side” in Interview magazine in 2015, Gates said: “One way of reading vacancy is that it’s a symptom of something. If you were to imagine vacancy as a symptom, then you could ask, ‘Okay, what’s not healthy in the organism of this community?’ Sometimes a symptom, like a cough, could be nothing, and you could cure it with some vitamin C. Other times it requires deeper interrogation and you may realize, ‘Oh, this person is on the verge of pneumonia.’ Each one of those has different cures, different processes, and different levels of contagion. There are moments that I feel like the work that I’m doing of restoring a building that had been vacant is like vitamin C work. And then there are moments when the work feels way more complicated, and it may require another kind of surgeon – a more complicated procedure than anything that I have ever done. So then the question is, ‘Given this cough, which is a more complicated cough than just vitamin C, what are the tools that I need in order to help create health?’ There are moments when I’m not the right doctor, or I don’t know what to do, but even in those moments, I think, ‘Who are the right practitioners  –  other architects, city officials, scholars, policy experts, lawyers, bank finance people – who are the folk that can help me do the more complicated procedure. Who are the people I need around me in order to help think through this thing?’ And then, once all the procedural stuff is done, did I sew it well? Will the wound heal well? So, there’s the aesthetics, which should be as thoughtful as the interrogation, intervention, surgery, and so I feel like I’m thinking about those things a lot, together. How do I make a potent work of art that also resonates as something that I want to look at, or feels right and complex to me?”


Born 1979, New Orleans, LA Lives and works in New York, NY 2004 Certificate Digital Post-Production, Film/Video Arts Inc., New York, NY 2001 BFA, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA Selected honors Rush Arts Gold Award (2017), Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2011).

Selected museum exhibitions and performances include the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; MoMA PS1, New York, New Orleans Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; The Kitchen, New York. Selected public collections include the Brooklyn Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. It is difficult to precisely say what Raashad Newsome’s primary medium is at any moment – mediums that stretch from complex video and computer production to vogue choreography and performance to often heraldic and elaborate collage – as he moves from one to another and sometimes brings them together. Newsome told James Courtney of the San Antonio Current (May 18, 2016) that his work explores “the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender… An intersectional look at how one accesses agency and how immensely connected it is to whatever one’s privilege is in terms of race, capitalism and gender. Using images from popular culture that produce and perpetuate systems of oppression, I explore how race, capitalism and gender are employed to facilitate those systems… My use of material from popular culture is a subversive way of helping the viewers to understand the politics of difference.” In an interview with Laila Pedro, The Brooklyn Rail (July 11, 2016), Newsome also spoke about how he used his expertise in digital production to enhance his work in collage: “When I started my collage works they were more flat. As a way to push the material further, I started to scan the images and bring them into postproduction software and animate them. This allowed me to create the illusion of depth in a way that had been more difficult previously. I then brought what I did in post-production back to the analog process, putting everything on different planes and making the images much more three-dimensional.”


21. Rashaad Newsome

b. 1979

Grand Prize!, 2016 Collage in custom frame with leather and automotive paint Framed dimensions: 43 x 53 in. (109 x 135 cm) £34,000 ‡ © Courtesy of De Buck Gallery


22. Nina Chanel Abney

b. 1982

The Money Tree, 2008 acrylic on canvas 88 x 66 in. (223.5 x 167.6 cm) £34,500 ‡


Born 1982, Chicago, IL Lives and works in New York 2007 MFA, Parsons School of Design, NY. 2004 BFA, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL Selected museum exhibitions include The Nasher Museum, Durham, North Carolina; The Whitney Museum of Art, New York; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Selected public collections include the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Girls’ Club Collection, Ft. Lauderdale; and Burger Collection, Hong Kong. Two interviews with Nina Chanel Abney, almost exactly five years apart, articulate changes in attitude, perception, and in the direction of her work: From the Huffington Post, February 20, 2012: Nina Chanel Abney paints vibrant multicultural murals with disjointed narratives that confuse and delight. With a bold palette and bolder sense of humor, Abney creates bizarre scenarios that add a hint of perversity to each piece, resulting in a mashup of celebrity and literary references. Abney’s scenes are full of bizarre costumes and undecipherable symbols, and even her characters’ faces resist familiarity, looking more masklike than natural. The images are forceful, viewers can sense a political passion but cannot quite decipher the “moral,” similarly they buzz with both masculine and feminine energy.

