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The Studio Museum in Harlem









frees yle frequency flow fore

Paul Stephen Benjamin Krista Clark Michael Demps Genevieve Gaignard Nikita Gale Allison Janae Hamilton Matthew Angelo Harrison Texas Isaiah Patrick Martinez Walter Price Christina Quarles Deborah Roberts Sherrill Roland Amy Sherald Devan Shimoyama Sable Elyse Smith Maya Stovall Jazmin Urrea Stephanie J. Williams

The Studio Museum in Harlem 8


Table of Contents

12 Foreword

Thelma Golden


On Past and Presence Connie H. Choi

25 (non)fiction

Hallie Ringle


Paul Stephen Benjamin

Paul Stephen Benjamin’s Black Televisuality Jessica Bell Brown


Krista Clark

The Real Estate of Now/Here: Krista Clark and the Architectural Jared Richardson


Push & Pull-Ups: The Paintings of Walter Price Ashley James 72

Christina Quarles

A State of Excess Doris Zhao

Michael Demps


Deborah Roberts

A Sonic Body Dessane Cassell

At the Edge of White Spaces Terence Washington


Genevieve Gaignard


Sherrill Roland

A Ripple Effect Lilia Rocio Taboada


Amy Sherald

The Nexus between Black and White Erin Christovale


Devan Shimoyama

Reclaiming Herself: Genevieve Gaignard’s Constructed Female Figures Adeze Wilford 48

Nikita Gale

 Object Complex

Eric Booker


Allison Janae Hamilton

The Makings of Landscape Oluremi C. Onabanjo

Quietly Queer: Devan Shimoyama’s Magically Liberating Portraits Rachell Morillo


Matthew Angelo Harrison


Sable Elyse Smith

Anatomy Lessons Ciarán Finlayson

Love and Loss in the Landscape Alex Fialho


Texas Isaiah


Maya Stovall

See Me, Feel Me Uchenna Itam

Frames Danielle A. Jackson


Patrick Martinez


Jazmin Urrea

The Radical Everyday of Los Angeles Charmaine Marie Branch

Lucy Mensah



Walter Price


Stephanie J. Williams

“What Are You?”: An Interview Yasmine Espert


110 Works in the Exhibition 112 Artist Biographies 122 Contributor Biographies 124 Acknowledgments 126 Board of Trustees 127 Museum Staff

Foreword Thelma Golden

Seventeen years ago, when I came to The Studio Museum in Harlem and began to look at this institution’s past and envision its future, I could not have imagined that this series of “F” shows—Freestyle (2001), Frequency (2005–06), Flow (2008), Fore (2012– 13), and now Fictions—would hold such a significant place in our institution’s life. The first show in the series, Freestyle, began as a way to create a space for a new generation of emerging artists. When curator Christine Y. Kim joined the Studio Museum in 2001, we conceived of numerous ideas for the exhibition, but did commit to structuring it around a single format. Our goal at that time was simply to make room for an incredible group of new voices. Now, as this series comes to a close, and we look toward the next step in our Museum’s future, I am thrilled to remember these nearly twenty years as defined by such a deep commitment to showing new art. Freestyle has come to be seen as an important foundation for a conversation that became much larger than the exhibition. In 2001, when I positioned the idea of “postblack,” it was in order to create an opening for artists inhabiting both the culture and the space defined by blackness. I understood that these artists could live within a complex and diverse landscape. As is my desire with most exhibitions, the ideas presented within Freestyle lived on and were amplified by many divergent voices that have continued to contribute to the subsequent shows. Many things leading up to Fictions reminded me of the making of Freestyle. Both exhibitions, and those in between, have included artists responding to the politics of the moment and those who are committed to innovative aesthetic exploration. Cultural and gender identity, social aesthetics, and economic status are just as integral to the work now as they were then. The artists in Fictions look to and beyond this idea of postblack, imploring us to embrace a whole lexicon of “post”s—whether in reference to race, gender, or politics—and are interested in creating narratives that do not rely on a shared point of entry. As with all the “F” shows, the curators of Fictions, Connie H. Choi and Hallie Ringle, did not set out with an overarching theme. The exhibiting artists come from across the country and work in multiple media. Viewing the work, one is able to establish conflicting and intersecting narratives with one’s own experience, and to explore ideas of a nation that is both culturally and geographically specific, while remaining deeply interconnected. Now more than ever, artists working in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Austin are influential to each other’s practices. Our mission at the Studio Museum is to offer a forum for the exchange of these ideas and influences. While it is true that the increased


availability of technology and social media platforms encourages us to feel more connected, Fictions examines the necessary act of artists and artworks coming together in a physical location. The result is a critical dialogue that looks to reshape conventional histories—a call to action that spans the lineage of all five of these exhibitions.

This series would not have taken shape without an incredible curatorial staff that spans nearly two decades of the Museum’s history. Thank you to Connie H. Choi, Lauren Haynes, Naima J. Keith, Christine Y. Kim, Thomas J. Lax, and Hallie Ringle, and their many curatorial colleagues, collaborators, fellows, and interns. Your will to champion and make space where there was none has shaped our institution. I must thank the nineteen artists in Fictions, many of whose work is appearing in the Studio Museum for the first time: Paul Stephen Benjamin, Krista Clark, Michael Demps, Genevieve Gaignard, Nikita Gale, Allison Janae Hamilton, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Texas Isaiah, Patrick Martinez, Walter Price, Christina Quarles, Deborah Roberts, Sherrill Roland, Amy Sherald, Devan Shimoyama, Sable Elyse Smith, Maya Stovall, Jazmin Urrea, and Stephanie J. Williams. Thank you for sharing your vision with us; the exhibition would not have been possible without you. It is imperative that work by emerging artists be given a voice. I would like to thank the writers who contributed to this catalogue for enriching the dialogue surrounding this exhibition: Eric Booker, Charmaine Branch, Jessica Bell Brown, Dessane Cassell, Erin Christovale, Yasmine Espert, Alex Fiahlo, Ciarán Finlayson, Uchenna Itam, Danielle Jackson, Ashley James, Rachell Morillo, Lucy Mensah, Oluremi Onabanjo, Jared Richardson, Lilia Taboada, Terence Washington, Adeze Wilford, and Doris Zhao. We are grateful to the support and generosity provided by all the donors to Fictions. Many thanks go to the lenders to the exhibition, who were instrumental in helping to bring this incredible body of work together. In addition, my most heartfelt thanks go to the Studio Museum’s Board of Trustees. They have been central to envisioning the Museum’s future in a new home, all the while preserving the Museum’s legacy and broadening our mission. It is under their superb leadership that this vital and amazing series of exhibitions was brought to life.




On Past and Presence Connie H. Choi

To organize an “F” show is a daunting task. Not only do these exhibitions have a long and lauded history at The Studio Museum in Harlem, but they are also surveys of recent work by artists who are of African and Latin American descent, living across thousands of miles and working in various media. The series as a whole has never been explicitly thematic, which freed Hallie Ringle and myself from many constraints, but it also presented additional problems, namely how to narrow down our list of artists and how to contextualize the exhibition as a whole. The only requirement for this series of shows is that they feature emerging artists. The term “emerging artist” does not mean that the artist necessarily has to be young. Instead, it refers to the fact that the artist has not yet received significant art world appreciation—in terms of museum exhibitions, publications, critical reviews, and other forms of recognition. Born over a span of almost thirty years, the artists in Fictions engage in a cross-generational dialogue that demonstrates many common concerns and interests, rather than the generational divide. Fictions is also the first time any of these artists have been in an exhibition at the Studio Museum. The title for the exhibition came about only after considering, and discarding, many other “F” words. After debating several possible titles, Hallie articulated what we had been seeing in the dozens of studio visits we conducted—that within their practices, these artists seek to unpack complicated histories, identities, and urban economies in order to form new and expanded narratives that are more inclusive than those traditionally accepted in mainstream culture. The works are about breaking down popular understandings, creating new truths, and constructing counter-myths. They are about both fiction and fact. Organizing this exhibition with Hallie was an exciting opportunity to explore the ways contemporary artists are in dialogue with the issues that have been central to my research and curatorial practice. As a scholar of the mid-twentieth century, I quickly noticed similarities between the current moment and the civil rights and Black Power movements, and between contemporary artists and the African-American artists working fifty years ago. The objects created by the artists in Fictions, at a moment when our social and political climates are particularly fraught, resonate deeply with the work of artists such as Benny Andrews (1930–2006), Romare Bearden (1911–1988), and Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012). Although vastly different in subject matter, execution, and often intent, many of the works in Fictions display a commitment to problematizing the contemporary moment similar to that of earlier generations of African-American artists.

Texas Isaiah, MoRuf, verse 1, 2016



The process of researching this exhibition has helped me to further understand the ways in which contemporary artists are both looking toward and rejecting the past. Artists born after the civil rights movement experienced race and its effects differently than their predecessors. A strategic move to tackle issues regarding race led many of the major voices from the 1950s through the 1970s to sideline questions related to gender inequalities or sexual differences.1 However, black feminist and black queer critiques of the normative racial blackness conceived during the civil rights and Black Power eras has helped expand definitions of blackness.2 Within this generational and ideological shift, the new, more fluid forms of African-American identity that emerged at the end of the twentieth century released artists from a constrictive, singular notion of cultural and individual selfhood.3 Thus, even as people are uniting under the Black Lives Matter movement, artists are able to move further away from an essential black identity, while nevertheless remaining critically engaged with deconstructing and reconstructing blackness in all its complexity. As Mary Schmidt Campbell has suggested, the search for metaphors for AfricanAmerican experience intensified in the decades following the civil rights period, with artists increasingly looking to art history, popular culture, and expanded notions of African-American identity.4 The artists in Fictions investigate themes as varied as consumerism, the urban landscape, and anthropology. They engage with signifiers of race and the history of racism in ways that are often veiled or humorous, but that nevertheless refute an easy acceptance of the contemporary moment. By refraining from straightforward references, these artists create works that allow for multiple interpretations and understandings, permitting viewers from varied backgrounds and perspectives to approach the work. Historically, artists of African descent have been expected to engage with their cultural past. Since the late nineteenth century, the wider art market has often pigeonholed African-American artists into easily identifiable categories, often within a social realist or figurative tradition. The assumption was that these artists infused their work with personal narratives that were very much about the color of their skin. Those artists that defied these narrow constructs often fell to the margins, largely disregarded by the art world during their time.5 However, as understandings of identity have expanded, particularly over the past two or three decades, the constructs themselves have fallen apart. By being vague about their positions, politics, or representation, artists such as the ones in Fictions force viewers to question the notion of identity as inherent to the work of black artists. Many artists born in the decades following the civil rights and Black Power movements find the traditional definitions of blackness to be too limited and confining. However, instead of completely rejecting them, they continue to play on and with these definitions.6 Works by Amy Sherald and Texas Isaiah redress the art historical canon by elevating the everyday person of color to the status of someone considered worth capturing in paint and on film. While portraiture can often take on quotidian life, the majority of people depicted over centuries of artistic production had been those able to afford the price of com­missioning a work of art. Sherald, however, often finds her models out in the community, after seeing in them a particular quality she wants to depict. Texas Isaiah photographs friends and acquaintances from a larger queer, trans­gender, and nonbinary community, those individuals who have been historically left out of mainstream narratives. Several of the artists in Fictions confront other long-standing stereotypes in their work. Stephanie J. Williams draws on childhood memories to investigate food culture in


the United States. She explores how communities of color are further marginalized through stereotypes used within U.S. food culture. When she was a child, Williams’s father would not allow her to eat Aunt Jemima Syrup or Uncle Ben’s Rice because she did not yet understand the cultural associations of these figures. Williams’s use of both products in her stop-motion animation PINOY/PLOY (2016) calls attention to the prevalence, and mainstream acceptance, of racial caricatures in popular culture, and unpacks understandings of “American” identity. Deborah Roberts also deconstructs stereotypes by creating new hybrid visions of young African-American girls in her mixed-media works on paper. Her figures are strong and bold, but are layered together in fragmented ways that complicate an easy reading and produce tensions that remain unresolved. Like Bearden, Roberts enlarges certain parts of the body, creating disjointed figures that emphasize the fabricated nature of identity. The mash-up, a term used in web development, music, and video, features prominently in Roberts’s work. She combines and moves between imagery sourced from various periodicals, drawing, and painting to blur the line between truth and fiction, and to remind the viewer that reality is often just a combination of half-truths. For Roberts and other artists, the figurative tradition has endured due to the desire to fill the archive with depictions that celebrate, rather than condemn, the black body. Disjointed figures also appear in the work of Christina Quarles as part of her inves­ tigations into the medium of paint. Interested in the practice of painting itself, she provides an excess of information in her canvases—entangled limbs, unnatural colors, overlapping patterns. This excess allows for sly commentary on fixed notions of identity, as her figures appear fluid and oftentimes otherworldly. Other artists in Fictions also break down, question, and/or reform conceptions of personal identity. Some utilize performance or performative acts in order to take on different identities, both real and fabricated, to force viewers to recognize and confront their own assumptions about race and gender.7 To be fully understood and experienced, the works that these artists create require the viewer to be physically present. In “On the ‘Evental’ Installation: Contemporary Art and Politics of Presence,” Anthony Gardner, drawing on art historian Douglas Crimp, identifies “a state of presence that exists at the intersection of the indexical (or the ‘having-been-there’) and the theatrical (or the staged).”8 Gardner’s concept is largely a critique of how large-scale exhibition series such as biennials and triennials—what he calls “exhibition-events”—have become more and more about the experience of being part of the select group that is able to participate, as either an artist or a visitor. Exhibitions, ephemeral by nature, become even more elusive when a person has to be immersed within the space in order to fully understand or grasp the installation as a whole and the individual works within it. Unlike other exhibition series, the “F” shows have never been on a regular schedule. Instead, the Studio Museum has organized each iteration when there seemed to be a critical mass of artists of African and Latin American descent working in new and interesting ways. Hallie and I found that many of these artists are currently working with large-scale installations, video, performance, and sound, all artistic mediums that are notoriously difficult—and in many cases, impossible—to photographically document and reproduce. There is validity in Gardner’s critique of exhibition-events and installations, but the need to be present also appears to be an indication of the times. When the political moment is particularly fraught, when social media makes almost everything seemingly accessible, when it is often difficult to separate truth from untruth, there is something to be said about presence, an insistence on the body in the moment. The artists in Fictions demand such presence. Their practices are often multisensory,


and therefore become very much about the viewer and the viewer’s body in relationship to the work. Although working in diverse media, many artists in this exhibition utilize their own bodies to ground their work in personal experiences that speak to larger societal issues. The performative aspect of works by artists such as Genevieve Gaignard, Sherrill Roland, and Maya Stovall, however, are incomplete without the presence and interactions of the viewer. Performance often functions, as Patricia Williams suggests, as a vehicle through which the Other is both visible and invisible “depend[ing] upon a dynamic display that ricochets between hypervisibility and oblivion.”9 The orange jumpsuit that Roland wears during his performances, similar to the one he wore while wrongfully incarcerated, is immediately recognizable and forces passersby to react. Some gawk at him while others ignore him and hurry on their way, refusing to acknowledge his presence. The simplicity of Roland’s performance, which consists chiefly of conversations with his audience and minimal props, belies the impact it has on those who choose to engage in dialogue with him. Artists such as Michael Demps and Nikita Gale also engage in participatory practices that require viewer engagement. Demps creates sculptures and installations that become multisensory experiences. His works often have haptic and sonic qualities and draw on technology, religion, and music to engage the viewer on multiple levels. Like Demps, Gale frequently makes works that implicate the viewer in some way. She describes mass-produced objects such as cars and guitars as extensions of the body, and uses these objects to think through the body’s relationship with the things around it. For both Gale and Demps, the viewer becomes a necessary extension of the work, as their presence activates the various elements of each sculpture or installation. Although their work takes on very different forms, Gale and Matthew Angelo Harrison both consider the roles of anthropology and the manufacturing industry. Harrison’s sculptures juxtapose animal skulls with man-made industrial materials to investigate the tension between the organic and the inorganic, the object and the viewer. These works ruminate on the effect of industry on both urban and rural landscapes, while also commenting on the systems of display in art and natural history museums that influence the viewer’s understanding of these objects. Harrison’s sculptures seemingly invite the viewer’s interaction by taking on familiar forms such as benches and machines. Like Theaster Gates (b. 1973) in Chicago and Rick Lowe (b. 1961) in Houston, many of the artists in Fictions combine their artistic practices with a deep commitment to, and investigations of, their communities. Their installations and performances draw from the lived experiences of those around them, and require the active participation of the community. Devan Shimoyama takes this approach to his work in mixed media on two-dimensional supports. He rejects traditionally accepted ideas of masculinity in a new body of work that both celebrates and critiques the role of the barbershop in black male culture. Often understood as a place where masculinity is performed and on view, the barbershop in Shimoyama’s works instead becomes a space where the queer black body is front-and-center. The paintings confront the fact that “Black men are densely mythogenic, the object of layered fictions produced by other mythogenic people, Black men are, as if in self-defense, prolific generators of self-descriptive legends.”10 The mysterious and magical presence of Shimoyama’s queer black figures is reinforced by unnatural colors, flattened perspectives, and bejeweled eyes. They assert their own presence and complexity in order to complicate and refute a single interpretation of the black male body. In addition to the predominance of nontraditional media, Hallie and I found several other commonalities among the artists we visited. An overwhelming majority of them are


interested in speculative fiction, particularly the work of Octavia E. Butler. They are also deeply invested in their communities, both real and imagined, local and global. The issues that they take on in their work are not necessarily new—indeed, the persistence of these issues is perhaps an indication of how little actually changes over time—but the artists approach them with a secure understanding of both their contribution to the field and their place within the world. The artists in Fictions tackle ongoing national and global issues such as mass incarceration, race and identity, and the meanings of patriotism— often from deeply personal perspectives—that reflect the expansion of narrative content in artistic production over the past several years. This emphasis on the referential, on the interrogation of aspects of reality within the constructed nature of visual art, reveals these artists’ commitment to engaging with the viewer and the broader public. The themes outlined above are certainly not the only ones present throughout Fictions as the works in the exhibition encompass and challenge multiple perspectives. They resist the narrow definitions that have long shadowed the work of artists of color. Instead, these artists construct their own definitions, often mixing realities and myths to create new visions of artistic production. Artists of African and Latin American descent are often expected to carry the burden of history and to somehow respond to or reflect on that history in relationship to the contemporary moment. Many of the works in Fictions do address specific social conditions, but the exhibition should not be understood solely as a reflection of a singular black or brown experience. After a particularly divisive presidential election, the nation as a whole seems to be struggling with an onslaught of political, social, economic, and cultural issues. Fictions thus needs to be contextualized within this particular climate. There is a reason why so many of the artists Hallie and I visited found speculative fiction to be a source of inspiration for their work. The literary genre contains a sense of escape and promise, which allows for the construction of conflicting, overlapping, and unlikely narratives that oddly mimic the conditions of the current moment. Fictions, the fifth in the series, will also be the last “F” show in the Studio Museum’s current building. Hallie and I knew that the exhibition would be part of the final season, and we could easily have fallen victim to a sense of conclusion. However, the works in Fictions defy easy categorization, and they resist offering closure. In the wake of violence and brutality, conversations about public monuments and flags, and the fracturing within all levels of government, the artists in this exhibition insist on the here and now, the presence of their work. 1 For instance, although Bayard Rustin was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he was not a major public voice of the civil rights movement due to the fact that other civil rights leaders were concerned his sexual orientation would undermine public support of the movement. Likewise, the Black Power movement, which sought to culturally reconstruct the black subject, took on a masculinist dimension, resulting in black women and queer people being largely left out. See Kobena Mercer and Isaac Julien, “True Confessions,” in Thelma Golden, Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (exhibition catalogue) (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994), 198. 2 See, for example, the work and writing of members of “Where We At” Black Women Artists, Inc. and Rodeo Caldonia. 3 See Thelma Golden and Christine Y. Kim, “Introduction,” Frequency (exhibition catalogue) (New York: The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2005), 12–17. 4 Mary Schmidt Campbell, “Tradition and Conflict: Images of a Turbulent Decade, 1963–1973,” in Tradition and Conflict: Images of a Turbulent Decade, 1963–1973 (exhibition catalogue) (New York: The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1985), 45–67.


5 For example, Norman Lewis’s (1909–1979) abstract work has been recognized by the wider art market only in the past couple decades. See Ann Gibson, “Recasting the Canon: Norman Lewis and Jackson Pollock,” Artforum 30 (March 1992): 66–73. 6 Paul C. Taylor, “Post-Black, Old-Black,” African American Review 41, no. 4 (Winter 2007): 626. 7 See Hallie Ringle’s discussion of the work of Genevieve Gaignard and Sherrill Roland in this catalogue. 8 Jaynie Anderson, ed., Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration, and Convergence—The Proceedings of the 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2009), 953. 9 Patricia J. Williams, Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (New York: Noonday Press, 1998), 17. 10 Clyde Taylor, “The Game,” in Golden, Black Male, 169.



(non)fiction Hallie Ringle

Fictions may seem like an unusual name for a group exhibition exploring contemporary issues ranging from racial identity to food deserts to the prison-industrial complex. While the title may initially imply that every narrative, every subject or object, is a kind of fiction/falsehood, we instead conceptualized it as art that uses fiction to tell truths. Throughout visual art and literature, artists have created parallel stories as a means of recounting and processing events, which, in many cases, we only wish were fictional. Fiction and art become viable ways, sometimes the only ways, for people to tell their stories. The artistic source material of lived experience speaks to national issues and trends often ignored or contested by mainstream media, by dominant narratives, and even by the government, creating a type of peripheral citizenship; we were surprised to find that even with thousands of miles between artists, the conversations were remarkably consistent. In that sense, Fictions seeks to recognize the ways in which a cross section of artists capture a national moment. It is an extremely contemporary show, indicative of the times we are living through, while conversing with past “F� shows, all of which were germane to their moments. In the past year, increasingly isolationist policies and sharply divided values are impacting our understanding of our own country. Patriotism often feels as if it belongs to politicians and not those who are fighting for better politics and policies within the United States. Seemingly insurmountable divides exist: metropolitan vs. rural, North vs. South, East vs. Midwest vs. West. Crossing those geographic boundaries only made them feel more material; in moving to New York from North Carolina, by way of Texas, five years ago, I often felt the gap between myself and those who had grown up closer to this city. While New York is certainly an epicenter for art, there are many artists overlooked for living in other regions, and Connie H. Choi and I were particularly interested in the kinds of cultural production happening outside of this city. When we looked across the country, we found a diversity of practices, experiences, and opinions. The critical conversations that are happening nationwide among artists, institutions, and audiences represent a new national aesthetic and challenge us to think more broadly about what it means to be a citizen of the United States. Though, in some cases, the artists in this exhibition engage in variations of similar subjects, the expressions of these issues are extremely varied, often deeply personal, and highly dependent upon space. While researching for Fictions, Connie and I found that installation art is gaining popularity among contemporary artists of African and Latin American descent. The resulting exhibition transformed the Studio Museum galleries into a miniature nation with each artist representing a uniquely American narrative of their own. Artists who once made drawings, collages, and videos expanded Genevieve Gaignard, Colorblinds and Hammons’ Little Helper (installation view), 2017



beyond their primary media, creating physical spaces that even at their most minimal produced a marked shift in the environment. The use of space still figures prominently for artists who have restricted themselves to the wall or floor. Some works reference specific places or locations, informing their multivalent readings; for others, artists employ negative space in a range of ways—to represent landscape or an empty prison cell. Many of the works rely on a U.S. audience; outside of the country, they may take on a completely different meaning or become illegible. In the center of the main gallery, Genevieve Gaignard’s site-specific installation is an undefined suburban Midwestern interior that provides an unexpected moment of domesticity. The installation is recognizably a living room with an upholstered chair, patterned wallpaper, and a grandfather clock entitled Reclaiming My Time (2017), lulling the viewer to a false sense of familiarity. Pulling from memories of her own childhood home, Gaignard creates a fictional home of a black American family. When she was growing up, Gaignard’s home was filled with objects celebrating black culture. Here, the same decorative objects she grew up with are recast. Hammons’ Little Helper (2017) includes a music box that plays “God Bless America.” Perched on top of the music box is a woman sewing a version of David Hammons’s (b. 1943) red, black, and green African-American Flag (1990), made by Hammons after David Dinkins became the first, and thus far only, black mayor of New York City. On the walls behind the figurine, next to a potted plant and a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., are self-portraits of Gaignard as different fictional personas. In Kings & Queens (2017) she’s pictured in front of a large partially finished mural depicting historically important figures including Tutankhamun, Martin Luther King Jr., Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X. Gaignard, who is biracial and often mistaken for white, firmly inserts herself into this history, referencing the identities of these iconic figures in black culture, figures who were memorialized in her own childhood home. The self-portrait Colorblinds (2017), based partially on her own and her grandmother’s experiences, shows Gaignard wearing a yellow dress and standing in a New Orleans home with a poster for a 1960 film I Passed for White on the wall. Gaignard uses the language of interiors to meditate on her own familial history, racial and gender identities, and black culture in the United States, examining the many valences of what we consider domestic space.1 Also drawing on familiar spaces and her own past, Allison Janae Hamilton recreates the mystic landscape of her childhood in Kentucky and Florida in her installation Foresta (2017), a mythical forest. The horse manes, animal forms, tambourines, and tree branches that emerge from the floor, as well as the projected video of a lake covered in water bugs—or “Jesus bugs,” as I grew up calling them—emphasize the kind of religious and spiritual landscape the South represents in the nation’s imagination. The region’s complex history is imprinted in the very material of Hamilton’s installation. The peaceful, lulling soundtrack of cicadas communicates the notion of the forest as a place of protection used for hundreds of years, most notably by enslaved men and women who sought freedom, while sinister masks, installed on the wall behind tree branches, allude to the secret societies whose meetings in the woods had more malevolent purposes. Though different in form, Hamilton’s use of the landscape is reminiscent of an art historical tradition in this country. For centuries artists have been preoccupied with the articulation of the natural world, one only has to look at the Hudson River School (c. 1825–70) including the glimmering work of artists such as Robert Duncanson (1821– 1872). In this distinctly U.S.-centric exhibition, representations of the land figure no less prominently. Where Duncanson and his peers romanticized the landscape, artists in Fictions explore the cultural importance of the landscapes they’re engaging— expanding the limits of the genre.


The cityscape figures into the considerations of artists such as Patrick Martinez. His pastel advertisement-laden paintings are a zealous rearticulation of the genre, shifting the formal language of American landscape painting. Melding figuration with abstraction, Martinez’s textured canvases refer to his neighborhood bodegas in Los Angeles marked by graffiti and spray paint, and repainted slightly different colors. In los angeles landscape (echo park) (2017) these swaths of purples and whites are overlaid with neon lights and vinyl advertisements, occupying a space between painting and sculpture, forming an urban business landscape often found in communities of color across the United States. Also referencing bodegas and the goods they sell, Jazmin Urrea’s Red40 (2017) examines the abundance of unhealthy manufactured foods in America. With a ninety-six-pound installation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos next to wallpaper imprinted with images of candies and empty Cheetos bags, Urrea creates a physical landscape con­ ceptually and visually informed by food deserts, places that disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods and communities of color across the country. With a similarly deliberate use of unexpected and nontraditional materials, Krista Clark’s installation Stopped, Westviews through Ontario (2017) references the gentrification affecting primarily black and Latinx neighborhoods around the United States and beyond. Her installations, which she terms drawings, incorporate the material syntax of gentrification; each line or gesture is formed with readymade materials mirroring those found at building sites. Likewise, Maya Stovall’s Untitled A (2017) is a serene, reflective space created with wide mirrors on two walls, crystal prisms hanging from the ceiling, and readymade refractive prisms on shelves. Each of these small prism sculptures are made from discarded glass sourced from the streets near her home in the Detroit neighborhood of McDougall-Hunt. Yet it’s the visitors who activate the installation. Stovall sees each person entering the space as a performer, and every action or photograph is bathed in the light of the McDougall-Hunt prisms and reflected infinitely in the Museum. In addition to thinking critically about space and location, many artists in the exhibition map fictions of citizenship, breaking through conventional understandings of patriotism, reconfiguring national symbols—such as the flag—and creating tension between the nation’s values, dreams, and reality. Artists such as Walter Price, Paul Stephen Benjamin, and Sable Elyse Smith engage with the progress, or lack thereof, of the United States as experienced by people of color. Price’s gestural, lush Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2017) alludes to the landscape of the South, particularly Macon, Georgia, where he grew up. The land and the figures within it are overlaid by a nearly invisible American flag, formed with undulating blue lines. The stars fall off the flag, float into the atmosphere, and form a protective net for the figures. In many ways, Extra Virgin Olive Oil recalls other artists’ use of the American flag as a motif, most famously Jasper Johns’s (b. 1930) Flag (1954–55). Both paintings were created shortly after the artists were discharged from military service, both artists are interested in the space between the figurative and the abstract, and both, along with David Hammons, use the iconic symbol of the United States to critique it. Price’s adoption of this highly specific pictorial language alongside the landscape of the South suggests a particular kind of patriotism while also alluding to its failings. Benjamin similarly employs the palette of the flag in his video work. Forty-six tube televisions display red, white, and blue flashing lights and repeat the chorus of Aretha Franklin’s 1977 performance of “God Bless America” and Lil Wayne’s 2013 “God Bless Amerika.” The resulting installation is wholly immersive; the excess of televisions visually overwhelms, the overlapping sound and short loop is rhythmic and almost meditative, the accumulating heat from the monitors, and even their static smell, engages the senses. Red, white, blue, and black cords cascade down the televisions and onto


the floor, literally connecting the flashing lights with Franklin’s and Lil Wayne’s performance, which took place almost four decades apart. Both iterations of the song reference historically significant events: Franklin’s was performed for Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and Lil Wayne’s was released around the same time George Zimmerman was acquitted for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed seventeen-year-old. The television installation acts as a monument, not for the all-too-popular narrative of patriotism belonging to politicians, military officials, and voters who envision only one way to make this country better, but for those whose citizenship—and the protections that it promises—is fictional. As a person who lived through the fiction of a fair and speedy trial, Sherrill Roland creates performance works that recall his time wrongfully incarcerated outside of Washington, DC. In his early performances for his MFA thesis project, all iterations of a single work entitled The Jumpsuit Project (2016–), Roland treated the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a prison. Wearing his orange jumpsuit every day, he restricted his movements on campus and constructed a visitation booth. In later performances, such as the one for Fictions, Roland demarcates an area of the floor, roughly the size of a prison cell, with orange duct tape. Wearing an orange jumpsuit, he limits his movement to the boundaries of the cell and speaks with any visitors who enter the space about his time in prison. Orange is virtually synonymous with incarceration and Roland’s prison of his own making, particularly when it appears in the most unexpected places, including universities, museums, sidewalks, and libraries, forces audiences to confront a system that is meant to be just, yet at its core is discriminatory. Roland’s own story is American—he is the proverbial underdog taking on the faceless system, refusing to accept secondary citizenship. Similarly, Smith’s 7666 Days and 7666 Nights—Falling (both 2017), offer a complex critique of the highly mediated spaces where families of incarcerated men and women interact, as well as the microeconomies that fuel the complete control the prison system has over the incarcerated. In a manner similar to Lyle Ashton Harris (b. 1965), Smith mines her family archive, layering and obscuring photographs, mapping the evolution of the personal and political. Each image depicts Smith with her incarcerated father in front of a kind of tropical mural typically found in prisons across the country. The mural itself and its aesthetic are determined by the prison administration with the intent of providing an aspirational or escapist backdrop for photographs. Pointing out the similarities between the backdrops in her many family images, Smith reveals the way the prison system intervenes even in how the families create memories; each photograph of an inmate with family costs $4 and can only be purchased by the incarcerated person.2 Smith’s work is laden with meaning, from her naming conventions—her father had been incarcerated for 7,666 days at the time she made the work—to the suede mat board around each of her photographs, representing the bleak landscapes surrounding most prisons in the United States, which force visitors to cross long distances and also remove those incarcerated from American society to the point of erasure. It’s these materials—from suede to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to crystals to pegboard— that make Fictions a distinctly contemporary exhibition, and one that engages our important national conversations. Each artist explores what it means to be a citizen in a nation that rejects them as citizens. From prisons to performances to living rooms to landscapes, these artists have negotiated their own conceptual, cultural, and literal topographies, preventing their stories from ever becoming fictions. 1 See Adeze Wilford’s essay on Gaignard on page 44. 2 This is an astronomical sum when one considers that the typical wages for a job in prison in California—where Smith’s father is incarcerated—are between $0.08 and $0.95 per hour, falling short of the national average of between $0.14 cents and $1.41 per hour.

Even with those wages, many states charge inmates for room, board, and medical care, further diminishing their already paltry earnings. Wendy Sawyer, “How much do incarcerated people earn in each state?” Prison Policy Initiative (blog), April 10, 2017, https://www.prisonpolicy. org/blog/2017/04/10/wages/.

Allison Janae Hamilton, Foresta (detail), 2017





paul stephen benjamin

Paul Stephen Benjamin’s Black Televisuality Jessica Bell Brown

Top to bottom:

Black Kettles Ain't Whistling Dixie (video still), 2017. Single-channel video, color, sound, TRT 00:03:25. Courtesy the artist Black Cotton Flag Made in Georgia (video still), 2014. Single-channel video, color, sound, TRT 00:01:00. Courtesy the artist

Chicago-born, Atlanta-based interdisciplinary artist Paul Stephen Benjamin (b. 1966) mines the metanarratives of blackness and the fault lines of history, exploring concepts of nationalism, language, and belonging. A distinct theme in Benjamin’s boundary-defying work is the particularities and meaning of the color black. Raymond Saunders’s essay “Black Is a Color” (1967), in which he details the predicament of the black artist, is a foundational reference for Benjamin, as are the works of assemblage artist Noah Purifoy (1917–2004), light artist Tom Lloyd (1929–1996), and pioneering proto-digital forebearer Nam June Paik (1932–2006). A video work of Benjamin’s, Black Kettles Ain’t Whistling Dixie (2017), alludes to the negative association of black in the centuries-old, racially tinged expression, “the pot calling the kettle black.” In this work an unsteady camera reveals a cropped image of four teakettles piping and whistling over a hot stove. A body, presumably the artist’s, is sporadically reflected in the shimmering metallic surfaces of each teapot. At times Benjamin points to the color’s material history, as in his multi-paneled monochromatic paintings painted with and named after various black hues of commercial paints such as Behr “Totally Black,” Valspar “New Black,” and Benjamin Moore “Black Beauty.” The installation Black Cotton Flag Made in Georgia (2014) modifies the American flag into an all-black version, linking the symbol of national pride to the country’s complicity in the slave trade and the Southern plantation economy. Benjamin is among the likes of Faith Ringgold (b. 1930), David Hammons (b. 1943), and Pope.L (b. 1955), who have subverted the compositional structure of the American flag to draw connections to contemporary social and political upheaval particular to the plights of black and brown Americans. At almost every turn, Benjamin troubles the perception of the color black as an avatar for the black body, and along the way, by unhitching this association, ultimately reveals its quality as a marker of social history.


In the multi-channel video installation God Bless America (2016), Benjamin takes up the paradoxes of black patriotism. Benjamin remasters two versions of the song, originally written by Irving Berlin in 1918—one by soul singer Aretha Franklin on the occasion of the 1977 inauguration of President Jimmy Carter, and the other by hiphop artist Lil Wayne in 2013. Benjamin syncs each performance into a monotonously haunting refrain. With dozens of outdated television monitors stacked into geometric forms, the entire installation feels like a behind-the-scenes look at a television production studio. Taken together, the screens become a glowing abstract field of light that through a Technicolor process becomes repeated combinations of red and blue. Tangles of exposed electrical cords and wires cascade down the monitors to the floor, as if surrounding isolated channels of Lil Wayne’s and Franklin’s performances. It is in this work that Benjamin calls attention to the unique position of ascendant pop cultural icons, like his two protagonists, who, in their rousing performances, are compelled to assert pride for one’s nation, while being aware that they are part of historically oppressed populations subject to injustice often sanctioned by the state.1 Benjamin pressures our understanding of the past and how it has shaped how black bodies come to be represented in the popular imagination today. “Do the things that represent the past have meaning to a newer generation? Does a younger generation still sing ‘We Shall Overcome?’” he explains.2 As political scientists Maxwell Burkey and Alex Zamalin have argued, “a central paradox animating contemporary American racial politics” is that “we live in a post-1960s era of renewed and entrenched patriotism, yet racial injustice persists unabated.”3 One has to look no further than the recently chronicled entanglement of “patriotic duty” in Charlottesville and the resurgence of public displays of antiblack racism. The slogan of businessman and former reality-television star Donald

widespread public consumption. Benjamin, a child of the post–civil rights decade, came of age in the era of desegregation and the rise of what Mark Anthony Neal has called the “post-soul aesthetic,” a time also marked by both the rise of and “corporate annexation” of black popular culture.6 Yet as much as Benjamin’s work complicates conceptual, metaphysical, and philosophical parameters of blackness, it begs the question: When are we ever not at a juncture where black bodies are simultaneously revered and reviled, celebrated and targeted?

Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign, “Make America Great Again,” bears a resemblance to the dangerous race-baiting rhetoric taken up by the alt-right movement in the wake of his assuming the presidency. Television, though in the digital information age an old technology, continues to be the dominant stage on which current events unfold. The tube is both a vehicle for entertainment and historical witnessing. As Benjamin states:  y mindset is informed by the ’60s and the M civil rights movement. So when you see Martin Luther King Jr. and Beyoncé, these cultural paths and histories are crossing—this idea of power, our heroes of today versus yesterday. The TV has become the avenue through which all these things are communicated.4 As some scholars have argued, television amplified the efforts of the civil rights movement through live coverage of sit-ins, protests, marches, and demonstrations.5 The phenomenon of “televisuality” established a unique platform for black cultural expression made available for


1 For an astute reading of God Bless America, see Jordan Amirkhani, “Paul Stephen Benjamin: God Bless America at Poem 88,” Daily Serving, September 28, 2016, http://www.dailyserving. com/2016/09/paul-stephen-benjamin-god-bless-america-at-poem-88. 2 Paul Stephen Benjamin, email message to author, September 5, 2017. 3 Maxwell Burkey and Alex Zamalin, “Patriotism, Black Politics and Racial Justice in America,” New Political Science 38, no. 3 (2016): 372–73. 4 Paul Stephen Benjamin, as quoted in Carl Rojas, “Studio Visit: Paul Stephen Benjamin,” Burnaway, April 9, 2014, interview/studio-visit-paul-stephen-benjamin. 5 Sasha Torres, Black, White, and in Color: Television and Black Civil Rights (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003). 6 Mark Anthony Neal, Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (New York: Routledge, 2002).