HP: Can you describe how you found your visual language? NA: I think it kinda found me. I work very intuitively, so my visual language is a combination of the different things I’m interested in as well as whatever happens in the moment that I am creating a painting. And I feel like my visual language is, and will continue to constantly change as times goes on. I am always trying new things, and editing out different elements in my work.

HP: Would you call your work narrative driven? Is there a message or more of an experiment/experience?

my Facebook timeline, look at Twitter, watch the news, watch Bravo, VH1, read gossip blogs, listen to music, and do this all while talking on the phone and texting, so it’s impossible for me not to cover a multitude of topics. I’m living in an age of information overload. On February 22, 2017, Chris Vetiello of Indy Week interviewed the artist and said: “Abney is an apt artist for this political moment… [Her work]focuses on race, gender, and identity politics as well as criminal and social justice issues in ways that are critical but not didactic, ambiguous but never vague. This feels crucial in a time of problematically entrenched, opposed public arguments Abney… refutes any dualistic view of humans and social systems, and she colors in far more than shades of gray between black and white poles. Her paintings and collages vibrate with density and activity, optically and narratively, in characterization and composition. … they combine aspects of cartoons and street art with portraiture and landscape in a uniquely restless way.”

IW: It seems like a lot of black artists right now, at least from a critical standpoint, are forced into either bearing witness or putting forward an ideology through their work, which kind of reduces it to documentation or protest signs. But you seem resistant to both. NA: That’s my goal, to resist that stuff. Early on, when I was doing more portraits, I had noticed how so many assumptions are put on you. If I paint a black figure, it’s already read a certain way. It’s going to be assumed that I’m trying to do something different by painting a white figure. So I just try to create dualities and mix the races and genders of the figures. That’s my way of giving myself the freedom of being able to paint whatever I want without it being for a specific reason.

IW: Do you see yourself as a political artist?

NA: I think my earlier work was more narrative driven, in which

NA: No, I feel like it’s a side effect of me drawing from current

I focus on one particular story or experience, but I’ve become more interested in mixing disjointed narratives and abstraction, and finding interesting ways to obscure any possible story that can be assumed when viewing my work. So I don’t necessarily aim to send out a particular message, rather I want the work to provoke the viewer come up with their own message, or answer some of their own questions surrounding the different subjects that I touch in my work.

events in my work, and from my work being very immediate. Obviously I’m going to touch on the news, but I don’t think that’s all that my work is.

HP: That kind of alludes to what I was going to ask you about all the diverse ground you cover in your work (religion, politics, sex). Would you say that in your head they are all on an equal playing ground?

almost since I started. Questioning those things. And just wanting to make work, you know? I mean, why can’t a white artist paint black figures? Very early on, a lot of people didn’t know I was a woman, just assuming because of the scale I worked on that I was a man. I’m always trying to challenge those things. Obviously I accept that I’m black, that I’m an artist, that I’m a woman. But I try to not let that dictate the kind of work that I’m able to make, or that I actually make.

NA: Definitely. There’s so much information that comes at an individual during the course of a day. In one day, I may read the paper, get on the internet and browse through YouTube,

IW: Context is a big deal now when it comes to an artist’s identity. Do you think of yourself as a black artist? Or as a woman artist? It’s like ... what a mess, you know? NA: I know! I feel like that’s what I’ve been fighting against


Born 1953, Portland, OR Lives and works in Brooklyn and Syracuse, NY 1984-87 Studied at University of California, Berkeley, CA 1984 MFA, University of California San Diego, CA 1981 BFA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA Selected honors National Artist Award Honoree by Anderson Ranch Arts Center (2016); College Art Association Distinguished Feminist Award (2016); MacArthur Fellowship (2013); Skowhegan Medal for Photography (2007); Rome Prize Fellowship (2006); Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant in Photography (2002). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Tate Liverpool; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. Selected public collections include Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Tate Modern, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Modern Art; New York. Carrie Mae Weems is one of the most distinguished and exhibited photographers, video and film makers, and installation artists in America. Her formats are identity, racism, gender, and social inclusion. In speaking with James Estrin at the New York Times (September 25, 2013) Weems confided that “I always think about the work ultimately as dealing with questions of love and greater issues of humanity. The way it comes across is in echoes of identity and echoes of race and echoes of gender and echoes of class. At the end of the day, it has a great deal to do with the breadth of the humanity of African-Americans who are usually stereotyped and narrowly defined and often viewed as a social problem. I’m thinking that it’s not about social problems, that it’s about social constructions. The work has to do with an attempt to reposition and reimagine the possibility of women and the possibility of people of color, and to that extent it has to do with what I always call unrequited love.” In reviewing Carrie Mae Weems’ 30 year retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in the New York Times (January 23, 2014), Holland Cotter wrote: “Color and class are still the great divides in American culture, and few artists have surveyed them as subtly and incisively as Carrie Mae Weems…From its early candid family photographs, through series of pictures that track the Africa in African-America, to work that explores, over decades, what it means to be black, female and in charge of your life, it’s a ripe, questioning and beautiful show.” Speaking to Kristen Braswell of Ebony Magazine (February 5, 2014) about her “Kitchen Table Series” Weems said “I was really involved in an aspect of performance for both myself as the subject maker and as an object. What I managed to do, that I didn’t know I was doing at the time, was to speak something universal about the experience of many women and men, across cultures, generations, and ethnic, groups. Many people have responded viscerally and deeply to “Kitchen Table” and I think it has to do with the fact that kitchen is a universal space, the table is, where we gather, we hope, we feel sorrow, we dream, we eat; the struggles of our lives are played out around that one place.” Braswell’s own memory of

the Series was like that of so many others. “What struck we most was the normalcy of the images; the dim lighting and intimacy of a woman with her man, her girlfriends and children as they carried out the actions and emotions of everyday life. We have all come to the kitchen both hungry and vulnerable, and Weems captured this truth perfectly. Her talent with the camera has always been in both showing our humanity as Black women, Black folks and simply, people…She has always wanted the world to know that we are here, and that we deserve to be viewed and celebrated through the lens of humanity like everyone else.” Artist Mickalene Thomas has said that it was the “Kitchen Table Series” that introduced her to Weems’ work and to Weems as the first black woman photographer she ever met. She has said that she wanted to be that woman! In commenting on the African America experience to Braswell, Weems said the obvious: “In part, it’s always there. The complicatedness of a Black artist is that often you can’t be anything other than that, and so we bring with us a social and political history that is there and inescapable, and yet, for me, I’ve insisted upon using the Black subject because I wanted to talk more broadly about human issues. One of the greatest gifts that we’ve given the world is our incredible humanity, even as we struggle with it. I think of it as a gift.  It’s often much more about the depth of our humanity and using Black subjects for me. We go see White films, operas or books with White subjects, and we assume it is going to speak to us in universal ways. I am interested in using the Black subject in the same way, in exploring the commonalities of humanity.” Photographer Dawoud Bey, a close friend of Weems from their early Studio Museum days together, interviewed her for BOMB Magazine (Summer 2009): “It’s fair to say that black folks operate under a cloud of invisibility—this too is part of the work, is indeed central to the work. The stuff that I’m doing right now has so much to do with this notion of invisibility. Even in the midst of the great social changes we’ve experienced just in the last year with the election of Barack Obama, for the most part African Americans and our lives remain invisible. Black people are to be turned away from, not turned toward—we bear the mark of Cain. It’s an aesthetic thing; blackness is an affront to the persistence of whiteness. It’s the reason that so little has been done to stop genocide in Africa. This invisibility—this erasure out of the complex history of our life and time—is the greatest source of my longing. As you know, I’m a woman who yearns, who longs for. This is the key to me and to the work...That there are so few images of African-American women circulating in popular culture or in fine art is disturbing; the pathology behind it is dangerous. I mean, we got a sistah in the White House, and yet mediated culture excludes us, denies us, erases us. But in the face of refusal, I insist on making work that includes us as part of the greater whole. Black experience is not really the main point; rather, complex, dimensional, human experience and social inclusion— even in the shit, muck, and mire—is the real point.” “I see Carrie as an American artist,” said the photographer and multimedia artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, 31, to Michael Agovino at Elle (November 20, 2013) who studied with Weems… “Her work isn’t meant to be just for black audiences; this is a concern for all mankind, which is why there is such a poignant and poetic presence in all her images.”