God Bless America (installation view), 2017



krista clark

The Real Estate of Now/Here: Krista Clark and the Architectural Jared Richardson

Interrupted, 2015. Pastel, graphite and tape, 38 × 50 in. Courtesy the artist

Much like the architectural processes that inform her practice, Krista Clark’s (b. 1975) abstract drawings and collaged installations are always in transition. Clark’s pieces utilize pictorial and three-dimensional space in inventive ways that push drawing to a sculptural pitch. However, they never quite evoke an easily identified place. “The ideas of ‘space’ and ‘place,’” Yi-Fu Tuan explains, “require each other for definition. From security and stability of place we are aware of openness, freedom, and threat of space, and vice-versa.”1 Accordingly, the Atlanta-based artist exudes freedom in a practice that is challenging in its conflation of different media and its refusal to represent a specific city. Indeed, her work instantiates what Michel Foucault terms “heterotopia”: these abstract, sculptural drawings—comprising relaxed yet structured configurations of tar paper, wooden planks, and graphite-and-pastel embellishments—imagine a space in which the dystopia of disrepair and equally destructive gentrification is juxtaposed with the unrealized utopias of Modernist architecture and urban planning that were dreamt by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.2 Clark’s ornamental and precarious use of materials—such as masking tape, waterproof tarp, small slats of wood, and construction netting—simultaneously captures the enduring mystery of the found objects’ historicity and underscores an ephemerality synonymous with temporary shelter, construction sites, and displacement. Between the ramshackle and the promise of restoration, we find Clark’s quiet and lyrical command of materials and composition. In Clark’s work, modernism’s floating planes and airiness are counterpoised and grounded by the dilapidated materials of neglected places. Clark advanced her education and career between Atlanta and New York, two places whose historically black and working-class neighborhoods have undergone conspicuous gentrification. Working and residing in Westview, a historic neighborhood in southwest Atlanta, Clark has wit-


After Mies, 2015. Pastel, graphite and tape, 55 × 50 in. Courtesy the artist

nessed the slow but steady transformation of her community, which boasts an eclectic collection of architectural styles that includes craftsman-style bungalows of the 1920s and 1930s and ranch homes of the 1950s and 1970s. Accordingly, Clark’s keen drawings reflect the artisanal dexterity and asymmetrical forms common to such architectural grammar. This phenomenon of “neighborhood revitalization” provides a subtext for her overall practice. Clark’s abstract drawings exhibit sculptural and collage-like qualities that engage both the viewer and space in the most strikingly subtle ways. Reminiscent of Lisa Sigal’s (b. 1962) wall pieces, Clark’s installations parallel the interior of an artist’s disheveled studio with the processual qualities of a construction site. Residual Residence 1 (2016), for instance, showcases the draftsmanship of sculpture and the sculptural elements of drawing in a site-specific, life-size installation. “In the wall installations,” Clark explains, “I am learning to be aware of the space and how to activate it. I have to think about how the body engages with and traverses the work. The life-size shift in scale means I am thinking more about the size of my marks and actions and how they either emphasize, mimic, or deny the architecture of the space.”3 This particular piece realizes the dramatic angularity of Constructivist collage through makeshift layered strips of tar paper, wood, and painter’s tape. Clark’s work understatedly visualizes a poetics of absence as it relates to built space. For instance, After Mies, a collaged piece, and Interrupted (both 2015) play with the negative space created between the modern architectural planes of imagined edifices and the geometric extraction of paper and erasure of lines. Here, Clark’s interest in spatial gaps bears likeness to Gordon Matta-Clark’s (1943–1978) drawings of anarchic architecture or “anarchitecture.”4 That said, Clark’s use of abstraction may not explicate a lawlessness, but it does stand between


non-representation and representation, straddling drawing and sculpture in a fashion that stretches the principles of traditional media and leases new space for the body. As Foucault reminds us in his essay “Of Other Spaces,” a heterotopia involves “an enacted utopia ... in which the real sites are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted.”5 Clark’s spaces of architectural otherness display the real of materiality and its dilapidation alongside the virtuality of tomorrow and unachieved utopia. 1 Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 6. 2 Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 22–27. 3 Krista Clark as quoted in AM DeBrincat, “Reconfiguring Space: Krista Clark in Conversation with ArtFile Magazine’s AM DeBrincat,” ArtFile, accessed November 10, 2017, Krista-Clark. 4 Pamela M. Lee, Objects to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 105–07. 5 Foucault, 24.

Stopped, Westviews through Ontario, 2017



michael demps

A Sonic Body Dessane Cassell

Untitled: Dehiscent Echo (installation view), 2017

Michael Demps (b. 1976) is a bit of an alchemist. A multidisciplinary artist whose work encompasses sound, video, installation, and performance, Demps, in recent projects, has addressed notions of blackness, soul music, and labor, all the while making use of (or manipulating) materials as varied as drinking fountains, contact mics, wind chimes, running water, and even salt crystals. Demps’s practice privileges concerns that relate to the body and the environment, grounding his work in the context of the viewer and specific sites. Chief among his artistic concerns is how to engage the human sensory experience. Raised by a Motown singer in Detroit, Demps frequently discusses his work in terms that illuminate his musical upbringing. The pacing of a sonic feedback loop might be timed in bars, whereas the mechanics of another installation might be evaluated on whether or not it hits the resonant “sweet spot.” However, Demps rarely references his personal history in his work. While he once staged a performance in which he repeated a phrase he had been told as a kid—”Your skin is brown because you drink too much chocolate milk”—over and over, while drinking gallons of it, such direct references to personal (and perhaps frustrating) experiences are uncommon for him. Demps instead prefers to use his practice to push the viewer to reconsider herself in relation to the work, and to then interpret or engage with it accordingly. During a recent studio visit, Demps positioned his 2017 work Untitled: Dehiscent Echo as an instrument of sorts, an installation that—like a saxophone played in a cold room—reacts to a variety of sonic, spatial, and environmental factors as it is activated. Each iteration of the work reflects the specificity of its exact context, positioning the quasi-instrument as “a translator from sound to physical experience.”1 Inspired by his interest in alchemy and knack for basic chemistry, this work is one of his that is most directly impacted by the viewer. Composed of a nearly eight-foot-long plinth coated in wax and piezo­


electric salt crystals (grown by the artist in his studio), Dehiscent Echo includes a large metal heptagonal-prism-shaped frame, which encases the plinth and suspends it above the ground at a roughly thirty-degree angle. Embedded into the floor are an assortment of contact mics and hockey puck–shaped transducers normally used to emit the intense vibrations that produce the turbulent thrill of immersive video games. Demps’s mics simultaneously absorb the comings and goings of the gallery, and emit the resonant frequency of the thrumming metal encasement, producing a low-pitched hum that moves outward from the object. Similar to many of his other installations and objects, this work sits on the ground, positioned in such a way that the viewer must reckon with her own sense of gravity and movement while experiencing it. The viewer’s body comes into play again when she moves around the work, as the contact mics absorb the vibrations of her footsteps; it builds a collage of tonal sounds, the intensity of which fluctuates proportionately to the amount of movement in its direct proximity. Installed centrally in the main exhibition space at the Studio Museum, Dehiscent Echo reproduces a cacophony of sound and movement on busier days in the gallery, as viewers circle the work or cross the room, setting off the contact mics and triggering increasingly layered vibrations. Another equally mutable aspect of this work is its surface. At the time of writing, the plinth’s wax and crystalline exterior is mostly dark gray, with milky clusters and hairline cracks in areas where the crystals have converged or caused the wax to separate. Just as the sounds emitted by this work shift in relation to foot traffic, so too will the surface color—albeit more subtly—as it absorbs the humidity of its environment. Demps’s recent use of crystals as material developed out of his ruminations on the body, spirituality, and alchemical texts. Fixated on chakras and more physical modes of spirituality, Demps began exploring the

Untitled (Fountain Piece) (installation view), 2016. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist

process of growing and working with crystals as a way of creating a new metaphor for the body. A visit to his studio reveals the various phases and methods he has employed for this process, including adding pigment, experimenting with coarser or finer wax types, and gradually increasing the scale of these crystalline objects. In Untitled (2016), exhibited at Yale during his time in the MFA program, Demps repurposed a 1960s drinking fountain, reminiscent of the ones you might find in a high school gym or municipal building. Balanced at a nearly forty-five-degree angle, the fountain piece ejects running water, which streams into a basin at a rate determined by a timed sonic feedback loop. After a certain number of “bars,” the tonal sounds triggered by the water hitting its repository reset to their initial level, continuously building upon itself in an almost meditative fashion, enveloping the viewer in a wash of sound and moisture that varies


considerably based on one’s physical distance from the work. This attention to the sensory experience, often through sound, is a defining element of Demps’s work. And yet in spite of his frequent use of such sonic elements, Demps doesn’t always regard himself as a sound artist, though he often affirms this classification after many “but”s and “also”s. This is in part because he recognizes the various and often disparate histories that the sonic arts are typically aligned with—experimental music, conceptual art, installation, and land art movements, to name a few—and prefers not to be bound to a particular lineage. His many influences include sonic and installation artist Jennie C. Jones (b. 1968), the music of Sun Ra, and the geometric illustrations of John Coltrane, as well as the methodologies of his mentors, including the conceptualist pioneer Charles Gaines (b. 1944), cultural theorist Fred Moten, and poet and librettist Douglas Kearney. In continuing to explore the multidisciplinary nature of his practice, Demps has started to move away from the conceptualism that has driven much of his installation work. While he recognizes the necessity (and efficacy) of considering audiovisual mechanics and wiring when mounting complex spatial works, he has also become increasingly drawn to more process-oriented media such as printmaking and painting. To him, these media offer a degree of spontaneity that remains elusive in other modes of art making. He can improvise here, returning to the methods of his first and, in some ways, most persistent artistic practice, making music. 1 Michael Demps, interview by the author, August 24, 2017.

Untitled: Dehiscent Echo (installation view), 2017



genevieve gaignard

Reclaiming Herself: Genevieve Gaignard’s Constructed Female Figures Adeze Wilford

Colorblinds, 2017

Genevieve Gaignard (b. 1981) creates immersive environments that combine manipulated found objects with self-portraits. Wigs and detailed costumes adorn characters who are equal parts familiar and over-the-top, and Gaignard uses these representations to explore gender and race. Large-scale self-portraits blend seamlessly into her carefully constructed installations, addressing the fraught relationships of blackness and whiteness, masculinity and femininity, and strength and fragility. Often using the exaggerated makeup prevalent in drag culture, Gaignard plays with the boundaries of gender expression. Much like Howardena Pindell (b. 1943) in her video Free, White and 21 (1980), Gaignard embodies characters that take on colorism and racial disparity. Situating these portraits in intimate domestic environments, she blurs the lines between public and private, inviting the viewer in while retaining a sense of the voyeuristic. In her 2017 installation Powder Room, photographs of the artist were interwoven with a woman’s toilette. A mosaic of vintage hand mirrors was counterbalanced with portraits of the artist embodying a particular kind of feminine character. One image features a straight blonde wig, a fascinator, and Betty Draper–style clothing; the character is vamping to the camera but still conveying a vulnerable quality typically found in white ingenues of the midcentury. Gaignard straddles the line between black and white, using her biracial heritage as a means to explore how one’s body can be read and raced. Comprised of five works, Gaignard’s contribution to Fictions is a commentary on black identity politics. Two photographs, Kings & Queens and Colorblinds (both 2017), ground the works and address this notion of straddling races and defined spaces. In Kings & Queens, Gaignard is in repose against a street sign, her gaze directly on the viewer. She wears thick box braids, a slouchy sweatshirt that proclaims “Queens,” and biker shorts that read as an homage to early-nineties


Nevertheless, She Persisted, 2017

female rappers. Behind her an unfinished mural is populated by Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Tutankhamun. The absence of black female revolutionaries is made more pronounced by the position of Gaignard’s body. She is situated in a blank space where the mural is unfinished, calling attention to the lack of women canonized in the same way. Her gaze is clear and defiant, which contrasts sharply with the character in Colorblinds. Taken in a friend’s home, Colorblinds acts as a foil to the character in Kings & Queens. She’s in an interior space, in soft light with a vulnerable, almost startled expression. It is a more traditional rendering of the female gaze, one that is meant to draw attention to her softness and femininity, which the light and shadows in the photograph work to enhance. The most striking difference between the two images are the objects in the background. In Colorblinds there is a vintage poster for the 1960 film I Passed for White, a story based on the trope of the tragic mulatto that follows a young black woman’s deception of her white husband and her fear of having a child that looks visibly black.

These two images in tandem attempt to eke out what it means to navigate the world as a black woman, in wildly different contexts. The contrast in setting, an unfinished mural in a stark urban space compared to the softly lit interior with a framed, stylized poster, highlights the differences in how the characters are viewed. The way a black woman’s body can be read gives it power, through either hiding aspects of one’s identity or firmly asserting one’s race. Gaignard plays with these two worlds, straddling both and troubling the notion that a person must come down firmly as one or the other. She suggests that black womanhood is equal parts expansive and finite, and leaves space for the viewer to ascertain the truth in what they are observing. By incorporating found objects, which are imbued with memory, into her installations, Gaignard invites the viewer into a space that is equally familiar and absurd. There is a sense of both the known and the off-kilter that creates a singular space for the viewer to be immersed in. In Reclaiming My Time (2017), in the base of grandfather clock, a vintage copy of Gone with the Wind (1936) sits next to the autobiography His Eye Is on the Sparrow (1951) by Ethel Waters, a black entertainer burdened by the Jim Crow South and the racism that impacted her career. This interplay between the plight of the black woman and the ways that fragility is afforded to her white counterpart echoes across Gaignard’s work. Reclaiming My Time is coupled with a vintage armchair to create a cozy living-room environment with a twist. The clock is painted a pistachio green that melds with the upholstered fabric of the chair. The furniture feels dated, and stuck in a particular time, a time when people had a limited worldview on race. Interspersed throughout the space are figurines, in which mammy doll heads sit atop midcentury white porcelain doll bodies. Here the artist is commenting on the disparity of value in black women’s bodies compared to white women’s bodies. There is a literal


dismemberment of a white doll to impart value or allure onto a black figure. In Nevertheless, She Persisted (2017) a figurine is locked inside of a vintage birdcage, suggesting the trapped feeling created by society’s imposition of racial coding on the body; the title addresses a statement made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell against Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren was on the Senate floor delivering a speech that was ultimately interrupted by McConnell who, in an effort to silence the Senator, stated, “[Warren] was warned. She was given an explanation. Never­ theless, she persisted.” Used here, the phrase highlights the disparity regarding the place of black women in the movement.1 McConnell’s words and the desire to police a woman’s actions and words became a rallying cry for a new generation of feminists, and yet black women still struggle to reconcile their doubly marginalized selves in the current political context. Mysterious, playful, and sinister, these works seek to push the boundaries of truth ascertained by what the eyes can see. Gaignard presents objects that force a closer reading. Hiding racially coded symbols in plain sight, she asks the viewer to look more deeply and question what is being shown. By creating spaces that are familiar, and through careful manipulation, there is a balance between the surface truth and a deeper interpretation of what is truly present. Embodying characters that perform docility and confrontation, Gaignard troubles the accepted narratives for how one can be both female and black. Through physically altering a protected white female figure and inserting black body parts, Gaignard creates a new historical narrative that gives black women space to be feminine but also fierce and determined. 1 Megan Garber, “’Nevertheless, She Persisted’ and the Age of the Weaponized Meme,” The Atlantic, February 8, 2017, www.

Nevertheless, She Persisted; Kings & Queens; Hammons’ Little Helper ; Colorblinds; and Reclaiming My Time (left to right, installation view), 2017 46


nikita gale

Object Complex Eric Booker

Left to right:

Untitled (from the "1961" series), 2011. Digital color print, collage, 26½ × 31 in. Courtesy the artist Civic Union (installation view), 2016. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist

It’s like picking up an ashtray and staring so hard at it that one becomes obsessed by its contours, angles, texture, et cetera, and forgets that it is an ashtray—a glass dish for stubbing out cigarettes. —J.G. Ballard1 Through a diverse practice that ranges from sculpture to video and installation, Nikita Gale (b. 1983) manages to locate the psychological experience in the physical realm. Using everyday tools and technologies, she unearths the intangible relationships we have with things, evoking histories and emotions through carefully composed works of art steeped in research and her own personal mythologies. Taking on the vast cultural associations with objects, Gale dissects their compositions and, by extension, how we interact with them, to reveal the mechanisms that shape our world. When discussing her own work, Gale often refers to a quote by J.G. Ballard: “Presumably all obsessions are extreme metaphors waiting to be born.”2 Ballard’s passage can be seen as an allegory for the artist’s own obsessive practice. His thoughts on infatuation and his literary explorations of modern dystopias offer a lens through which to look at Gale’s deeply layered process. Through the body’s relationship to everyday objects, slippages of language, personal associations, and what she calls “bad copies,” Gale’s art synthesizes aural, visual, and physical experiences to reveal the truths that underlie so much of our human experience. Gale studied archaeology at Yale before earning her degree in anthropology. She attended the New Genres MFA program at UCLA, whose faculty includes the conceptualists Andrea Fraser (b. 1965) and Barbara Kruger (b. 1945). New Genres emphasizes ideas before form, teaching students to find or invent new methods or media for what a particular work calls for. The program critically considers the role that art plays within larger culture.3 Gale’s practice can be seen as a hybrid of these two fields of study, a kind of reverse archaeology. Initially drawn to an object for its aesthetic or physical qualities, the artist works her way back through each facet of its form—carefully researching its history and use, as well as evaluating the physical and personal experiences she has had with it. In turn, anthro-


pology becomes a constant backdrop to Gale’s visceral form of art making. Take 1961 (2012), a striking early series of diptychs that juxtaposes visual and written artifacts of the civil rights era. Mug shots of civil rights activists the Freedom Riders from 1961, which Gale found in the Mississippi state archives, appear alongside Kodachrome slides that she found at an antique store in Georgia. Beneath each pair are fragments from two pro-segregation texts written in the same year: a letter from the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to Malcolm X, and a transcript of a speech by the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. Gale recontextualizes this material, slicing and layering each mug shot to show two faces of different races. The physical treatment of each portrait suggests the violence that these activists faced along their journey, while ambiguous lines such as “Let us pursue it with everything we have” read as both admirable and malevolent. The slides appear in stark contrast to this reality. Vibrantly colored photographs show white families enjoying the leisurely pastimes of the era, unfazed by racial tensions. Together the images and text suggest what artifact alone cannot. 1961 brings to mind Leslie Hewitt’s (b. 1977) “Riffs on Real Time” (2002–09), a photographic series that collages personal, political, and social remnants of history to create what Rujeko Hockley terms “imaginative assemblage.”4 Like Hewitt, Gale reconsiders shared and personal histories, rephotographing, combining, and reframing contemporaneous ephemera to excavate the intangible—revealing the multiplicity of memory and the complexities of our lived experience. If a single artifact fails to fully convey human experience, Gale turns to manifestations of the body and its absence to further explore immaterial relationships. Her Autograph Series (2014) takes the form of the artist redrawing the autographs of African-American actresses such as Rosario Dawson and Halle Berry on transparent Dura-Lar. Magnified in scale, each barely legible

signature is replicated over and over until it fills the page. Gale’s autographs evoke the appropriation methods of Glenn Ligon (b. 1960), whose paintings and sculptures decontextualize familiar words and texts from literature and popular culture in order to challenge conceptions of race and identity. Appropriately termed “bad copies,” the autographs highlight the inadequate or problematic nature of language as a vehicle for expressing identity in absence of the body and image. In her multipart installation Low Maintenance (2016), Gale collapses the aesthetics and culture of car ownership with her own romantic relationship to explore the effect of technology on our interpersonal relationships. She describes the car as “a space and a frame for experience.”5 Low Maintenance operates within this physical and mental space, using sound, sculpture, and video to map Gale’s experiences of living and driving in Los Angeles, while maintaining a long-distance romantic relationship using technology. In Civic Union (2016), she replicates the dimensions and interior of her car through an abstract carpeted steel framework that viewers enter. Inside, they hear a recorded conversation between Gale and her girlfriend, which ranges from intimacy to the impulsive decision to get married in Las Vegas. A video projection shows the artist using Google Maps on her iPhone to reference each location they discuss. Much like 1961, Civic Union compiles seemingly disparate pieces of shared and personal information to bring forth intangible experiences of love, communication, and control. The artist conflates the car and the communication technologies we use with the emotional and psychological desires present in a relationship. Yet it is in Gale’s subtle layering of bodily associations— through scale, gesture, and language—that we begin to see her unpacking the complexities of these objects and technologies in new ways. While Low Maintenance crystallizes her re­ search into automotive psychology and technological intimacy, BIG BAD PICKUP (2017) sees her


dive into the aesthetics and history of the music industry in order to untangle personal feelings of protest and protection. Two electric guitars rest at the center of commercial shelving. Connecting cords and electrical components suggest the instruments’ use and provide power to otherwise inaccessible instruments. As feedback noise periodically emits from each guitar’s unplucked strings, viewers find themselves in a state of perpetual negotiation—anticipating something that has yet to happen and wondering about what may have already occurred. Gale’s use of towels and foam suggest the type of sound dampening found in a music studio, yet the towels that she carefully wraps around each guitar bring to mind bandages. While each seemingly mundane component is laden with corporeal associations, the presence of rock music and its history of protest linger. BIG BAD PICKUP stands as a surrogate for the artist. The work speaks to the current political anxieties of many, the will to take action, and the fear of harmful repercussions. Gale’s work feels particularly Ballardian. The author’s retooling of his obsessions, metaphors waiting to be unraveled, resonate with Gale’s own methods of production. Through a practice defined by careful looking, feeling, and questioning, her preoccupations with specific objects and experiences draw out our often imperceptible relationships to them, exposing the psychological and cultural makeup of each. “A whole universe can be bounded in a nutshell,” Ballard wrote.6 Gale is here to break it open. 1 J.G. Ballard, as quoted in Thomas Frick, “J.G. Ballard, The Art of Fiction No. 85,” The Paris Review, no. 94 (Winter 1984), accessed September 10, 2017, j-g-ballard-the-art-of-fiction-no-85-j-g-ballard. 2 Ibid. 3 “New Genres,” UCLA Department of Art, accessed September 10, 2017, 4 Rujeko Hockley, “Leslie Hewitt,” Aperture 223 (Summer 2016): 111. 5 “Low Maintenance,” Nikita Gale, accessed September 25, 2017, 6 Frick, “J.G. Ballard.”