23. Carrie Mae Weems

© Carrie Mae Weems. Photo by Jerry Klineberg. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

b. 1953

The Tate Modern, 2006-present digital c-print image 49 ½ x 49 ½ in. (125.7 x 125.7 cm) framed 73 ½ x 61 ½ x 2 ½ in. (186.7 x 156.2 x 5 cm) Edition L1 of 5, with 2 artist proofs £45,250 ‡ © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.


24. Mickalene Thomas

b. 1971

Kiss me and I’ll Kiss you Back, 2006 Rhinestones, acrylic and enamel on wood panel 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm) £79,250 ‡ © Courtesy Rhona Hoffman Gallery


Born 1971, Camden, NJ Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY 2002 MFA, Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT 2000 BFA, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY 1998 attended Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia Selected honors Audience Award: Favorite Short, 2nd Annual Black Star Film Festival (2013); Asher B. Durand Award, Brooklyn Museum of Art (2012); Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010); Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2009). Selected museum exhibitions include The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO; Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. Selected public collections include The Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and many private collections. Mickey Thomas told Sean Landers in an interview in BOMB Magazine, Summer 2011, that Carrie Mae Weems was the first African American woman whose work she had seen. It was Weems’ Kitchen Table Series and the Ain’t Jokin’ series. “And there was ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ you know, the one with the white woman in the mirror of a black woman saying ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall...,’” to which Landers replied “. . . Who’s the finest of them all?” And Thomas summed it up: “Snow White, you black bitch and don’t you forget it!!!” Landers asked Thomas where her information was coming from when she was just starting out. “I chose Pratt because I wanted to be in New York. Actually, a friend of my mom’s…collected Carrie Mae Weems’s work. When she found out how profound that work was for my development, she invited me to the opening of Carrie Mae Weems’s show at MoMA, in October 1995. So I go with her and I meet Carrie… Here I was, first year in art school, not knowing what I want to do. I also met Okwui Enwezor at that opening, Thelma Golden, and all these people who were a big part of the art world. I remember seeing Carrie Mae Weems’s show and thinking, I want to have a show here; watching her across the room I thought, I want to be that woman.” Thomas also looked at Bearden, Lawrence, Thompson, and Ofili. “Chris Ofili was influential to my development. When I was at Pratt, I was one of the docent student volunteers during the Sensation show at the Brooklyn Museum. We wore black T-shirts that said “Ask Me” and we were each given a work of art to stand next to. I was given Chris Ofili. And of course the work became very controversial because of Giuliani’s rant against it. They had to put two of us there because there were so many people coming to see that painting. Then they had to rope it off.” Skipping forward, Landers again asked Thomas about mirrors. “I read somewhere that you sometimes look into the mirror to begin, when you’re conceiving something. Looking at your mom and what you said about the transgender people has a relationship to this mirror thing and perhaps Weems’s Ain’t Jokin’

series.” And Thomas responded: “The mirror part comes from my reading about Lacan’s mirror stage and the sense of validation and ego development that seeing your own reflection in a mirror provides. I’m so interested in this idea of being seen and seeing yourself, and how that relationship is developed. We all want to be validated and recognized in some way. This also relates to the power of the gaze in my work. When I take a photograph, that gaze is forcing the viewer to see my subjects—to recognize them.” “Who controls the gaze,” Landers asked, “the gazer or the gazed upon?” And Thomas answered: “I believe that the sitter has the power (or more power than I have) over what’s being presented…. And the fact that the gaze in question is from one woman to another is more powerful, to me, than the male gaze. But I think the female gaze is still connected to the concept of the male gaze; we are all shaped by the dominant cultural norms. At the same time, I can’t say that I’m not bringing what Kara Walker calls my “sexual libido” to my work, or that my own desires have nothing to do with the type of gaze I’m interested in.” “I have one last question,” Sean asked “Who is in that mirror?” To which, Thomas answers: “It’s always me. Sometimes it’s also my mother, my grandmother, or my great-grandmother. Sometimes it’s a person I’ve never seen before, sometimes it’s the person I want to be. Sometimes it’s the person I hope to be or someone I haven’t become yet. But when I look into the mirror, I say: just be truthful, truthful, truthful.” Just a year after the Landers interview, Roberta Smith wrote about the hugely successful 2012 exhibition “Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe,” in the New York Times on September 27, 2012, “The unabashed visual richness of these works attests to the power of the decorative while extending the tenets of Conceptual identity art into an unusually full-bodied form of painting. Enhanced by burning colors; outrageously tactile, rhinestone-studded surfaces; and fractured, almost Cubist perspectives, these images draw equally from 19th- and 20thcentury French modernism, portrait painting, 1970s blaxploitation extravagance and an array of postwar pictorial styles….From a foundation of Pop Art, Ms. Thomas resuscitates and extends movements like Photo Realism, New Image Painting and Pattern and Decoration…..She fuses the strategies of the photo-based work of the Pictures Generation and the collage-prone art of its loyal opposition, the Neo-Expressionist painters… “As a black woman who loves women, Ms. Thomas is in a double bind, and she makes the most of this in order to transcend it. Through the scale and material capaciousness of painting, she celebrates, decorates and really venerates the black female body by making it and its lavish surroundings bracingly tangible. She doesn’t so much depict a universal humanity as practically force it into the viewer’s place, where it implicates, illuminates and bedazzles.”


Born 1961, Tallahassee, FL Lives and works in San Antonio, TX and Brooklyn, NY 1985 BFA, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY 1981-82 studied, Parsons School of Design, New York, NY Selected honors Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2011), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Artist in Residence (1998); and Joan Mitchel Foundation Grant (1994). Selected museum exhibitions and performances include de Young Museum, San Francisco; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin. Selected public collections include Caldic Colectie, Rotterdam; Denver Art Museum; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; and Tate, London.

to create a new visual poetry of lightness and simplicity…” In an essay in the 2009 catalogue by Allen S. Weiss, Drew recalled his childhood trips into the city dump from his apartment building next door in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “I remember all of it, the seagulls, the summer smells…and over time I came to realize this place as ‘God’s mouth’…the beginning and the end…and the beginning again [sic]…Though I do not use found objects in my work (my materials are fabricated in the studio) what has remained from my early explorations are the echoes of evolution…life, death, regeneration.”

The publisher’s synopsis of the 2009 book, Existed: Leonardo Drew, which served as the catalogue of the mid-career traveling survey exhibition of the same name, edited by Claudia Schmuckli, captured Drew’s essential qualities: “Throughout his career, Drew’s formally abstract but emotionally charged compositions, made to resemble the detritus of everyday life, have combined qualities of painting and sculpture. Transcending any specific historic and ethnic reference his work has a unique aesthetic authority that is deeply embedded in the theory and practice of mid-20th-century abstraction. In 2004 [more than a decade into his exhibition career] Drew began to create sculptures using paper replicas of his collection of cast-off items

About the same time as the sculpture in this exhibition was made, 2016, a discussion with Drew about his approach to his work was published in Interview Magazine: Drew said, “…but you’ve got to know that if you are working, almost like with layers of the Grand Canyon, there’s history within those layers. The more you touch something, the stronger it becomes. If you’re an artist who’s knocking out paintings, you don’t get to have that opportunity to sort of realize that, but I’ve been living with these things long enough to realize it’s [about] layers…The longer they hang out, the deeper the history, the richer the life. If you use that as a template or as a way of realizing things, then I don’t think you can go wrong. These things are not precious. They’re lived in.”