BIG BAD PICKUP (detail and installation view), 2017



allison janae hamilton

The Makings of Landscape Oluremi C. Onabanjo

fig. 1 Untitled (mother quadtych) (from "Kingdom of the Marvelous" series), 2014. Set of four chromogenic prints, multiple sizes. Courtesy the artist

fig. 1

fig. 2 Brecencia and Pheasant (from “Sweet milk in the badlands” series), 2015. Chromogenic color print, multiple sizes. Courtesy the artist fig. 3 FLORIDALAND (installation view), 2017. Three-channel video projection with sound, taxidermied alligators, horse manes, wooden and metal tambourines, wrought iron and fabric, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist fig. 4 The Land of Milk or Honey (video still), 2016. Single-channel video, color, sound, TRT 00:01:31. Courtesy the artist fig. 5 Scratching at the wrong side of firmament (from “Sweet milk in the badlands” series), 2015. Chromogenic color print, multiple sizes. Courtesy the artist

Landscape is not geography, certainly not in the romantic sense. It is about your view, where you live, where you die, that is your landscape. —Santu Mofokeng1 Allison Janae Hamilton (b. 1984) is invested in the makings of landscape. Specifically, the landscape as it exists throughout the vast swaths and di­verse regions of the American rural South. Born in Kentucky—a nexus of portals to the South, Appalachia, and the Midwest—Hamilton was raised predominantly in Florida, with her maternal line hailing from Tennessee, and her father’s side from the Carolinas. In mapping familial movements, Hamilton’s accounts of landscape are man­ ifold. Kentucky has been a witness to innumerable Sundays, weddings, funerals, and harvests; it is the space where confrontations over farmland took place, with family members lying in wait with rifles to block the entrance from white nationalist mobs. The landscape holds the births of people and memories, and keeps a hold of those lost, who slipped through the fingertips of the living and found rest with the departed. For Hamilton, the landscape is geographic, in the romantic and the foreboding sense. Yet it is also personal and social, and when intertwined together the landscape comes to animate, overpower, support, and govern the histories of generations past and future throughout the American rural South. With her clear-eyed focus on locating the lives of the landscape, rendered through photogra­phic images (fig. 1), abstracted through videos, or materialized in multimedia installations, Hamilton con­structs complex environments that pull us into mise-en-scènes layered with mythical beauty and accoutrements of comfort. The artist activates her materials in a humble manner, funneling the gaps of her family’s history into her contemplation of land­ scape at large. Ruminating on “those small, intimate, quiet memories” of her childhood, related to hunting, working the land, or the even more mundane, such as gathering knickknacks to adorn her family’s home, Hamilton shines a light on the vernacular arranging methods for the small, ephemeral objects that festooned her grandmother’s living room.1 Honoring these traditions first, then considering them in dialogue with colonial practices of


fig. 2

collecting and their resultant ironic resemblance to early museum cabinets of curiosity, Hamilton revels in the spaces where “normative and polite social order are upended and reversed.”2 By employing strategies that might be more formally considered conceptual subversion, she infuses her practice with an honest reckoning with the rarely valued or canonized systems and forms of knowledge deployed among black families and communities throughout the American rural South.3 In Hamilton’s multilayered compositions and installations, she attempts to go back, to remember something experienced in girlhood, but with the circumspect perspective of her present position.4 She reconsiders the role of spirituality within her God-fearing Southern Christian household, but worries at the corners of this steadfast notion, reflecting upon the various remedy bottles and tinctures often used, and openly acknowledges the mixture of spiritual systems and symbols that comes with the movement of bodies from ostensibly similar climes across the Atlantic Ocean.5 Toeing the line between fantasy and reality, be­tween nostalgia and dystopia, Hamilton’s environments can easily swallow us whole, incisively and without hesitation. Through sound and moving image, her works irrevocably place us in unstable contexts. They show us the sides of the land that are haunting and precarious.6 Hamilton directs our bodies in different ways, granting solace in the syncing of two video clips, then quickly dispelling that moment with an ominous scene of a masked, human-like figure stalking the landscape (fig. 2), a wavering hand further destabilizing the flashing images that continue to play through the lens. Entranced with the swelling euphoric harmonies of churchgoers alongside syncopated clap and hum, then hissing silence with the sudden ambient sounds of the forest, we are left stranded. We are caught between taxidermied alligators huddled in the corners of the floor and suspended overhead— ready to strike as they scramble towards us, yet frozen in their strides (fig. 3). A masked woman rides

a white horse (fig. 4)—an image that bleeds into the still waters of a pond, reflected in the sky and mirrored again in the pond—and such manes materialize later on as objects, affixed to wrought-iron fence posts. These grand, gentle daggers remind us of the tempestuous power embedded in the landscape and the beasts that roam it. Such disquieting undertones, placed strategically in Hamilton’s works, are as diaphanous and difficult to grasp as the haints that flit in and out of frames7 (fig. 5). These are apparitions limited somewhat to specific areas, perhaps as homage to the images of grandmothers and great-grandmothers that the artist encountered in her family albums.8 To this end, the landscape becomes something not just materially manifest and experienced, but ultimately “embedded in other rhythms and temporalities,” and punctuated by oscillations between connectedness and disconnection, maneuvering surface, fold and gap, between the visible and the invisible.9 Here, a landscape, a forest, Foresta (2017), comes into its own as a space of power. A fictional, mythic space made concrete and maneuverable, it does not deny its role as a site of clandestine gatherings for the powerful, or for the powerless hoping to steal away. Here, the forest is generous, but can easily become malevolent. The forest is a site where spiritual and organic beauty thrive, but also a site where policy measures, even in an embryonic way, begin to impact communities.

fig. 3

fig. 4

1 Allison Janae Hamilton, conversation with the author, August 24, 2017. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 “Haint” is a dialectal, alternate form of the word “haunt,” referring to ghosts, often used in the American South. See Randy Russell and Janet Barnett, “Dead Dan’s Shadow on the Wall,” in Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina (Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1988), 5.  8 Hamilton, August 24, 2017. 9 Filip De Boeck, “‘Divining’ the City: Rhythm, Amalgamation, and Knotting as Forms of ‘Urbanity,’” Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies 41, no. 1 (2015): 47–58.

fig. 5


Foresta (installation view), 2017



matthew angelo harrison

Anatomy Lessons Ciarán Finlayson

 sually a vitrine is used to display an entire piece, U the completion of that work, but I’m using the vitrine to demonstrate that there’s something missing that will never return and you have to move on without it being there. There’s this permanent damage that becomes a feature; this disability that becomes the stable condition of that thing. The reason the hole is perfect...I wanted to give the idea that something was could find it perfectly in the same condition somewhere else, it’s just separated. —Matthew Angelo Harrison1 Matthew Angelo Harrison’s (b. 1989) works grapple artistically with “the fragment” after what W.E.B. Du Bois would call “our spiritual strivings’ for wholeness have ceased to seem either possible or desirable. To make his sculptures he bores into the skulls of African mammals and pushes thick bars or cylinders of acrylic into the surgically precise holes. These trepanned remains of zebras and wildebeests become “abstractly human,” and inspire what he calls an “eerie moment of relation,”2 in which the cruelty of the act is combined with an almost medical indifference. In these sculptures our fate is bound up with their suffering. Acrylic prosthetics are often used by museums to restore damaged objects to a semblance of their former selves. In Harrison’s sleek and industrial works they become something more sinister altogether. The violence in the sculptural process is retained suggestively in the title, |||| with Synthetic Foramina (2016), in which the acrylic bars take the place of the deceased animal’s system. In a different but closely related series of works Harrison acts as an engineer supervising the 3-D printing of African masks. Made of clay, ceramic, or polyurethane foam, they are broken, incomplete, or deformed, presented on metal shelving units as though artifacts in an archive or commodities in a warehouse. Together, these two series present the twin poles of biological and ethnological positivism—the point of convergence where “natural and human history will qualify each other,” as Karl Marx once said of the only science he recognized, that of history.3

|||| with Synthetic Foramina (installation view), 2016

stitutive loss at the heart of African-America: the “broken claim to connection” to the continent. Formally they thematize the progressive disenchantment of postconceptual artwork.5 And socially they evince the disenchantment of the world, the expansion of the social relations of capitalist production ad infinitum. In the world that they posit, to speak of one level means necessarily to speak of the others.  lackness is conceptual ... especially as we B go further into the future, [it] becomes more and more of an abstract idea...But the Black American identity is the archetype for a lot of these people [e.g., in the ghettos of Eindhoven], they relate to it. It’s all a consequence of capitalism, American capitalism, the structure that it created. Of course people identify with that, across the globe.6 Given that Detroit, the artist’s hometown, is the paradigmatic case study for the tendencies of American racial capitalism, and given Harrison’s preference for postindustrial processes over artistic handicraft, it is tempting to read his work through the history of the Motor City. But its true concern lies in something a good deal older and

It’s more about some of the things that are in ritual items.... I’m attracted to this idea that they lose that once they’re copied. They lose their spirituality. The only thing I can democratize is the shape—I can’t force the spirit into these things.4

more elusive than post-Fordism: the alienation from prehistory at the center of the Enlightenment and the search for origins that drives the natural historian and the ethnographer. Harrison’s damaged gifts to us are these ruins that radiate the coldness of colonial adminis­ tration. They make ironic the very idea of reconstruction and give lie to any image of past splendor. As artifacts they are to be treated in accordance with Theodor W. Adorno’s program for a dialectical natural history:

... to comprehend historical being in its most

extreme historical determinacy, where it is most historical, as natural being, or if it were possible to comprehend nature as an historical being where it seems to rest most deeply in itself as nature.7

As allegories, they speak on several levels. Most immediately they address a particular, con|||| with Synthetic Foramina (detail), 2016



In order to grasp the works’ sterile eloquence, the viewer must become a radical natural historian, reading ruins for images of a possible future in which history will have finally commenced. 1 Matthew Angelo Harrison, interview by the author, September 1, 2017. 2 Ibid. 3 Karl Marx, quoted in Deborah Cook, Adorno on Nature (New York: Routledge, 2014), 8. 4 Harrison, September 1, 2017. 5 Nathaniel Mackey, The Bedouin Hornbook (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1986), 34–35. 6 Harrison, September 1, 2017. 7 Theodor W. Adorno, “The Idea of Natural History,” Telos 60 (1984): 117.

Hole 1.005 The Consequences of Synthetic Apertures and |||| with Synthetic Foramina (installation views), 2016



texas isaiah

See Me, Feel Me Uchenna Itam

In Texas Isaiah’s (b. 1986) self-portrait My Name Is My Name I (2016) the artist’s naked brown body sits on a hardwood floor in a room with tan walls and white trim. He leans slightly forward, knees pulled up, head hanging down, arms extended alongside his ears, with his hands stacked one on top of the other, as if poised on the verge of diving. A large elephant ear plant arcs above him, its leaves stretching toward the bright white light emanating from a nearby window. Texas Isaiah’s figure is curled up to the same size as a black metal office cabinet in the corner of the room. Sheltered by the standing plant on one side and caressed by sunlight on the other, the artist’s naked curves are both defined and concealed by subtle shadows. Texas Isaiah’s vulnerable pose, the light that floods the interior, and the veiny plant leaves imbue the photograph with a haptic visuality, involving the sense of touch in the act of seeing.1 Texas Isaiah’s recent color photographs chronicle a sense of self, place, and belonging with a nuanced sensibility for visualizing blackness. His mastery of light and shadow translates into a tactile visual language that embraces his subjects. My Name Is My Name I makes visible, and felt, the politics of an intersectional African diasporic identity. Texas Isaiah describes himself as a “trans-identified visual narrator,” a first-generation American of Guyanese, Venezuelan (Arawak and Carib) and Barbadian descent born and raised in Brooklyn.2 He leads a peripatetic lifestyle; since leaving New York, due to the rising cost of living, he has traveled across the United States, staying temporarily in other people’s homes in New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland. Along the way, he has photographed himself and the people and places he encounters for his current project: the visual songbook “Capricorn Moon.” The collection i­ncludes My Name Is My Name I, which Texas Isaiah shot late in the summer of 2016, when he first arrived in Oakland. Set in the meditation room of a transgender and nonbinary household, the same room in which a black trans

i'm stretching beyond an idea, verse 2, 2017

person passed away due to health issues, the work documents the feeling of being simultaneously displaced yet grounded, mortal and yet alive. The title of the work refers to hip-hop artist Pusha T’s debut album.3 “As the work started to form, the title came to me,” the artist remembers. “It really resonated since I was making work around death and having this kind of public will as a black trans person. I feel like the title kind of holds this truth that I am trying to contain and hold for myself, like herein lies...”4 A declaration and an elegy, the performative self-portrait records Texas Isaiah’s sense of self, presence, and affiliation. In works such as MoRuf, verse 1 (2016) Texas Isaiah documents the young and diverse creative community to which he belongs. Taken just before the artist left New York, the photograph marks the beginning of his work in color photography. As with My Name Is My Name I, “attention and care is reflected in light and shadow.”5 The headshot features the rapper Moruf Adedayo Adewunmi (MoRuf) against a textured teal background. His skin gleams with dark brown, black, and, in places, white luster in the daylight. His glasses reflect the sun and wisps of clouds overhead; the thin metal frames, delicate hoop earring, and silver chain glint in the bright light. Texas Isaiah captures MoRuf mid-gesture, with his head slightly tilted, eyes closed, and left hand covering his mouth as if caught yawning. Swaths of color—pink finger-

being provided, and also taking these platforms and really speaking about their own narratives and highlighting the narratives of others.”6 Treating Instagram like his “own little gallery,” he posts commissioned portraits (offered on a sliding scale), self-portraits (My Name Is My Name I is his profile picture), and landscapes from his sojourns.7 He also uses the platform to promote and represent friends’ accomplishments with “an urgency to photo these folks, to have them see themselves in these moments.”8 For tens of thousands of followers, Texas Isaiah expands black visibility through the performance of self and community. Texas Isaiah’s photographs tell a story about the artist’s sense of self and topophilia. Although he hesitates to call any one place home—saying, “I feel like I’m just traveling through”—he imbues his work with a strong sense of place combined with an investment in and attachment to a black, indigenous, Latinx, transgendered, and nonbinary community who bolster his own self-making.9 The signs of displacement or marginality usually associated with people of color and the gender-nonconforming are replaced with a sense of intimacy, presence, and community, revealing the critical role of image-making in visualizing, and experiencing, blackness in the United States today.10 nail beds, the bluish-green background, luminous brown-black skin—lend the figurative image a painterly aesthetic. Texas Isaiah circulates his sense of self, community, and place through the visual social media platform Instagram. Posting under the account @kingtexas, in reference to the pseudonym he used as a nightlife and social event photographer in New York, the artist was initially reluctant to be seen strictly within that scene. He reconsidered when he began transitioning in 2013: “Once I started my gender journey I really started to rethink the kind of relationship I wanted to have with social media, especially around the time that Janet Mock and Laverne Cox and all these black trans women, and black trans people in general, were

My Name Is My Name II, 2016



1 For more on haptic visuality, see Laura U. Marks, “Video Haptics and Erotics,” Screen 39, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 331–48. See also Laura U. Marks, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000) and Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002). 2 Texas Isaiah, conversation with the author, August 22, 2017. 3 Pusha T, in turn, references the HBO American crime drama television series The Wire, season 5, episode 4 (2011), in which the drug lord Marlo Stanfield learns that drug dealer stickup-man Omar Little is calling him out on the streets. 4 Texas Isaiah, conversation with the author, September 3, 2017. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Texas Isaiah, August 22, 2017. 9 Ibid. 10 For more on the relationship of photography, identity, and community, as well as haptic and sonic images, see Tina M. Campt, Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).

My Name Is My Name I, 2016



patrick martinez

The Radical Everyday of Los Angeles Charmaine Marie Branch

Facing, top to bottom:

los angeles landscape 2 (lincoln heights to venice), 2017. Ceramic, found banner tarp, ceramic tile, mixed media on stucco and neon on panel, 48 × 108 in. Courtesy the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. America’s Most Violent Week July 3rd–July 7th, 2016 (commemorative limited gold edition), 2016. Acrylic on panel, 60 × 95 in. Courtesy the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles.

los angeles landscape (echo park) (detail), 2017

Patrick Martinez (b. 1980) visually restructures landscapes by bringing together the geographic, cultural, and historic elements that shape Los Angeles. Martinez traverses the city by car and on foot, observing the many manifestations of its transitory nature. In contrast to topographical renderings of cityscapes, Martinez unravels architectural forms and then rebuilds them into abstract compositions that encompass a multiplicity of space. The result is a wide array of two-dimensional and three-dimensional sculptures and paintings that Martinez interprets as “new versions of landscapes.”1 Martinez’s multimedia painting los angeles landscape (echo park) (2017) expresses a hybridization the artist views as integral to the Los Angeles landscape. He acknowledges the convergence of diasporas in the city by overlapping materials and images that simultaneously recall a specific moment in time, as well as broader collective memories. Martinez acts as both a witness to, and documentarian of, an ever-changing city currently dealing with swift gentrification in neighborhoods that have long been communities of color. The colorful, small mom-and-pop shops are being replaced by more contemporary, streamlined structures of affluence. The visible layering of textured stucco and spray paint is inspired by the exterior walls of a rim and tire shop situated on iconic Sunset Boulevard in the Echo Park neighborhood of central Los Angeles. An unknown person tagged the building. The owner attempted to paint over it the following day, resulting in the visual residue of human interactions with architecture over time. Tagging, under the larger umbrella of graffiti art, is part of a greater hip-hop culture that influenced Martinez growing up. Graffiti art allows for artistic expression in public spaces that have been estranged from their local communities. Martinez was compelled to create a record of the shop, noting that with the turning wheels of gentrification it may disappear in a year. He applies


the description “art as artifact” to many of his works.2 The term “artifact” refers less to a conventional anthropological study of the past, and more to a vision of the future. The artist imagines that los angeles landscape (echo park) will be a lens through which perspectives and experiences of marginalized people will not be forgotten. In doing so Martinez situates his practice within the concepts of postmodern landscapes while simultaneously resisting a singular narrative. The montage effect of los angeles landscape (echo park) is composed of passing recollections and fragmentary combinations of space and time. The ceramic tiles allude to the architectural facades of downtown Los Angeles, and Martinez bought the banner from a local flower shop that also sells plastic inflatable playgrounds for children. The palm trees pictured in the banner are partially obscured by another palm tree sculpted out of neon lights. Martinez drew the concept of a neon palm tree from a laundromat sign he came across in the neighborhood of El Sereno. Neon store signs line Sunset Boulevard, advertising all kinds of wares and services. When sculpting in neon, Martinez frequently subverts the capitalist origins of the signs with messages related to contemporary sociopolitical issues and popular culture. His 2013 sculpture a dream deferred reads “Pawn Your Dream for a 9–5.”

For Martinez, navigating and reorienting lived space involves the incorporation of the personal into the sociopolitical. In los angeles landscape (echo park) the delicately sculpted roses are a testament to Martinez’s experience growing up in a household in which his mother decorated the rooms with kitschy ceramic trinkets including figurines holding flowers. Roses are often present in memorials, and in this case they are used to remember a Los Angeles of the past. Memoria­ lization is a notable thread throughout Martinez’s practice including the “Pee Chee” series in which he paints portraits of victims of police violence and scenes of police brutality against the backdrop of the Pee Chee logo: a school supply brand affiliated with nostalgic portrayals of a wholesome United States. For America’s Most Violent Week July 3rd– July 7th, 2016 (commemorative limited gold edition) (2016), Martinez painted a portrait of Philando Castile. Activists in the Black Lives Matter movement point to the murder of Castile on July 6, 2016, by Officer Jeronimo Yanez as one instance among many of excessive police violence against people of color in the United States.3 Martinez continues to expand on his reinventive approach to city neighborhoods, painting los angeles landscape 2 (lincoln heights to venice) in 2017. His exploration of landscapes speaks to geographer Edward W. Soja’s characterization of Los Angeles as a “Thirdspace.”4 According to Soja, the Thirdspace is “a limitless composition of life-

worlds that are radically open and radicalizable.”5 Soja refers to the overlapping nature of the Thirdspace as the “trialectics of being” in which historicality, spatiality, and sociality merge in ways that cannot be untangled.6 Martinez’s use of abstraction opens up space for the “trialectics of being” and the multiplicity of experiences within a Thirdspace. Julie Mehretu (b. 1970) is another contemporary artist who creates visual manifestations of the “trialectics of being.” For the 2002 painting Dispersion, Mehretu combined layers of shapes, gestural lines, and segmented architectural drawings of cityscapes.7 A decentralization of forms moves across the canvas, visualizing the diffusion of a past reality, while the translucency of the layers reflects the intersection of numerous histories.8 Like Martinez, Mehretu investigates the shifting spaces between the past, present, and future existing on local and global scales. Thirdspace embraces the expansiveness of human experience constructed by real and imagined aspects of society. Los Angeles, with its complex history of colonization by multiple nations, continuing migration of people, and economic disparity between neighborhoods, is one Thirdspace among many. In his practice Martinez focuses on perspectives that have been overlooked or marginalized in U.S. society, but are central to the city’s landscape. His contributions to dialogues surrounding spatiality in Los Angeles emphasize the radicality present in the everyday. 1 Patrick Martinez, interview by the author, August 20, 2017. 2 Ibid. 3 Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has written about the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, including protests surrounding the murder of Philando Castile in the article “Why is the Black Lives Matter movement happening now?” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2016; and her book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016). 4 In his explanation of the Thirdspace, Soja acknowledges the contributions of scholars with multidimensional approaches to spatiality including Henri Lefebvre, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Homi K. Bhabha. Edward W. Soja. Thirdspace Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996). 5 Ibid., 70. 6 Ibid., 81. 7 Julie Mehretu: Drawing into Painting (exhibition catalogue) (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2003). 8 Mehretu painted Dispersion in response to the economic recession in the United States beginning in 2001.


los angeles landscape (echo park), 2017



walter price

Push & Pull-Ups: The Paintings of Walter Price Ashley James

From the top: a black woman with her hair in Bantu knots lies supine and relaxed on a red platform, her right leg dangling over its edge, her right hand cradling a splayed book. While this single figure is more or less defined and thus identifiable as a woman, what lies beneath her—the form which constitutes the majority of the painting—is diffuse: an entanglement of persons, the raised arms of whom are working to bear this elevated woman’s weight. While the vertical support seems clear, the central activity in Walter Price’s (b. 1989) Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2017) conspicuously exceeds the bounds of physics and anatomy both. Though a number of notably muscular arms clearly hold the platform in place, less certain is to whom each of these limbs belongs, precisely. Arms do not trace back to discrete individuals, but instead to a messy mass of parts. The colors and patterns of the clothing converge; brown into blue into green-and-black stripes. These convolutions are characteristic of Price’s paintings, wherein subjects lie just at the edge of legibility, recognizable, but never fully comprehended. Even the distinctly fashioned top hats these quasi-characters don— one crimson, another checkered yellow—lose their definition at points. A blue hat’s brim bleeds into a wash of pink. Related to this subjectival distortion is Price’s larger interest in the interplay between foreground and background. Here our perspectival faculties are put to the test as vanishing points dissolve and Euclidian space is defied. This disorientation is notable in works such as Untitled (2017) where a domestic space appears as though it is floating in ether. In Extra Virgin Olive Oil, rich strokes of orange serve not only as a backdrop for the frenzied group at center, but also envelop the collective in a fiery allover atmosphere, all while the presence of stars seems to indicate a celestial locality. Yet even the stars themselves are itinerant, at once framing the mass and enmeshed among its persons. This is


Top to bottom:

hyperthermic conditioning 2, 2017. Acrylic on wood, 18 × 24 × 1⅝ in. Courtesy the artist and Karma, New York Entrance with no exit, 2016. Acrylic on paper mounted to panel, 40 × 50 in. Courtesy the artist and Karma, New York

assuredly not outer space, but another dimension altogether. It may be compelling to read the composition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil narratively—perhaps as apocalyptic vision, or somehow in relation to that elusive culinary title and its attendant sexual undercurrents—but as is true for all of Price’s paintings, the work is above all guided by questions of painting itself, as medium and as genre. Self-described as “obsessed” with the practice, Price works the surface of the canvas through a Hans Hoffman-esque (1880–1966) “push-andpull” method, whereby color and its application are mobilized to create dynamic spatial relations. Rather than preplanning a composition, Price processes it into being, remaining open to what the canvas might desire of him next. In this sense, a blurring of figure and ground, of exterior and interior, and/or of up and down, is less a comment on planetary instability or an impressionistic technique, than it is an extension of a painting practice marked by the dynamism of the picture plane, in pursuit of a surface energy that can be felt. The painting is finished, Price notes, when it just “feels funky.”1 For all its perceived mysticism, Price’s funky “push-and-pull” process is still an informed and prepared one. No small degree of readiness is required to make fluid and good decisions in the moment, and in an unforgiving medium at that. For this reason, drawing is key for Price—both as a model for a painting practice that can remain loose and guided, and as the very literal practice that allows Price to confidently tackle the infinitely mutable medium. While his drawings are not preliminary sketches for his paintings, making them helps Price open up to and prepare for what may come when he eventually makes his way to the canvas. “The repetition [of drawing] allows me to be as confident with the paintbrush as I am with the pencil,” Price notes.2 Figures are thus of secondary concern for the artist; they derive from the painting process

rather than serve as impetus for a painting’s creation. Most of the time, Price begins a work without a precise idea of what he will depict, and allows the “push-and-pull” to inform his eventual subject matter. The literal subject of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the elevated black woman in contemplation, and while Price’s depiction of this reverent gesture is indeed deliberate—he cites the discrimination he’s witnessed black women face in general, and in the art world specifically, as reference for the work3—the decision to depict such a scene, in this particular painting, came out of the painting process, just as any other subject might. Price’s relationship to his subjects are thus as deliberate and fluid as his approach to the more abstract elements in the work. From observations of his everyday existence, he paints what he means, even as his paintings are never reducible to those meanings alone. Thus one often finds black people—at play, at rest, or in the air—


in his paintings because he lives and loves alongside them in general. Over time, one can trace a series of symbols and motifs in Price’s works, like the sofa, which for Price represents home and domesticity, or the previously mentioned hats, which struck him as a generative sign of stylized collectivity upon seeing them worn daily in the largely Hasidic community in which his studio is located. At times, however, his choice of subject matter rhymes with his more formal painting interests, as in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, where the raised woman mimics the very technique that brought her into being—a pushing-up. Indeed, another key motif in the artist’s work is a figure exercising, doing push-ups or stretching. This is not an entirely coincidental trope, for it stems from what can be understood as Price’s more general interest in feats of human extension—of which aerobic exercise is one, and painting is just as certainly another. It’s no surprise, then, that Price is continually pushing himself within the medium, refusing to remain comfortable in his methods. Most recently, this has meant working the canvas in new ways, growing his texture range and applying paint more thickly, as in hyperthermic conditioning 2 (2017), or in other instances tweaking scale and color. Of course, exploring new frontiers in paint has required new kinds of approaches. While Price begins from a number of directions with the smaller paintings, for example, with the larger ones he starts from the bottom and paints his way up—to the black woman at rest on her pedestal, as in the case of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It’s a useful model for a viewer, this “working up.” Begin from below. Swaths of hunter, moss and olive green paint coat the perimeter, as if forming a ground, but one not fully material, not quite terrain. Up above: a frenzy of stars. 1 Walter Price, conversation with the author, August 22 and November 15, 2017. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2017



christina quarles

A State of Excess Doris Zhao

Common Ground (Worlds Apart, Miles Away), 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 50 × 40 in. Courtesy the artist

A Part Apart (Fade) (detail), 2017

The surface is not the full story. The membrane is porous. The skin I live in will shape, will hold shape, and will shape the who I am inside. But the surface is not the full story. And the membrane is porous. —Christina Quarles1 Los Angeles–based painter Christina Quarles (b. 1985) creates abstract figures in undefined spaces; the works are intimate and consider the body in potential conflict with lived identity, often ruminating on the artist’s own experiences as a queer, mixed-race cis woman. Her evocative paintings capture the emotional and psychological weight that comes with negotiating one’s persona given societal expectations and pressures. The works are laden with what the artist refers to as “excess,” in line, texture, color, pattern, and figuration.2 The ambiguity of subject matter and dimension destabilizes the ideas of reality and subjectivity. For example, Common Ground (Worlds Apart, Miles Away) (2016) depicts bodies and individual limbs suspended in a patterned, multidimensional space, giving the impression of movement through a complex study of contour, form, and light. Quarles’s work balances the depiction of “subjects in passage,” an idea introduced by David Joselit in his essay “Painting Beside Itself,” with the complexities of identity politics.3 By placing her subjects in transition, Quarles’s multifaceted paintings allow for viewers to construct their own narratives and encourages the reconciliation of unstable expressions of gender, race, and sexuality with societal expectations. Painting, as object, undoubtedly exists and functions beyond the canvas, from exhibition to distribution to reproduction, in what critics have referred to as “networks.” Networks, in this instance, can refer to any number of contexts or a set of references, anything from historical moments to the gallery within which a work hangs to a subject matter’s visual allegories. In the 1990s, Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997), in speaking of these networks, introduced the idea that in order for painting to not be subsumed or collapsed by ever-growing and competing forces, the form and content should explicitly inform and be informed by such networks, absorbing, processing, and reintroducing such references back to audiences.4 Kippenberger was writing during a moment when


technology and information were reaching new heights, thus artists were expected to suture elements from surrounding contexts, eliminating the distinction between interior and exterior. The question remained: how can an artist visualize a network of such incomprehensible scale through a seemingly antiquated medium? With an overload of information, images, media, and correspondence, there could hardly be a way for individual artists or works to responsibly contain this nebulous content. The status of objects are constantly in flux as they are circulated within and among networks, and there is a state of constant passage wherein the object remains subject to its surroundings.5 Joselit posits that painting has a unique ability to actualize the behavior of objects within networks, a term that he refers to as “transitivity.” This ambiguous realm of existence, interpretation, and meaning grounds Quarles’s conceptual painting practice, which embraces excess and uses ambiguity to dismantle what is known and assumed to be objective. Quarles’s treatment of the body in her paintings is almost experimental or improvisational. She combines different materials, colors, lines, and contours in drafting each figure, and although the figures are made of composite elements, the canvas as a whole is unified.6 In A Part Apart (Fade) (2017), Quarles depicts two overlapping bodies in the foreground, with intertwining limbs, fingers, and feet. The entangled bodies do not have defined boundaries, and seem to relate intimately with each other. Throughout all of her works, Quarles pays careful attention to how hands and feet are depicted as those are the body parts that one uses the most and knows best.7 They range from stickthin, bony extremities that recall those of Egon Schiele (1890–1918) to ones that are rounded, fleshy, and soft, like those of Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973) or Marlene Dumas (b. 1953). Perched above, or perhaps existing in an alternate time and dimension, is a third reclining figure, drafted in pencil. The porous body bisects a floral bed in a

moment of passage, appearing to exist in different spatial planes. Quarles has a background in drawing, and her work demonstrates an interest in line and contour, and the variances that can exist within mark making. While some parts of the body, such as a gray leg, are defined by a black line, other parts, such as an elbow or a nose, are constructed by a wash of red. Her bodies are shaped with numerous contours and gradients, achieved using a variety of materials, from dry brushes to combs. The amalgamation of these seemingly disparate elements is what the artist refers to as “excess of representation.” She states that “it is through this excess—this excess of boundary, of surface, of body, of gender, of relationship—that legibility breaks down and is transformed into ambiguity,” a state of ambiguity that conveys multiple racial, gender, and sexual identities and the experience of living day-to-day in a body that is subjugated to social constructs.8 By avoiding didactic representations of identity, the work encourages viewers to reexamine their subjectivity, and perhaps even consider the ambiguities of their own existence. Excess, as Quarles employs it, breaks boundaries and acknowledges the moment when community can simultaneously be comforting and isolating. When a community is defined by likeness and similarity, a marker of difference or ambiguity leads to exclusion. The inclination that self-determined identity means only a unified identity denies a range of representation and healing. The placelessness and timelessness


in Quarles’s works allude to the constant transformations of identity. Self-reclamation can manifest in multifaceted ways and can remain in flux while still healing the lasting effects of violence and subjugation against people of color, or queer or gender non-conforming communities. Quarles’s embrace and use of excess in her paintings transforms a seemingly analog medium and mode of working into one that challenges coded tropes about identity and the body, which often exist in binaries. In her subject matter and formal technique, Quarles conflates preexisting networks in painting, translating elements of portraiture, landscape, and interior painting to subvert the medium and call for a reading of transitory identities. Quarles’s abstracted figures can be described as “gestural vectors ... a fragment obtrudes here and there, just to remind us of the enormity of those procedures of abstraction that also characterize the digital network’s translation of cultural artifacts into code.”9 Her surrealist treatment of the body removes it from reality, and allows for an uninhibited approach to how these parts relate to one another and the implications of those relationships. The ambiguity on canvas disrupts the legibility of codified networks while creating a space for potential and transformation. 1 Christina Quarles, artist statement, 2017. 2 Christina Quarles, interview by the author, August 24, 2017. 3 “Passage,” as Joselit uses it, refers to the movement, circulation, and transformation of visual culture and objects through various networks, and how newly introduced information, contexts, or audiences impact such objects. In this text, Joselit specifically addresses the passage of painting, which he considers to be both a medium and an object. David Joselit, “Painting Beside Itself,” October 130 (2009). 4 Martin Kippenberger, “One Has to Be Able to Take It!,” in Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, ed. Ann Goldstein (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 316. 5 Joselit, 128. 6 While Quarles’s paintings are acrylic on canvas, she often uses different treatments of canvas, sometimes preferring to paint directly on raw canvas. In addition, the artist experiments with different methods to apply paint, including nontraditional tools. 7 Quarles, August 24, 2017. 8 Quarles, artist statement, 2017. 9 Joselit, 133–34.

A Part Apart (Fade), 2017



deborah roberts

At the Edge of White Spaces Terence Washington

Deborah Roberts (b. 1962) makes collages, of young girls, on sheets of white paper, pasting together appendages clipped from various sources, including periodicals, internet image searches, and fashion photographs. Out of these parts—noses, arms, eyes, and hands—Roberts builds new bodies that demand to be seen as whole, dramatizing similar constructions in U.S. mass media. These patchwork girls inhabit the strange, familiar realm between blackness and black personhood, offering an account of life there—and of the possibility of going beyond it. It’s All Good (2017) features a young girl wearing a tank top and a ruffled skirt, both patterned with bold stripes. The right arm with a goldpainted thumbnail hangs at her side, while a left fist, as large as her head, thrusts forward. The telltale brightness in the girl’s eyes contrasts with a neutral mouth—Roberts has pasted unsmiling lips from one clipped image over the grin from another, giving the girl an inscrutability that evinces an unfathomable interior. By seeing incongruity in her features, by imagining this is a her at all, the viewer bypasses any question of wholeness among these parts. Roberts seeks to make a connection—both among the limbs and between the collages and their viewers—through the gaze. The faces in The Sleepwalkers and Rope-a-dope (both 2017) are in profile, yet their stuck-on eyes look straight out of the frame and meet the viewer’s eyes as if to say, “I am human.”1 These zombie pastiches ask viewers to recognize a person among the parts, a challenge that extends beyond the frame: The girl in Rope-a-dope has the same eye as the figures in The Sleepwalkers, their three faces, or their shared face, mirror hers. The subject in It’s All Good reaches out for a pound with Muhammad Ali’s fist, clipped from an iconic 1966 photograph. Though these are undoubtedly black girls, Roberts’s collages also challenge the seeming wholeness of identity categories. The original bodies to which the parts belong are not always black and are of


different ages and genders. Roberts manipulates the clippings to form bodies that celebrate the beauty and multiplicity—the “everyness,” she calls it—of black physical features.2 At the same time, her new images inspire questions: How are standards of beauty, or even humanity, created? At what expense are they normalized? The notion of “looking black” can be a dangerous tool, especially when being black is equated with being a criminal, as it has been throughout Roberts’s lifetime. “[Racial] bias in the drug war was inevitable,” writes Michelle Alexander, “once a public consensus was constructed by political and media elites that drug crime is black and brown.”3 The image-construction project of the War on Drugs, described in Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, was done, like Roberts’s collages, with images that had been recontextualized. It was during this period when the image of the black crack user was inserted into news viewers’ minds, and politicians distanced themselves from the racial divisions they had created, like artists hiding the evidence of their brushstrokes. Explicitly racist language was already taboo by the 1980s, necessitating the development of racialized codes, or ways of saying without saying: “an ‘us against them’ frame was used in the news stories,” Alexander suggests. “With ‘us’ meaning white, suburban America, and ‘them’ being black Americans and a few corrupted whites.”4 Alexander’s book argues that mass incarceration and restrictions placed on people labeled as “felons” have created a racial caste system akin to that of Jim Crow, and Roberts’s collages take up the author’s argument. The girls in The Sleepwalkers wear striped tops inspired by standard nineteenth-century prison uniforms in the United States. Each of the girls touches the one behind her in what Roberts calls “a continual link of bodies being put into prisons.” She agrees with Alexander that “mass incarceration is a form of Jim Crow.”5 Alexander and Roberts explore the notion that current racial conditions are them-

Rope-a-dope, 2017

It's All Good, 2017

selves mere rearrangements of parts, stripping contemporary American history of its progressive veneer and revealing white supremacy’s uninterrupted formative influence on American culture. At the same time, the collages show whiteness at work; they emphasize their construction and trick the viewer into filling in the gaps. The cut made to the girl’s right arm in It’s All Good, for example, is at just the right angle to trick the eye into visually completing the shoulder. White space holds her up, her body centered on the sheet. Roberts has balanced the composition enough that a viewer thinks the girl belongs where she is and fails to think it strange that she has no legs. By revealing the white space around these girls as white, not as a neutral background but instead determining the figures’ forms, Roberts represents how dependent white supremacy is on an imagination caught napping. When she arranged the sleepwalkers’ arms to appear handcuffed, breaking their arms to do so, Roberts also thought: “The system is breaking.”6 The girls are individually broken yet connected to each other; that touch between the bodies is, for Roberts, restorative. “It’s like in church,” she says, “where you hold hands with the people next to you—it’s a way of healing.”7 That connection is indicated elsewhere: Hands appear that are detached from invisible bodies, like the fist held in the clenched right hand of The Bearer (2017). Or it can be seen in the artist’s own touch, the carefully painted boxing gloves and knotty plaits that sneak out from under Rope-a-dope’s wig, and the drawing of The Bearer’s pants, done in soft graphite. In these moments, Roberts shows her careful, loving

attention. Suffering and healing coincide in touch, whether among people, between an artist and her creation, or, perhaps, even, in the touch of white on these bodies. Whatever happens or has happened, black Americans persist and have persisted, simultaneously broken and connected. The Sleepwalkers reveals this truth while inviting the viewer to fill in one more gap in its construction. The rightmost sleepwalker’s foot is cut off by the picture plane. There is no indication that another girl strides in front—she touches no one visible. Her foot extends into the world. Ahead of these girls, somewhere in the awakened imagination, and also, perhaps, in the viewer, lies agency and a radical and freeing indeterminacy.


1 Deborah Roberts, interview by the author, August 27, 2017. 2 Ibid. 3 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (New York: The New Press, 2010), 107. 4 Ibid, 105. 5 Roberts, August 27, 2017. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid.