Leonardo Drew installing Number 197 at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, 2017. © Randy Dodson

25. Leonardo Drew

b. 1961

Number 195, 2016 Wood, paint 64 x 31 ¾ x 15 in. (162.6 x 80.6 x 38.1 cm) £49,000 ‡ © Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co.


26. Jacolby Satterwhite

b. 1986

Rouge Landscape, 2017 VR work, sound; wallpaper and five framed drawings VR from an edition of 8 + 2 AP £21,500 ‡ Courtesy of the artist and Moran Bondaroff, Los Angeles © Jacolby Satterwhite


Born 1986, Columbia, South Carolina Lives and works in New York, NY 2010 MFA, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2009 Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, Maine 2008 BFA, Maryland Institute college of Arts, Baltimore, Maryland Selected honors United States Artists Fellowship (2016); Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant (2013); and Art Matters Grant (2013). Selected exhibitions include Seattle Art Museum; 9th Berlin Biennale; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; and Dallas Museum of Art. Selected public collections include Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Seattle Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Perhaps the first serious words written about his work, Ken Johnson reviewed Satterwhite’s first gallery show in New York in the New York Times on January 24, 2013. “For many young artists who grew up with computers, video is a dream machine, a tool for envisioning what streaming consciousness looks like. Jacolby Satterwhite’s eight-minute video, ‘Reifying Desire 5,’… is a hallucinogenic tossed salad of different kinds of animation. In a silver jumpsuit, Mr. Satterwhite dances athletically through a vertiginous flux of abstract and representational imagery. The other principle figures are five heroically proportioned females and one male, all rendered like video-game avatars. At one point the image of Picasso’s ‘Demoiselles d’Avignon”’ drifts through the background, a clue to what the synthetic Amazons allude to: among other things, the scary Africanized women in that Picasso brothel scene. It is relevant that Mr. Satterwhite… is black. But identity, queer as well as African-American, is only part of his mix. Another autobiographical element has to do with words that intermittently hover like rubbery neon signs in the video and as annotations on curious, doodlelike drawings framed and presented in tandem with snapshots of Mr. Satterwhite’s relatives. The drawings are actually photo-silkscreened copies of works made by his mother, who is schizophrenic. They describe domestic devices she has designed and hopes to market online, several of which have to do with controlling female bodily functions. It is a testament to Mr. Satterwhite’s uncommonly elastic imagination that it can range so freely from the personal to the political to the metaphysical.” Almost two years later, Satterwhite spoke with the editors of the Yale Literary Magazine (Fall 2014) after his video, “Reifying Desire 5” was shown in the Whitney Biennial 2014, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Sundance Film Festival and after teaching a workshop and giving a talk at the Yale School of Art - all considerable steps forward for a young artist. The introduction to the discussion set the stage. “Jacolby Satterwhite doesn’t know what influences him anymore. Using live performance and recorded performance, 3D drawing and 3D animation, Satterwhite traces and retraces an archive that is continuously materializing. Remembering home,

Portrait of Jacolby Satterwhite. Photograph by Matthew Placek © Courtesy of the artist and Moran Bondaroff, Los Angeles