The Bearer, 2017

The Sleepwalkers, 2017



sherrill roland

A Ripple Effect Lilia Rocio Taboada

Top to bottom:

The Jumpsuit Project: Brooklyn Public Library (performance view), 2017 The Jumpsuit Project: Brooklyn Public Library (performance view), 2017 The Jumpsuit Project: UNCG (performance view), 2016 The Jumpsuit Project: Los Angeles (performance view), 2017

Sherrill Roland’s (b. 1984) work broadens our understanding of what endurance performance can mean. The Jumpsuit Project (2016–) began when Roland returned to art school after ten months of wrongful incarceration and a subsequent exoneration. For his MFA thesis at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), Roland wore an orange jumpsuit to campus every day for an entire academic year, approximately ten months. His performances stimulated conversation on the university campus about the dysfunction of the incarceration system and created a necessary space for him to reflect on his imprisonment. The jumpsuit prompted members of the university to engage in conversation about the prison-industrial complex, a term coined by Angela Davis in 1998, and their understanding of it.1 The prison-industrial complex plays the role of oppressor that slavery and Jim Crow played in the past, with a disproportionate percentage of African-American men incarcerated as exploitable labor.2 In The Jumpsuit Project, endurance is central to the temporality of the work, but, unlike that of other time-based performances, the arduous mental and physical action occurred prior to the performance, in the experience of incarceration. The vulnerability of the body is tested thoroughly by the experience and aftermath of imprisonment.3 Roland’s work calls attention to the injustices of the incarceration system in the United States and the impacted individuals’ need for catharsis. On campus, Roland mimicked the restricted movement of an inmate and recreated prison’s constraints on communication. He would speak freely with other people while inside his academic building and the campus recreation center, spaces that paralleled his housing block in the DC Central Detention Facility.4 While moving across campus, he would not stop to speak with other people, in the same manner he was not allowed to communicate while traveling between spaces as an inmate. Consequently, it was up to individuals to seek him


functions as a space of emotional expression for Roland and the individuals who participate. In its diverse iterations, The Jumpsuit Project calls attention to the extreme mental, physical, and emotional challenges that come with incarceration. In the United States, due to systemic racism, the arduous experience of incarceration and its aftermath falls far too frequently upon the black and brown community with little opportunity to discuss the emotional effect of the experience.7 While the work at UNCG was completed in May 2017, on the day of Roland’s MFA graduation, in its new physical and digital locations, the notion of performance in The Jumpsuit Project emerges from personal and communal determination for Roland, individuals close to him, and the participants that become intertwined.8

out in one of the buildings to converse about his jumpsuit. Participants assumed the role of loved ones of incarcerated individuals, highlighting that communication from prison to the outside world is, at best, inconvenient. Roland also constructs physical sites representative of prison, as entry points for audience interaction. The majority of a recent performance at the Brooklyn Public Library in May 2017 took place in Grand Army Plaza, the public space in front of the building. While in the plaza, Roland conversed with people from every walk of life, including the director of the institution and everyday commuters, while sitting inside a square of orange masking tape, approximately the dimensions of his former jail cell.5 At The Studio Museum in Harlem, Roland’s work took place in the atrium, a location accessible to visitors without admission tickets. He marked the dimensions of his cell on the floor with orange duct tape, and also utilized a Lucite “visitation booth” on a table, where visitors could sit and speak with him one-on-one. The booth enabled more intimate conversation and acted as a stand-in presence when the artist was not performing. Some audiences require close conversation as a means to reflect on incarceration, while, for others, an interaction with Roland in everyday space brings the reality of the prison-industrial complex into consciousness. As The Jumpsuit Project expands to new sites, it incorporates social media as a means for Roland to communicate with long-distance participants. The Jumpsuit Project Facebook page began the same day as the physical performance and now serves to track the work in its new iterations. Through the Facebook page, Roland includes indi­ viduals beyond immediate participants in responding to the painful impact of the criminal justice system.6 While at times documentation can dilute the phenomenological experience produced through live performance, in Roland’s practice, digital documentation strengthens the work’s abil­ity for social intervention. The digital document

1 Angela Y. Davis, “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex,” Colorlines, September 10, 1998. 2 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010), 6. 3 See the essay “Putting the Body on the Line: Endurance in Black Performance,” where Valerie Cassel Oliver describes endurance as a method to demonstrate the vulnerability of the body. As she explains, beginning in the 1970s, artists began testing their physical limits and the limits of what can be constituted as artistic expression to the point of exhaustion or serious injury. Valerie Cassel Oliver, “Putting the Body on the Line: Endurance in Black Performance” in Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (exhibition catalogue) (Houston: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2013), 14–20. 4 Sherrill Roland, “A Question in Life, Answered with Art” (MFA thesis, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2017), 8. 5 Sherrill Roland, interview by the author, September 1, 2017. 6 Ibid. 7 Alexander, 100. 8 Cassel Oliver, 14.


The Jumpsuit Project: The Studio Museum in Harlem (performance view), 2017

Facing page: The Jumpsuit Project (installation view), 2016-



amy sherald

The Nexus between Black and White Erin Christovale

Amy Sherald’s (b. 1973) painterly world often summons up the thrill of wanderlust. Her subjects, anchored by gazes full of promise, stare back, affirming reality both on the canvas and beyond its frame. Her figures hover weightlessly within the confines of portraiture. Sherald creates this dynamism through texture, patterning, and subtle shading. The titles of Sherald’s portraits, Welfare Queen (2012), Freeing Herself Was One Thing, Taking Ownership of that Freed Self Was Another (2015), and Innocent You, Innocent Me (2016) derive from a long-standing collaboration with her sister, in which Sherald sends her an image of a finished painting and her sister titles it. The two portraits featured in Fictions. The Boy With No Past (2014) and The Make Believer (Monet’s Garden) (2016), center on the preciousness of youth, conveyed through the subjects’ posturing and gesture. The Boy With No Past depicts a young boy whose bright, striped shirt and sharply creased yellow pants seem to leap off the canvas, his appearance and attitude a gesture toward upward mobility. The boy’s eyes are shaded by fighterpilot goggles, recalling the resiliency of the Tuskegee Airmen and their invaluable but often unappreciated service. This sense of movement within the frame—and the title, “With No Past,” which appears to give him freedom—is also ironic, given the oppressive history that surrounds him. The Make Believer (Monet’s Garden) features a young girl, hair coiffed, eyes closed, standing against a spattered, rose-hued backdrop. Her defiant stance and closed eyes suggest a deeply internal focus. Her dress, patterned in green, pink, and yellow flowers, alludes to the Impressionist landscapes of Claude Monet (1840–1926), and functions as a deliberate intervention within the larger art historical canon. Both of Sherald’s figures, youthful and self-confident, seem suspended in the wake of freedom dreams, a way of existing not often afforded to black and brown children.


Based in Baltimore, Sherald finds her subjects on the street, in the grocery store, and on the way to school. She speaks of them as having an essence “that exists in a place of the past, the present, and the future.” She usually approaches them on the fly, shows them her work, and politely asks to photograph them. Their stories and personalities are just as important to Sherald as their physical appearance, she slightly alters their demeanor and embodied selves through precise brushwork and subdued color schemes. Pulling from an American Realist tradition—which began in the mid-nineteenth century as a literary movement reflecting an attempt to depict the commonplace reality in both urban and rural communities—Sherald highlights the everyday actions and gestures that reflect urban life. She is strongly committed to her city and her figure-oriented language exists within a larger tradition of Baltimore artistry, in which individual sensibilities meet the sociopolitical nexus of race, class, and gender. Her artistic practice is also concerned with how blackness operates in museum spaces. She uses portraiture as a vehicle of insertion, stating that her subjects belong in the institution and that they are just as important as those traditionally canonized in Western society. She recalls discovering Kerry James Marshall’s (b. 1955) work in college. After briefly wondering if she should shift her entire trajectory, she was reassured that their work could be unified in its difference, and the more voices calling for the inclusion of black and brown bodies, the better. Sherald’s use of a gray-scale for the subjects’ skin tones has a personal precedent. The first time she saw a black figure within the pristine enclosures of the museum was on a middle school field trip to the Columbus Museum. It was Object Permanence (1986) by Bo Bartlett (b. 1955), a self-portrait in which Bartlett (who is white) painted himself as a black man in an all-white family unit. The title derives from a developmental psychology term; the knowledge that objects

continue to exist even if one cannot observe or interact with them. This term is a starting point for thinking about how Sherald’s positioning of gray skin tones complicates our preconceived notions of race, and how her subjects, through their sensibilities and posturing, are signifiers of blackness. The various gray hues create slippages in subjectivity that on one hand imply the throughline of a shared experience, but on the other open up the possibility of an ever-evolving African diaspora. Sherald’s intentional exploration of grayness illuminates a world in which the constructs of whiteness and blackness collapse. If you ask Sherald who she paints she’ll simply say “Americans.” She seems to capture what we’re all in search of as a nation: community, stability, and a place that feels like home. In her work, though, the “American Dream” extends beyond financial success to encompass the potency of the imagination, mobility, and agency. Sherald’s assertion of national ideals allows her body of work to function beyond its materiality and suggests a historical symbiosis. That symbiosis lies in the fact that her work implies that blackness is synonymous or implicitly tied to being American, which maps out a lineage of identity that extends as far back as the birth of this nation. However, Sherald leaves space for growth and futurity, extending beyond the lexicon of trauma and oppression. These ideas came to fruition when she was asked to paint the official portrait of Michelle Obama, a symbol of grace, intelligence, and hope.

Pupa, 2016. Oil on canvas, 54 × 43 in. Private collection


The Make Believer (Monet's Garden), 2016

The Boy With No Past, 2014



devan shimoyama

Quietly Queer: Devan Shimoyama’s Magically Liberating Portraits Rachell Morillo

Left to right:

Hush, 2017. Oil, color pencil, and mixed media on canvas stretched over panel, 40 × 30 in. Courtesy the artist and De Buck Gallery, New York Make a Wish, 2017. Oil, color pencil, and mixed media on canvas stretched over panel, 48 × 36 in. Courtesy the artist and De Buck Gallery, New York

[O]ften used interchangeably with silence or stillness ...quiet, instead, is a metaphor for the full range of one’s inner self—one’s desires, ambitions, hungers, vulnerabilities, fears. It is hard to see, even harder to describe, but no less potent in its ineffability. Quiet. —Kevin Quashie1 Through resplendent portraits and intricately adorned sculptural objects, Devan Shimoyama (b. 1989) materializes the magical, multilayered inner world of black queer men—effectively destabilizing popular expectations of black masculinity. Working to expand viewers’ understandings of black subjecthood, his ornate, midsize canvases are alluring invitations for viewers to imagine realms of possibility beyond the visible world. Using a richly textured, colorful visual language, his paintings explore the relationship between celebration and silence in queer culture.2 By centralizing the black male figure in these “tiny moments of magic,” Shimoyama queers established narratives and restores a sense of individuality to his subjects.3 Further­ more, each character’s ability to simultaneously be effervescent and solemn, celebratory and quiet, sacred and profane, speaks to their complex consciousness. By painting the expansive range of emotions present in quietude, Shimoyama gives weight and dimensionality to a black inner life that cultural theorist Kevin Quashie articulates as being neither “determined by publicness” nor “without social value,” but operating within its own equally ineffable logic.4 Born in Philadelphia and based in Pittsburgh, Shimoyama is of a cultural landscape steeped in nationalistic history, as well as a generation fully cognizant of the constructed and fluid nature of identity. He therefore uses the personal and private to interject the layered experience of gay black men into the oppressively homonormative canon of queer history. Often painting from his own likeness, he is particularly interested in self-documentation—not of his physical likeness in a traditional sense, but in a manner that acknowledges his multidimensionality. Spea­king of himself in the third person, Shimoyama states, “He becomes a portal for the viewer to enter and undergo a symbiotic relationship with him in his exploration of magic and self.”5 The artist’s assertion that one’s body is a conduit for a mystical purpose is revolutionary for queer black men who are too often fetishized, ostracized, or otherwise


demeaned within their own communities. Refusing to depict these men within limited frameworks, Shimoyama turns to magical realism to leverage and expand viewers’ expectations of what is human and possible—making physical the intangible emotive field they inhabit. Shimoyama reinforces the mystery and magic in an expressive, queer masculinity rooted in blackness through his depiction of elaborate vignettes that, when considered together by the viewer, illustrate a creation mythology or invented history.6 Using the visual language of classical myths and fairy tales as well as elements of Renaissance portraiture, the artist constructs a lore of black queer creation, spurring selfexploration. In Sudden Darkness, Sudden Flight (Paradise Watcher) (2016), for example, a solitary figure sits cross-legged, peering from behind large leaves strewn with pink tears. At the center of the canvas, his body is articulated by thick swaths of black paint outlined by delicate yellow lines and is texturally differentiated from a background of densely packed glitter. The appearance of his skin is a visual nod to Frantz Fanon’s description of blackness as a repository of cosmic effluvia.7 His delicately drawn eyes and mouth, both open wide with desire, anchor viewers in a moment of anticipation and yearning. From this one portrait, we cannot purport to understand this character—no one knows exactly what he is watching for, where he has come from, or if he ever spots the titular paradise he seeks. Instead, the singular snapshot serves as a catalyst for us to contemplate and complete the narrative. Similarly, paintings such as Every Lover in the Form of Stars (2016), Cry, Baby (2016), and Plucked (2016) build on this mystical realm—adding new allegories and archetypes to the pantheon. Each is tied to the other through the formal elements that typify Shimoyama’s work, namely his choice and application of materials. In a style reminiscent of Jamaican mixed-media artist Ebony G. Patterson’s (b. 1981) lavish tapestries and portraits, the artist represents mutable aspects of gender, race, and

sexuality through a careful collaging with glitzy objects that border on gaudy. Meticulously arranging and pasting rhinestones, pearly plastic beads, and faux feathers into his portraits, Shimoyama successfully invokes queer material culture to add another symbolic layer to the canvas. The tactility of both Patterson’s and Shimoyama’s works elicit a visceral response from viewers, asking us to linger, contemplate, and understand ourselves through and alongside their characters. Overall the men Shimoyama depicts—with their iridescent skin, perpetually hungry or tearful eyes, and dancerly gestures—are simultaneously familiar and infinitely unknowable. Heavily influenced by the rigorous and prolific painter Kerry James Marshall’s revisionist impulse, he is interested in the simultaneous making and unmaking of identity and history. Drawing from both known and imagined worlds, the two painters viscerally insert absent figures into established histories, pointing to but not lingering on the violence of their erasure. Their goal of depicting black figures with the same exuberance afforded their white counterparts is most clearly represented in both artists’ treatment of the barbershop as a culturally significant space. Expanding on Marshall’s documentation of the vernacular space as evidenced by group portraits such as De Style (1993), Shimoyama seeks to elucidate the ways in which codified interactions in barbershops demand either a heteronormative performance of masculinity or silence from queer men. As a means to establish the men’s presence and elucidate a portion of their psychological experience, Shimoyama once again turns to depictions of quietude, juxtaposing magical elements with assumed societal constructs. In Shape Up and a Trim (2017), a young black boy with opalescent yellow skin—an expressionistic color choice typical in Shimoyama’s work— sits solemnly in an elaborately festooned chair. His still eyes, represented by two glistening plastic flowers, are cast downward. The boy seems un­fazed by the enchanted electric shaver floating


near his tight, glittery coils. As his stoic posture and shimmering rhinestone tears allude to, barbershop code silences outward displays of vulnerability, rendering the space unsafe for many, including queer black men. Yet, by adding materials, such as rhinestones, glitter, and feathers, specifically associated with drag culture to this familiar scene, Shimoyama attempts to conjure safety while allowing us to see behind the veil of consciousness. We are faced in Shape Up and a Trim, and again in works such as Hush (2017) and Make a Wish (2017), with usually invisible moments of catharsis—almost as if we have eavesdropped on a private moment. In this way, the collaged interventions on the canvas give visible weight to quiet(er) narrative elements. Even after Frank Ocean’s placid confession of queerness online and Moonlight’s (2016) triumphant Best Picture victory at the Oscars, it is still radical to see queer black men engaged in contemplation and tenderness and quiet. For bodies that are often asked to perform identity in loud, flamboyant ways, an acknowledgement of their inner emotional lives can, even if just for an instant, acknowledge their agency outside of the performance of identity stereotypes. In this way, if only momentarily, the figures in Shimoyama’s world are seen in their full splendor, “wholly magical and universally human,” adding the textured materiality of black queer masculinity to the ongoing tableau of black experience.8 They are here to remind us that how we look at each other matters, that there is liberation in quietly refusing the expected. 1 Kevin Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012), 6. 2 Devan Shimoyama, artist statement, Lesley Heller Workspace, accessed November 16, 2017, devan-shimoyama/statement. 3 Olivia Davis, “Devan Shimoyama,” Art of Choice, February 1, 2017, 4 Quashie, 6. 5 Sarah Cascone, “Devan Shimoyama Is the Winner of the 2016 PULSE Prize,” Artnet, December 3, 2016, pulse-prize-miami-beach-2016-771095. 6 Davis, 2017. 7 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove, 1967), 27. 8 Devan Shimoyama, “MFA Annual,” New American Paintings 105 (April/May 2013), devan-shimoyama.

Shape Up and a Trim, 2017



sable elyse smith

Love and Loss in the Landscape Alex Fialho

Sable Elyse Smith’s (b. 1986) recent works bring landscape and its projections of escapism into collusion with incarceration and its structures of confinement. In Smith’s two forty-eight-by-fortyinch wall-bound images included in Fictions, evocatively collaged photographs float on black suede. 7666 Nights—Falling (2017) layers three images: a black-and-white waterfall that obscures three bodies, with the exception of feet and an arm, with an oceanic blue ripple above. On first impression, the photographs of nature show lush, unidentifiable locations, while the photograph of the figures, like its subjects’ identities, appears rather indiscernible. The work’s conceptual meaning develops when one learns that the people pictured are Smith’s family—her father, her paternal grandmother, and her father’s aunt—in a photograph taken in prison. The image indexes the visiting room where incarcerated individuals connect with their loved ones, while the collage covers the identities of those present with aquatic landscapes far removed from the site of incarceration. Similarly, in 7666 Days (2017) the faces of three figures are Photoshopped with wavelike imagery that blends into the background of the photograph, also taken in prison. Smith notes that she is one of the people pictured, albeit obscured, alongside her father and sister. Smith’s gesture to include herself in the work places her family history, particularly her father’s experience in prison and her relationship to him in that context, at the heart of these paired pieces. Specifically, the number in the titles of these works references the number of days her father had been incarcerated at the time of making the work. This narrative becomes a personal means of reflecting upon broader considerations of structural confinement and constructed escapism. In both photographs, the figures are set against the tropical mural backdrop of a prison visiting room, an oasis at odds with its context of incarceration. Landscape painting and photography has a romanticized history of evoking spiritual, affective experiences. Here, Smith points to its confused


Left to right: Page from Smith's LANDSCAPES & PLAYGROUNDS, published in 2017

Avenal, 2015. Digital chromogenic print, 30 × 40 in. Courtesy the artist

deployment within the confines of prison, where perhaps they have been painted to provide exotic locations outside of the prison walls. Smith troubles the escapism of these mural landscapes. The overlaid scenes obscure her family members’ faces, in turn opening up individual identities to a potential mass portrait for a number of people, notably black people, “washed up in the whole cycle,” as Smith puts it.1 Smith’s gesture to shroud the faces also holds privacy intimately close, making space for her father and his story in her art, while protecting his and their family’s privacy. The black suede framing of the photographs speaks to both connection and confinement. Smith notes her tactile fingerprints from the process of creation remain visible on the suede’s surface, “the suede holds the memory of my touch.”2 In a sense, these impressions of felt experience resonate with the purpose of visiting room photographs: to hold onto memories as keepsakes. Yet the vast black backdrop also seems to subsume the image, intimacy lost in the landscape. In addition to these deliberate reframings, Smith also speaks to the production process of these photographs from prison, with a parti­cu­lar interest in interrogating the problematic microeconomies in prison visiting rooms. For instance, Smith notes the murals are often painted by incarcerated individuals, with little to no form of payment for their labor. The family photographs, often taken by fellow inmates, also must be purchased by those incarcerated in exchange for many hours of labor. This exploitation is indicative of the broader apparatuses of white supremacy, which projects particular fantasies of leisure and escape, while it has structurally and systemically relegated communities of color to indentured positions for centuries. In rendering a distinctly different type of photographic image, Smith provides possibilities for newly politicized landscapes. Smith collaboratively enacts an alternative possibility for art and images in the context of incarceration with artists Shaun Leonardo and Melanie Crean through their project Mirror/Echo/

Tilt (2015–). At Recess Assembly in Downtown Brooklyn in 2017, the artists researched and facilitated a workshop curriculum for youth through a diversion program with the Brooklyn Justice Initiatives, supporting misdemeanor defendants “to reduc[e] the use of jail and prevent future justice system involvement.”3 Through narrative exercises and visual storytelling, the performance-based workshops aim to inspire reflection and analytical awareness concerning the justice system, detention, and the participants’ charged circumstances. A backdrop for this particular context is Smith’s longstanding experience in arts education, including with The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Education Department. Participating youth used the creative platform to make a podcast, musical performance, documentary, and more; the program supports agency through creativity and makes an impact. In a related series of works, Smith prints photographs produced by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation of their own sites of incarceration. While these aerial views of the prison attempt to convey a calm, even picturesque quality of compositional and architectural rationale, Smith reads their problematic logic: “This is supposedly an image of ‘justice’ that allows certain people a moment to breathe: All of those people who are drug dealers, who come from the projects, are violent, who are this type of individual, are away.”4 The purported sense of safety that these landscapes of law and order project is complicit in our unjust contemporary reality of mass incarceration, which has resulted in an estimated 2.3 million people behind bars in the United States, an overwhelming majority from black and brown communities.5 High-resolution images of state prisons are available for download online on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website; Smith has printed images of the “six California prisons my body has been in, and by default my father.”6 She does not modify the orig-


inal images, but instead positions these prison views next to or within other works that trouble their meaning. For example, in her 2017 artist book LANDSCAPES & PLAYGROUNDS, Smith publishes an image of the Centinela State Prison Facility next to a letter from her father, reading, “Wheres the love daughters? Its just not that hard. Love you Miss you Pops A.K.A. Pa,” with a drawing of a smiling heart balloon, marked by a stamp from the site of incarceration. The spread in LANDSCAPES & PLAYGROUNDS complicates the prison image’s objective remove by framing the insidious landscape alongside the tender grasps at connection made by Smith’s father from within its confines. In so doing, Smith illuminates her father’s humanity and the touch of his love, rendering his personhood and his potential, in contrast to the institution that contains him. Smith summarizes the stakes in these works, “I’m talking about what it feels like to visit prison and what it means to access someone who is archived away in a very specific architecture. I’m taking the images that are produced by the institution as a starting point to think about the invisibilities in the space of the visiting room, and the way that different bodies are marked or oppressed as you navigate that space, the inmate and then also the person visiting. The stigma that happens, microaggressions, reminders and reinforcements of agency, power, free and not free, within the space of visiting, which is supposed to be about rehabilitation. All of the alterations or modifications to the photographs become about markers, motifs, and gestures that happen in that visiting space—an architecture of restraint.”7 1 Sable Elyse Smith, interview by the author, August 13, 2017. I thank Sable for powerfully sharing her work and her support of this writing, as well as A-lan Holt for her thoughtful edit. 2 Smith, August 13, 2017. 3 “Brooklyn Justice Initiatives,” Center for Court Innovation, accessed October 20, 2017, brooklyn-justice-initiatives. 4 Smith, August 13, 2017. 5 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay, 2016. 6 Smith, August 13, 2017. 7 Smith, August 13, 2017.