his mother, Trina, the video games he played as a kid, Satterwhite re- members private and public mythologies, blasting them through a virtual landscape whose geography is shifting between mediums…. We spoke to him on the phone on an unusually warm day in December. We ate peanuts in Boston, he cleaned his home in Brooklyn.” Of the many key questions Satterwhite was asked in the interview, one was about the line between his identity and that of his art. “In the first three years of performing you wore a mask, a costume that allowed you to play with anonymity. As a performer, you’ve said, you ‘come from planet Jacolby,’ but as a studio artist you ‘come from planet Earth’ and ’live under the consequences of the past 400 years of black American history.’ Your work seems to provide a line of escape, but it seems also to toy with the space between — being Jacolby, becoming ‘anonymous,’ moving from the real-world to a virtual-reality. How easy is the transition? Are these two roles mutually exclusive?” Satterwhite answered: “I’m obviously more confident in the studio and as a result much more sophisticated than how I exist in the real world. In the real world there’s a lot more transparent space and I’m not very sure of variables that are in front of me. So I’m constantly trying to grow with it. I find myself increasingly interested in being in the real world. It’s not my comfort zone, definitely, and I definitely feel insecure in the real world, even if I have visibility as an artist. I feel like it’s harder to digest. Is there a difference [between these roles]? Well when I’m performing I’m definitely in character but not a pretentious character. I just feel like because I’m living under the prism, or umbrella, of ‘this is art,’ it’s like a shield. I’m creating form, I’m making a mark, doing a gesture, and it’s under the shield of art making. So therefore I feel like my point of departure as a human being is different when I’m performing than when I’m my sincere self in the world that’s removed from the studio, and has nothing to do with making a mark but just has to do with assimilating to the natural world. That’s much more difficult. It makes me wish I could find a way to completely become my art. But I don’t know if that’s possible.”


List of works All prices in this catalogue are subject to applicable taxes

1. Mequitta Ahuja

b. 1976

Sales Slip, 2017 oil on canvas 84 x 80 in. (213.4 x 203.2 cm) £22,250 ‡

2. Kehinde Wiley

Portrait of Quentin Lee Moore, 2017 oil on canvas, in artist’s wood frame 39 x 33 in. (99.1 x 83.8 cm) £53,000

Exhibition Dates & Location 8 – 25 November 2017 30 Berkeley Square, London W1J 6EX Viewing Monday – Saturday 10am–6pm Sunday 12pm–6pm

b. 1977

3. Jean-Michel Basquiat

1960-1988

Untitled, 1981 acrylic, oil stick, pencil, spray paint, paper collage on wood Signed, dated and inscribed “NYC 81 Jean-Michel Basquiat” on the reverse. 48 x 30 x 1 1/2 in. (122 x 76.2 x 4 cm) Price on request

4. Awol Erizku

b. 1988

Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a Trillion, 2015 Mixed media with seven regulation size basketball rims and Spalding NBA Brooklyn Nets team basketball 1481/8 x 187/8 x 243/8 in. (376 x 48 x 62 cm) Unique £64,000

5. Jack Whitten

1939

Site VII, 1987 mixed media on board 12 x 12 in. (30.5 x 30.5 cm) £142,500

6. David Hammons

b. 1943

Basketball Installation, 1995 Tree trunk, basketball hoop, African vessel, dirt, and basketball Dimensions vary with each installation Signed and dated on drawing of authenticity: “David Hammons 10/1/98” Price on request Cover & Back cover 21. Rahaad Newsome, Grand Prize!, 2016 (detail) © Courtesy of De Buck Gallery

7. Nick Cave

b. 1959

King of the Hill, 2014 mixed media including Golliwog costume, afghans, mannequin and metal 1141/2 x 95 x 47 in. (290.8 x 228.6 x 119.4 cm) £113,250 ‡

8. Fred Wilson

b. 1954

I Saw Othello’s Visage In His Mind, 2013 Murano glass and wood 64 x 51 ½ x 7 ¾ in. (162.6 x 130.8 x 19.7 cm) 3 of 6 + 2 APs £139,500 ‡

9. Sanford Biggers

b. 1970

Slimm, 2014 Three antique quilts, assorted textiles, spray paint, spray glitter, treated acrylic paint, tar, felt, thread 61 x 113 in. (155 x 287 cm) £71,250 ‡

10. Lyle Ashton Harris

b. 1965

Ecstasy #1, 1987-88 Black and white silver gelatin print 60 x 40 in. (152 x 102 cm) Edition 3/6 £34,000 ‡