7666 Days, 2017

7666 Nights—Falling, 2017



maya stovall

Frames Danielle A. Jackson

Top to bottom:

Liquor Store Theatre, vol. 1, no. 3, (video still), 2014. Digital video, color, sound, TRT 00:06:33. Courtesy the artist and Todd Stovall Untitled A (detail), 2017

Maya Stovall (b. 1982) practices a kind of choreo-ethnography, a mining of the “sweeping questions of human existence,” often through performative action, in order to highlight the ways in which the politics of contemporary life are shaped by multiple factors—access, landscape, power, and privilege, to name a few.1 Stovall, born and raised in Detroit, is best known for her ongoing body of work Liquor Store Theatre (2014–), an anthropological field research project that began in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood of Detroit in the summer of 2014. (It is also the basis for her doctoral dissertation.) In an attempt to understand the nuances and complexities of her home city, a place often portrayed in the media as synonymous with economic decline, she focused on a familiar urban site, the local liquor store, treating it and its surrounding mise-en-scène as readymade stages or frames to be activated by movement. Video documentation of the first iteration of Liquor Store Theatre shows Stovall and three dancers performing beneath a U-shaped red sign with bright yellow lettering: “Check, Cashing, Lotto.” They enact an improvised mix of ballet, everyday gestures, and modern dance, and then interview departing store patrons and passersby. For Stovall, choreography is a series of actions— walking, talking, breaking glass, ballet moves, the waving of a hand—an approach that is not dissimilar to notable conceptualists such as Ralph Lemon (b. 1952), who once bowed in front of civil rights activist Medgar Evers’s home in Mississippi, defiantly declaring the action a counter-memorial, or Marina Abramović (b. 1946) and Ulay (b. 1943), who faced one another and touched the tips of their index fingers together in Point of Contact (1980).2 Stovall records the Liquor Store Theatre events on video, then edits the footage and adds a soundtrack arranged by her partner and collaborator, electronic music composer and visual artist Todd Stovall (b. 1980). The result is an engrossing choreographed movement set against spontaneous reactions by residents and customers,


imagined as a new space for stories of Detroit’s transformation—a space that includes the usually forgotten or ignored voices of local residents. “With Liquor Store Theatre,” the artist says, “I want to bring something to the people rather than simply taking...I am asking [residents] about their lives, asking them to be vulnerable and share their ideas and their experiences, and I want to be vulnerable with them too.”3 The resonance of the project’s discursive DNA is amplified by the liquor store’s role as a site of socialization and commerce in neighborhoods linked to “disinvestment and abandonment.”4 Over the years Liquor Store Theatre has taken many forms, but always continues to be reflec­tive. For example, MANIFESTO, produced on the occasion of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, was a theater performance that investigated the motivations of and sources behind Liquor Store Theatre. It consisted of ten tableaus, including live writing sessions, spontaneous interactions with objects, and hand-movement sequences. The recent work Liquor Store and Other Things with the Artist, performed in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, took the form of a procession and concert where a sequence of actions was continuously performed for local residents and the art community—a key distinction from the more insular Detroit happenings.5 Stovall’s commission for Fictions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, Untitled A (2017), combines her interests in site-specific performance and the readymade object; it is her first museum installation. It expands investigations she made during a recent residency in Denmark entitled Havne­plad­ sen Ballet, where she documented performances and discussions in the middle of a Jeppe Hein (b. 1974) fountain in the largest harbor in Scandinavia in an attempt to establish a connection between the social, economic, and political genealogies of the city of Aarhus and those of Detroit. Observing commonalities between the use of landscape art in contemporary Danish artistic

walls. As the artist notes, the work “breathes and performs” the moment visitors position themselves on the bench or anywhere within the narrow space of the room, as their bodies and gestures are endlessly reflected in the mirrors. As this kind of improvised actionism or choreography is not dissimilar to the movement language of Liquor Store Theatre, it makes her choreography and landscape investigations come full circle: Visitors to the Studio Museum, with their own unique histories, find themselves metaphorically transported to the Detroit landscape—a poignant portrait of intersectional identity viewed through a multitude of frames.

practices and her ongoing exegesis into the notion of “landscape as frame,” Stovall’s Untitled A can be read as an outcrop of a seed nourished.6 Stovall worked with Greg Winters, a lifelong resident of the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood of Detroit, and Todd Stovall to gather pieces of shattered glassware from the streets. She later arranged the discarded objects into mason jars, reminiscent of an altar, in a grid on clear plexiglass shelves. Above the jars rest evenly spaced strips of rope tied into knots that hold prism-like glass constructions (cut and manipulated by the artist). The cut glass alongside its mode of display, arguably a minimalist impulse, suggests durability and fragility, echoing the cultural genetics of the landscape in which they were found. A wooden bench is in the middle of the gallery space, and large rectangular mirrors cover the side


1 Maya Stovall, interview by the author, September 7, 2017. 2 Prior to the creation of the theatrical work Come home Charley Patton (2004), artist Ralph Lemon embarked on a journey throughout the American South, where he visited several sites significant to civil rights history. At each site, Lemon performed a series of actions he called “counter-memorials.” They are memorials that use the body and challenge the way we think about the commemorative process. Lemon’s actions seek to ritualize rather than monumentalize. See Ralph Lemon, Come home Charley Patton (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2013); and also Nicholas Birns, “Ritualizing the Past: Ralph Lemon’s Counter-Memorials,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 27, no. 3 (September, 2005): 18–22. 3 Maya Stovall, “Maya Stovall, interview by Biba Bell,” Movement Research, May 19, 2015, critical-correspondence/maya-stovall-in-conversation-with-biba-bell. 4 In neighborhoods like McDougall-Hunt, liquor stores often sell groceries, clothing, and electronic goods, and serve as informal social centers. Christopher Lew and Mia Locks, “Maya Stovall,” in Whitney Biennial 2017 (exhibition catalogue) (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2017), 182. 5 This project was commissioned as part of Marching to the Beat at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco (July 14–August 26, 2017), an exhibition that explored the body and sociality. Stovall researched the Tenderloin, touring the area and having discussions with residents, and worked with a local resident (and artist’s assistant) to video document the procession and help execute the performative actions. 6 Stovall, September 7, 2017.

Untitled A (installation view), 2017



jazmin urrea

Lucy Mensah

Los Angeles–based installation artist Jazmin Urrea (b. 1990) has garnered recent acclaim for her tongue-in-cheek critiques of food insecurity and her satirical examinations of how food, culture, and gender intersect. Food insecurity, an issue disproportionately affecting lower-income communities, refers to neighborhoods that lack consistent access to healthy and sustainable food options. Thus, such neighborhoods are referred to as “food deserts,” overrun by stores selling junk food, such as soda and candy, and liquor. Raised in Compton and the Watts neighborhood in South Los Angeles—which are both food deserts—Urrea transforms her personal experience with food insecurity into a spectacle as a means of drawing attention to an often ignored and misrepresented issue. The artist’s representation of food in her work equally serves as a generative topic to address the heavily charged relationship between femininity and food. Not only is the female body treated in a way akin to the way the consumption of food is treated, but for Urrea, women’s relationships with food are policed. The artist frames these issues in the context of Mexican culture and its standards of feminine beauty and propriety. Thus, critical race scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality—which underscores that the interworkings of class, gender, race, and sexuality have much to do with how a person is treated in society—figures importantly in Urrea’s work. The recent CalArts graduate, who specializes in both photography and media, creates work that playfully negotiates the line between the mundane and absurd. The way Urrea accomplishes such artistic play is particularly alluring and bold. For the artist, it is the comic, sensational, and visually excessive that creates the necessary space for political critiques of racial and gendered inequities. The societal norms that perpetuate these inequities serve as fodder for Urrea’s work, their comicality a symptom of their constructedness and fictionality.


Red40 (detail), 2017

A typically mundane source of human sustainability, food takes on, in some of Urrea’s pieces, an amusing valence. Her work can be understood in the context of artists who have used food to make statements about sexuality, the male gaze, and American consumerism, including Carolee Schneemann (b. 1939), Meat Joy (1964); Sarah Lucas (b. 1962), Self Portrait with Fried Eggs (1996); Hannah Wilke (1940–1993), S.O.S. Starification Object Series (1974–1982); and Cindy Sherman (b. 1954), Untitled (1987). Like these artists, Urrea balances a playfulness with seriousness. For example, in her public performance Candy Is Dandy (2013), the artist, wearing a bodysuit made entirely of candy, walks through wealthy neighborhoods in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. The reactions of the passersby range from laughter, to confusion, to even disgust, and many spectators request a selfie with the artist. In another filmed performance, titled The Contemporary Diet (2016), the artist smothers herself suggestively with nacho cheese sauce, Cheetos, and soda in her bathroom. Here, like her role in Candy Is Dandy, Urrea transforms herself into a spectacle by sexualizing her relationship with food, and thus illuminating the ways in which growing up in a food desert heavily informs one’s relationship with food. What may seem to be a comic engagement with food on Urrea’s part ventures into the realm of the grotesque in her short film, Bombón (2014), which shows a pair of anonymous, latex-gloved hands force-feeding the artist a sickening and undiscriminating assortment of junk food. Over the course of the six-minute, twenty-four-second film, the viewer’s reaction may begin with curiosity and surprise but transforms into discomfort and self-consciousness about his or her voyeurism. Akin to an endurance performance, Bombón positions the viewer as a consumer of a spectacle, transfixed by the artist’s gendered body being pushed to uncomfortable, and somewhat abusive, limits.

By creating visual excess and a sensorially immersive experience, Urrea achieves a witty political critique of food insecurity through her Master’s thesis project Red40 (2017). Urrea’s installation is not only a statement on the national problem of food deserts, but is also a statement on the artist’s personal experience growing up in such places, and the unhealthy relationship to junk food that can develop as a result. The artist was compelled to conduct an intensive study of the red dye know as Red 40, a petroleum-based color additive that is found not only in Cheetos, but also in a significant percentage of junk food that is distributed in food deserts. It is speculated that the additive can cause serious health issues.


First displayed at CalArts, Red40 is a provokingly playful large-scale installation that draws attention to food deserts. The installation involves more than three hundred pounds of Frito-Lay’s Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which the artist sourced from Los Angeles’s Piñata District, and photocopied images of Rellerindos, Dedos, and Jabalina, all brands of Mexican candy. As part of the wallpaper, Urrea included real Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bags with the photocopies. The sheer quantity of Cheetos used for this project is titillating and gestures towards the artist’s obsessive interest in food. Such an obsession ventures into what can best be described as a comical porni­ fication of the familiar. Arranged on the floor in the shape of a large circle, the Cheetos take on an almost sacred dimension; the viewer walks around in awe, seeing such an amount of the snack in one place and at one time. The mass of Cheetos creates an intensification of its orange color that captures viewers’ attention. In combination with the installation’s scale, its form, removed from the commercial packaging, elevates the Cheeto to an aesthetic object. The artist’s aesthetic transformation of consumption is reminiscent of 1960s Pop art, including Andy Warhol’s (1928–1987) screenprint representations of Campbell’s soup cans, or Claes Oldenburg’s (b. 1929) fast-food inspired “soft sculptures.” Placing bags of Cheetos within the white walls of a gallery not only brings the topic of food insecurity into cultural institutions but also dismantles the boundaries that remain between high and low culture. Fundamentally, through visual discomfort, play, and hyperbole, Urrea draws attention to the politics of consumption, an issue that opens further discussion about food security, urban sustainability, and income-based health disparities. At the same time, the artist’s work brilliantly addresses the political responsibilities of the artist, the power of spectacle, and the value of comedic effect.

Red40 (installation view), 2017



stephanie j. williams

“What Are You?” An interview with Stephanie J. Williams Yasmine Espert

Stephanie J. Williams (b. 1981) is an interdisciplinary artist living in the northeast quadrant of Washington, DC. Her three-dimensional sculptures and stop-motion animations investigate our relationship to food culture. In particular, her visual emphasis on food consumption explores the complex narratives that humans struggle to digest, and often leave out of polite conversation. The following text is an excerpt of my interview with Williams, conducted in the summer of 2017. It demonstrates her attentiveness to material culture and its ability to create a theater of familiarity through a time-based medium. Whether producing soft-sculpture installations on the scale of Claes Oldenburg or meditative animation work that recalls videos by Simone Leigh (b. 1967) and Steffani Jemison (b. 1981), Williams creates pieces that require prolonged visual engagement. Yasmine Espert: Let’s begin with the allegorical use of the balut, a boiled fertilized egg considered a delicacy in the Philippines, in your stop-motion puppet animation PINOY/PLOY (2016). This piece comments specifically on your Filipino and African-American upbringing. What beliefs about food did you have in mind when making PINOY/PLOY? Stephanie J. Williams: When I’m making a sculpture, I do think about making a meal with my mom. She taught me how to fully break down certain types of animals. Our relationship to food was to not waste things, to make use of the parts that might be considered throwaway, fringe, or disgusting. Although those words, “disgusting” or “fringe,” didn’t really enter my understanding of food until much later, when I came to understand what mainstream food was in relationship to what we ate and perceived. And so when I was making PINOY/PLOY, I aimed to make things that are specifically “disgusting”—that complicated [the] relationship between disenfranchised or throwaway people and throwaway pieces.


PINOY/PLOY (video still), 2016

YE: At the center of PINOY/PLOY is the character Pinoy, a duck embryo who wears a white ruff collar, similar to what we might see in a painting by Frans Hals (1582/83–1666) or Rembrandt (1606– 1669). Its sex is ambiguous. Its eyes are still shut. And the skin is shades of pink; there are no feathers. It’s a body still in formation. What’s your relationship to the term “Pinoy” and the embryonic character Pinoy? SW: I think that [Pinoy] was this indecipherable thing, this kind of vague thing, this unplaceable thing. This thing that seemed to be in between states. It’s in gestation but also unplaceable because a lot of people don’t recognize what a balut is as a food. And then, giving it a position of power...having a collar, this kind of very colonialist-hero European collar. I don’t know, it was a nice way of mixing up that narrative that I learned. YE: Visually, how did you decide on its elements? It’s something that people might describe as... YE and SW: ... gross. YE: To people who may not be used to eating balut, for example. SW: True...I aimed at making it stereotypically gross. Something that was very visceral, something that would get a physical reaction. And I like that as a way of pushing the boundaries of what is considered tasteful. Because it’s something that I would eat, most readily, and I didn’t think anything of it. As I got older, I came to recognize [it] as something that is disgusting. It’s not the beall and end-all of my experience as a Filipino American, but it is a part of my upbringing. To see that as something disgusting—I wanted to explore [that] in the textures that I was playing around with as a materials person, something that is purposefully gross. YE: Speaking of these commercial objects that

you’re putting in your work, PINOY/PLOY opens on a still life of items in a dimly lit kitchen. Unhatched eggs used for balut and all-white angel statues from the Precious Moments company literally come to life in a sea of Uncle Ben’s Rice. [Laughter] Why did you choose to animate these commercial objects in particular?

when my parents tell me their stories of racism, I understand that the mood changes. They’re more serious. Perhaps more somber. They concentrate a bit harder on the words that they say when they talk to me about these sorts of things. But without the experience to back that up I didn’t quite understand what that meant until much later.

SW: When you start thinking about what Uncle Ben’s Rice is, and what Aunt Jemima is ...these are American icons that leave everybody stained. I picked them because they’re infamous for being problematic in how they have portrayed black people, how they have portrayed any kind of power structure, and in being complicit with that power structure. I picked them because when I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to consume those foods. My parents were very didactic in their way of teaching us about who we were in relationship to the mainstream. And they didn’t want us to be complicit in that conversation. So Uncle Ben’s was not allowed in our house. Aunt Jemima was not allowed in our house. I picked those specifically because they were very loaded.

YE: Are you trying to make declarative statements about who you are, as someone that people may not understand? What is it that stop-motion animation allows you to say?

YE: Did you understand as a child why they were loaded, or why your parents, for example, perceived them to be loaded? Were you able to articulate it? SW: Probably not as I should have. My parents were very good at saying “You look different [laughs] to the greater world. The world will never see you as being fully black, the world will never see you as fully Asian, you are this other thing. People might treat you differently because of that.” So, when you’re five or six you probably don’t understand what that actually means. I didn’t really understand that my parents were different races until I was much older. I could see them, but it really didn’t mean anything. I have this laundry list of things that became dogma in our house: I have to understand that racism is a thing: it’s something that I’ll experience. And


SW: It’s very much about the questions. When a conversation about race and culture comes up, usually, infamously, the whole “What are you?” question [comes up]. When somebody wants to play this guessing game: “Let me guess what race you are, what ethnicity you are!” I see it as an opportunity. Instead of “I’m going to explain to you.” “This is who I am,” I’m interested in further complicating, further nuancing, a situation that is already in flux.