11. Paul Sepuya

b. 1982

Self-Portrait study with Two Figures (1506), 2015 Pigment print with artist frame and wood 80 x 60 in. (203 x 152 cm) Edition of 5 £13,000 ‡

12. Rashid Johnson

b. 1977

Color Men, 2016 Ceramic tile, spray enamel, soap, wax 96 x 80 ¼ in. (244 x 204 cm) £281,250 ‡

13. Shinique Smith

b. 1972

Bale Variant No, 0021 (Christmas), 2011 Clothing, fabric, objects, wrapping paper and ribbon 84 x 30 x 30 in. (213.4 x 76.2 x 76.2 cm) £34,000 ‡


14. Adam Pendleton

b. 1984

Black Dada (D), 2012 silkscreen ink on canvas Two panels, each 48” x 76” (121.9 x 193 cm) Overall 96” x 76” (243.8 cm x 193 cm) No. 66888 £113, 250 ‡

15. Derrick Adams

b. 1970

Pastime Paradise, 2014 mixed media collage on paper triptych; left and right panels, each: 29 7/8 x 37 3/4 in. (75.9 x 95.9 cm); center panel: 29 7/8 x 43 3/4 in. (75.9 x 111.1 cm) £30,250 ‡

16. Hank Willis Thomas

b. 1976

Scandalously Good!, 2009 Aluminum letters on wood and inkjet print Overall 80 x 40 in. (203.2 x 101.6 cm) £22,500 ‡

17. Kara Walker

b. 1969

Forging Freedoms, 1996 Cut paper and charcoal 56 x 48 in. (142.2 x 121.9 cm) £47,000 ‡

18.  Deana Lawson b. 1979 Wanda and Daughters, 2009 Inkjet print, mounted on Sintra 35 x 44 ¼ in. (88.9 x 112.4 cm), print 36 x 45 ¼ in. (91.4 x 114.9 cm), framed Edition 2 of 6 Signed on frame label on back £14,000 ‡

19. Xaviera Simmons

b. 1974

Index Seven Composition Seven, 2015 Photograph 65 x 50 in. (165.1 x 127 cm) Edition of 3 £26,500 ‡

20. Theaster Gates

b. 1973

Event of a Race Riot, 2011 Square patched wood and decommissioned fire hose, wood, glass 27 ½ x 27 ½ x 6 ¼ in. (70 x 70 x 16 cm) £146,250 ‡

21. Rashaad Newsome

b. 1979

Grand Prize!, 2016 Collage in custom frame with leather and automotive paint Framed dimensions: 43 x 53 in. (109 x 135 cm) £34,000 ‡

22. Nina Chanel Abney

b. 1982

The Money Tree, 2008 acrylic on canvas 88 x 66 in. (223.5 x 167.6 cm) £34,500 ‡

23. Carrie Mae Weems

b. 1953

The Tate Modern, 2006-present digital c-print image 49 ½ x 49 ½ in. (125.7 x 125.7 cm) framed 73 ½ x 61 ½ x 2 ½ in. (186.7 x 156.2 x 5 cm) Edition L1 of 5, with 2 artist proofs £45,250 ‡

24. Mickalene Thomas

b. 1971

Kiss me and I’ll Kiss you Back, 2006 Rhinestones, acrylic and enamel on wood panel 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 152.4 cm) £79,250 ‡

25. Leonardo Drew

b. 1961

Number 195, 2016 Wood, paint 64 x 31 ¾ x 15 in. (162.6 x 80.6 x 38.1 cm) £49,000 ‡

26. Jacolby Satterwhite

b. 1986

Rouge Landscape, 2017 VR work, sound; wallpaper and five framed drawings VR from an edition of 8 + 2 AP £21,500 ‡


25. Leonardo Drew (detail)


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AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN [Exhibition Catalogue]  

Phillips presents 'American African American' this November in London.

AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN [Exhibition Catalogue]  

Phillips presents 'American African American' this November in London.