PINOY/PLOY (video still), 2016





Works in the Exhibition

Paul Stephen Benjamin God Bless America, 2016

Nikita Gale BIG BAD PICKUP, 2017

Walter Price Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2017

Amy Sherald The Boy With No Past, 2014

Three-channel video, 46 monitors, looped, dimensions variable Site-specific installation Courtesy the artist

Mixed media, 82 × 42½ × 31½ in. Courtesy the artist

Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 48 in. Courtesy the artist and Karma, New York

Allison Janae Hamilton Foresta, 2017

Christina Quarles A Part Apart (Fade), 2017

Oil on canvas, 54 × 43 in. Private collection Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Krista Clark Stopped, Westviews through Ontario, 2017

Mixed-media installation with birch logs, wrought iron fence posts, taxidermy forms, horse manes, tambourines, clothing and regalia, dimensions variable Site-specific installation Courtesy the artist

Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 72 in. Samdani Art Foundation, Bangladesh Courtesy David Castillo Gallery, Miami

Matthew Angelo Harrison IIII with Synthetic Foramina, 2016

Mixed media on paper, 44 × 32 in. Collection of Jessica Stafford Davis Courtesy the artist and Fort Gansevoort, New York

Mixed media, approx. 84 × 144 in. Courtesy the artist

Michael Demps Untitled: Dehiscent Echo, 2017 Rock salt, rochelle salt (piezo-electric crystals), scented candle wax, steel, insulation foam, fiberglass resin, contact mics, low-frequency tactile transducers and 288 HZ loop, dimensions variable Courtesy the artist

Genevieve Gaignard Colorblinds, 2017 Chromogenic color print, 24 × 36 in. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles

Kings & Queens, 2017 Chromogenic color print, 32 × 48 in. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles Hammons’ Little Helper, 2017 Wood table, custom hand-painted porcelain figurine music box, vintage doily and sewing basket, 38¾ × 16 × 11½ in. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles Nevertheless, She Persisted, 2017 Cast iron birdcage with gold leaf, custom hand-painted porcelain figurine on vintage doily, and hand-tied fabric, 64½ × 10 × 15½ in. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles Reclaiming My Time, 2017 Grandfather clock, custom hand-painted figurine, vintage wallpaper and books, 77 × 22½ × 10 in. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles


African wildebeest skull and acrylic, 18½ × 66 × 12¾ in. Rennie Collection, Vancouver Courtesy Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

Hole 1.005 The Consequences of Synthetic Apertures, 2016 Acrylic, aluminum, automotive clay and bone, 70½ × 25 × 12¾ in. Private collection Courtesy Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

Texas Isaiah MoRuf, verse 1, 2016 Giclée print on archival paper, 30 × 20 in. Courtesy the artist

i’m stretching beyond an idea, verse 2, 2017 Giclée print on archival paper, 30 × 20 in. Courtesy the artist My Grandson’s Stretch, 2016 Giclée print on archival paper, 20 × 30 in. Courtesy the artist My Name Is My Name I, 2016 Giclée print on archival paper, 20 × 30 in. Courtesy the artist My Name Is My Name II, 2016 Giclée print on archival paper, 20 × 30 in. Courtesy the artist

Patrick Martinez los angeles landscape (echo park), 2017 Ceramic, found banner tarp, ceramic tile, mixed media on stucco, and neon on panel, 48 × 108 in. Courtesy the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles

Deborah Roberts The Bearer, 2017

It’s All Good, 2017 Mixed media on paper, 30 × 22 in. Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection Courtesy the artist and Fort Gansevoort, New York Rope-a-dope, 2017 Mixed media on paper, 30 × 22 in. Collection of Sarah Arison Courtesy the artist and Fort Gansevoort, New York The Sleepwalkers, 2017 Mixed media on paper, 44 × 32 in. Jenkins Johnson Collection, San Francisco Courtesy the artist and Fort Gansevoort, New York

Sherrill Roland The Jumpsuit Project, 2017 Performance, performance ephemera Courtesy the artist

Jumpsuit Project: Brooklyn Public Library, 2017 Inkjet print, 13 × 20 in. Courtesy the artist Jumpsuit Project: Brooklyn Public Library, 2017 Inkjet print, 13 × 20 in. Courtesy the artist Jumpsuit Project: Los Angeles, 2017 Inkjet print, 13 × 20 in. Courtesy the artist Jumpsuit Project: UNCG, 2016 Inkjet print, 13 × 20 in. Courtesy the artist


The Make Believer (Monet’s Garden), 2016 Oil on canvas, 54 × 43 in. Private collection Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Devan Shimoyama Shape Up and a Trim, 2017 Mixed media, 48 × 36 in. Courtesy the artist and De Buck Gallery, New York

Sable Elyse Smith 7666 Days, 2017 Digital print on Fujiflex, suede and artist frame, 48 × 40 in. Courtesy the artist

7666 Nights—Falling, 2017 Digital print on Fujiflex, suede and artist frame, 48 × 40 in. Courtesy the artist

Maya Stovall Untitled A, 2017 Mixed media, dimensions variable Site-specific installation Collection of the artist Courtesy the artist, Todd Stovall, and Greg Winters

Jazmin Urrea Red40, 2017 Mixed media, dimensions variable Site-specific installation Courtesy the artist

Stephanie J. Williams PINOY/PLOY, 2016 Stop-motion puppet animation TRT 00:05:36 Courtesy the artist

Artist Biographies

Paul Stephen Benjamin Born 1966, Chicago Lives and works in Atlanta EDUCATION

2013 Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design, Georgia

State University, Atlanta. MFA
 1988 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,

Champaign, IL. BA

2004  Collaged Image, Tall Grass Arts Association,

2003 Sound, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Chicago SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

 Black Creativity, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

2017 Virtue of the Vicious, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago


2018  Reinterpreting the Sounds of Blackness, Jepson

2015  Sporadic Democracy: Somebody Else’s Problem,

The Luminary, St. Louis, MO

Center for the Arts, Telfair Museum, Savannah, GA Art of Georgia, Atlanta 2016 God Bless America, Poem 88, Atlanta

Black is the Color, High Museum of Art, Atlanta

 Come Over, Gallery 72, City of Atlanta: Office of Cultural Affairs, Atlanta 2014  Black is a Color, Perimeter College, Georgia State

University, Clarkston, GA
 2013 DAEL (Digital Arts Entertainment Laboratory)

Window Project, Georgia State University, Atlanta

Plot and Escape, Welch Gallery, Georgia State University, Atlanta 2010  Between Here and There, Rialto Center for the Arts,

Georgia State University, Atlanta  Antiques and Heirlooms, Ferguson Gallery, Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, IL
 2009  G2: Transformations, Emerging Artist Award,

 Short Shorts 2015: Somebody Else’s Problem, Whitespace Gallery, Atlanta 2014 Coloring, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta

Exquisite Corpse, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta 2013  On Paper, Fieldwork Contemporary, Pittsburgh, PA

Diasporal Rhythms, Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, Chicago

One City, Tubman Museum, Macon, GA

 Word, Decatur Book Festival, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta  The Dream: Five Artist, Five Voices, The Fowler Gallery, Hudgens Center for the Arts, Duluth, GA 2011  The Painted Photograph, Southwest Arts Center

Performance Theater and Gallery, Atlanta

G2:Transformations, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta

Forward Arts Foundation and Swan Coach House Gallery, Atlanta

Bring It, Landmark Arts Gallery, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

Between Here and There, Nicole Gallery, Chicago

Little Things Mean a Lot, Swan Coach House 2010  Gallery, Atlanta

2008  Between Here and There, Alice Campbell Alumni

Center, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 2007  A Cut Above: Collages with Spirit, Chicago State

University, Chicago 2006  Defining the Lines of Color: A Patriotic View of

America, African-American Cultural Center, University of Illinois, Chicago 2005  The Traveler, Montgomery Ward Gallery,

University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago

Interpretations, The Lee E. Dulgar Gallery, South Suburban College, South Holland, IL 2009  In the Community of Others, South Side Community

Art Center, Chicago

Little Things Mean a Lot, Swan Coach House Gallery, Atlanta Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/Douglas County, Douglasville, GA

Urban Chrysaliosis, Tubman Museum, Macon, GA

Dissolving Stereotypes/Forging New Dialogues: An Exhibition Beyond Race, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta The Reclamation of Memory, Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, Madison, GA


  The Daniel Texidor Parker Collection, South Shore Arts: The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, Munster, IN

New Works, Montgomery Ward Gallery, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago

Unloaded, Marcia Wood Gallery/Dashboard U.S., Atlanta

2017  Working Artists Project, Museum of Contemporary

2008  Not Just a Pretty Face, Hyde Park Art Center,

Park Forest, IL

2007  Re-Fuse, Orleans Street Art Gallery, St. Charles, IL

Looks Good on Paper, Spruill Gallery, Atlanta

Re-Assignments: Creative Changes, ARC Gallery, Chicago

Susan Woodson Gallery, Chicago

Krista Clark Born 1975, Burlington, VT Lives and works in Atlanta EDUCATION

2016 School of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State

University, Atlanta. MFA 2001 Steinhardt School of Education, New York

University, New York. MA 1998 Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta. BFA SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2016  At the Corner of the Sublime—Heights, Manors,

and Views, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Atlanta

Constructed Images: The Art of Collage, Swan Coach House Gallery, Atlanta
 2007 Pinup Show, City of Atlanta, Office of Cultural Affairs, Atlanta Personal Journeys, Noyes Cultural Art Center, City of Evanston, Evanston, IL 2006  A.Q: After Qualls, South Side Community Art

Center, Chicago


2018  Reconstructions, Swan Coach House,

Atlanta 2017 Chute, Blue Mark Studios, Atlanta 2016 Hot Combos, HATHAWAY, Atlanta

Drawing Never Dies, RedLine, Denver

Black Creativity, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

MFA National Competition, juror Lance Esplund, FIRST STREET GALLERY, New York

2005  African American: Contemporary Conceptions,

 Art in Embassies, United States Embassy, Bratislava, Slovakia Residual Residence, MFA Thesis Exhibition, Ernest G. Welch Gallery, Georgia State University, Atlanta

Orleans Street Gallery, St. Charles, IL

Color Me Black and White, Gallery Romain, Chicago

South Shore Cultural Center, Chicago

Reconnect, South Side Community Art Center, Chicago Black Creativity, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
 Hot Images for Cold Times, Fourth Presbyterian Church Gallery, Chicago Cultural Journeys, Tall Grass Fine Arts Gallery, Park Forest, IL

South Shore Cultural Center, Chicago

Susan Woodson Gallery, Chicago

2004  CAC Chicago Art Open 2004, Vietnam Museum,


Daniel T. Parker Collection, South Shore Cultural Center, Chicago

Susan Woodson Gallery Chicago

2003 Galeria Samuel Menache, Mexico City, Mexico

Blues, Jazz, Dance...That’s Chicago, Gallery 415, Chicago 

Tall Grass Fine Arts Gallery, Park Forest, IL


2015  The Relationship between Things, Aqua Art

Miami, Miami  Concrete Acquaintances, Thomas Deans Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta  Transformation, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Atlanta  Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines, High Museum of Art, Atlanta GSU Annual Juried Show, juror Daniel Fuller, Ernest G. Welch Gallery, Georgia State University, Atlanta

Interpolation, Ernest G. Welch Gallery, Georgia State University, Atlanta  Page Not Found, Dodd Gallery, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia, Athens 2012 Trans late, 25 East Gallery, New York

Michael Demps


Born 1976, Detroit


Lives and works in New Haven EDUCATION

2017 Yale University School of Art, New Haven. MFA 2015 California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. BFA 2012 Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA. AA SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition, Yale University, New Haven 2012  World Aids Day-Our Back Yard, Upstairs at the

Market Gallery, Los Angeles  Our Back Yard, Upstairs at the Market Gallery,

Los Angeles  Deconstructed/Reconstructed Identities, Upstairs at the Market Gallery, Los Angeles

Occupy Space Differently, OCHI Projects, Los Angeles

The Middle Future, Public Fiction, Paris 2015   Rachel’s Killin’ It, Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, GA NADA Art Fair, PARMER for Abrons Art Center, New York

As We Were Saying, EFA Project Space (The Elizabeth 2014  Foundation), New York

Hearsay, Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, GA

Rooted Movements, LMAK Projects, New York

Foreword, Gallery 72, Atlanta

Born 1981, Orange, MA Lives and works in Los Angeles EDUCATION

2014 Yale University School of Art, New Haven. MFA 2007 Massachusetts College of Art and Design,


2016  Smell the Roses, California African American

Museum, Los Angeles 2015 Us Only, Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles

 A Golden State of Mind, Diane Rosenstein Presents at The Cabin LA, Los Angeles

WORD!, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (Decatur 2013  Book Festival), Atlanta  Consuming Passions, Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, Atlanta

Do You Hear What I Hear?, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

 Dandy Lion, Altar/Alter: A Ritual of Mythos. PopRally, Museum of Modern Art, New York  Wishing Well. In Response, The Jewish Museum, New York 2015  Dandy Lion, Museum of Contemporary Photography,

Chicago. Traveled to Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh, PA; Brighton Photo Biennial, Brighton, England; and the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco  Badass Art Man, The African American Museum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia 2014 RE-AL-IZED, Carol Jazzar Contemporary, Miami

2005 ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena. BFA

James Gallery, Los Angeles

Matthew Angelo Harrison


 Bullets Billboard Project, various locations around Los Angeles

2012 School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. BFA

Shared Southern Stories, Emily Amy Gallery, Atlanta

Living Walls, Street Art Conference, Atlanta

Still Figuring It Out, RAC, New York


2018 University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities,

Ann Arbor, MI

Allison Janae Hamilton

2017  Post Truth / The Lie That Tells the Truth, Culture

Lab, Detroit, MI

2015 New York University, New York. Ph.D. 2014 Whitney Independent Study Program, Whitney

Museum of American Art, New York

2017 Wonder Room, Recess Art, New York 2014  Allison Janae Hamilton: Kingdom of the Marvelous,

Rush Arts Gallery, New York

Nikita Gale


Born 1983, Anchorage, AK

2017 American Hoodoo, Rush Arts Gallery, New York

Lives and works in Los Angeles

Lilith, The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC

DandyLion, Lowe Art Museum, Miami

2016  Are We Human?: Video Section, Istanbul Design

Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey  Resultados, Villa Iris, Fundación Botín, Santander, Spain  The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Traveled to Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO

2011 Hustlemania, Known Gallery, Los Angeles

Reel Tawlk, Loft in Space Gallery, Honolulu, HI

2009 You Don’t Have To Lie To Kick It, Upper Playground /

Fifty24LA Gallery, Los Angeles

2016  Detroit City/Detroit Affinities, Museum of


Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2017  The Everywhere Studio, The Institute of

Contemporary Art, Miami

Eric Schmid is an Idiot, CAVE, Detroit

2016  Take Me (I’m Yours), Jewish Museum, New York

 The Politics of Portraiture, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco  Ever get the feeling we’re not alone in this world?, What Pipeline, Detroit,


MARGINS, Biola University, Los Angeles 2013 Most Oddinism, Art Basel, Miami

July Group Show, Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco

2012 Lance Armstrong—15 Years of Live Strong, Austin

Convention Center, Austin, TX

Season Opener, Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco

 Getty Research Institute “Black Book Project”, permanent collection, The Getty, Los Angeles

Even Flow, Circuit12 Contemporary, Dallas

City of Fire, Stephen Webster Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

All in for the 99%, Ace Museum, Los Angeles

Dream Continuum, Circuit12 Contemporary, Dallas

2011 Assorted Flavor, Known Gallery, Los Angeles

Texas Isaiah Born 1986, Brooklyn, NY Lives and works in Los Angeles

Ward of the State, Rivera Gallery, Los Angeles

Nothing To Say, Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco

2010  Dreams Deferred, Chinese American Museum,

Los Angeles


2004 Queensborough Community College, City University


2014  BLACKNESS, Kimmel Galleries, New York University, New York

2010 BOOLESH1T, MINT Gallery, Atlanta


2012 Lovely Day, Known Gallery, Los Angeles

2004 The Palm Tree Paradox, Crewest Gallery, Los Angeles


 Break Bread, site-specific installation, El Tapatio Market, Bell Gardens, CA

 Dark Povera Part 1, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta

2017 Columbia University, School of the Arts,

New York. MFA

Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

2006 Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL. BS

2013 White Player: Niki, The Front, New Orleans


2017  Patrick Martinez: All Seasons Portfolio, Charlie

2013 Yale MFA Second-Year Student Exhibition, Yale

2012 1961, {Poem88}, Atlanta

Lives and works in Los Angeles

Committee and Sisters, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Washington, DC

2010 Columbia University, New York. MA

2014 Autographs, PARMER, Brooklyn, NY

Born 1980, Los Angeles


 Sonic Rebellion: Music as Resistance, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit

2016  LOW MAINTENANCE: i only believe in horsepower now, Graduate Thesis Exhibition, UCLA New Wight Gallery, Los Angeles

Patrick Martinez

2013  Wish You Were Here, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

 13 Artists, Yale School of Art, Alternative Space, New Haven


2011 Visions of a Community, Saltspace, New York

Made in Woodstock VI, The Center for Photography 2012  at Woodstock, Woodstock, NY


2006 Yale University, New Haven. BA

2012 Gordon Parks 100, Freecandy, Brooklyn, NY

2013 Buy Now Cry Later, Public Functionary, Minneapolis

 Shaq Loves People, curator Shaquille O’Neal, Expose Chicago, Chicago

2016 UCLA, Los Angeles. MFA

2013 NuMad, 3rdEye(Sol)ation Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Lives and works in Detroit

Lives and works in New York


Lofts, Mount Rainier, MD  Visualizing Queerness: 7 Contemporary Artists, Dixon Place, New York

Born 1989, Detroit

BLOW-UP, {Poem88}, Atlanta

2014  The New New, Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles

Yale MFA First-Year Student Exhibition, Yale School of Art Green Gallery, New Haven

Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, OR 2014  Reflexivity, Sanaa Festival, Mount Rainier Artist

(in)complete, {TEMP}, New York

Born 1984, Lexington, KY

School of Art Green Gallery, New Haven


2017  Torrent Tea: Queer Space and Photographic Futures,

 Patrick Martinez: American Memorial, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL


 Deep End, Yale MFA Photography Thesis, Yale School of Art Green Gallery, New Haven. Traveled to The FLAG Art Foundation, New York; Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles

Lattice Work, Black & White Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

 Finished Goods Warehouse, Former Pfizer Factory, Brooklyn, NY

 Race, Love, and Labor, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, NY

 The Last Brucennial, Bruce High Quality Foundation, New York

Genevieve Gaignard


Re:Form School, New York

 (I Can) Feel the Pulse, Showroom MAMA, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Freedom, Known Gallery, Los Angeles

Manifest Equality, Los Angeles

2009 Manifest Hope, Irvine Contemporary, Washington, DC


2009 Women of Color, Joyce Gordon Gallery, Oakland, CA

 Scion Installation Tour, various galleries; traveled to Detroit; Miami; Phoenix, AZ; Minneapolis; New York; San Jose, CA, Philadelphia; Portland, OR; Los Angeles

2007  Dissonant Bodies, Hampshire College Gallery,

2008  Scion Installation Tour, various galleries; traveled

to Detroit; Miami; Phoenix, AZ; Minneapolis; New York; San Jose, CA, Philadelphia; Portland, OR; Los Angeles

Amherst, MA 2004 In/Ex, Pasadena Art Gallery, Pasadena SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2017  Trigger: Gender as Tool and a Weapon,

 New Works, two-person exhibition, Upper Playground/Fifty24LA Gallery, Los Angeles

 Double Dip, Yale School of Art Green Gallery, New Haven

2007 Rendition, Scion Art Gallery, Culver City, CA

 Tight Squeeze, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena

2006 Soul Significance, Crewest Gallery, Los Angeles

2015  Second Coming, Yale School of Art Green Gallery,

2005 The First Annual LA Weekly Biennial, Track 16 Gallery,

Santa Monica, CA 2003  No Struggle, No Progress, Rock Rose Gallery,

Los Angeles

New Haven  Incognito, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA 2014  First Things, Yale School of Art Green Gallery,

New Haven

Walter Price Born 1989, Macon, GA

InsituWorks Pop Up, 215 Bowery, New York

 Incognito, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA

Lives and works in New York EDUCATION

2014 Middle Georgia State University, Macon, GA. AA

Deborah Roberts Born 1962, Austin, TX

2011 The Art Institute of Washington, Arlington, VA. BA

Lives and works in Austin, TX



2016  Walter Price, The Modern Institute, Aird’s Lane

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. MFA

Bricks Space, Glasgow, UK

San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco CA. BFA



2016 Coil, Coarse, Twist, Re-twist, Art Palace, Houston

2017 Americans 2017, LUMA Westbau, Zurich

2014 One and Many, Art Palace, Houston

Color People, Rental Gallery, East Hampton, NY

 We’ll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy, Markus Lüttgen, Cologne

Summerfest, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin

Flemming Faloon, Office Baroque, Brussels

Syracuse, NY Dallas 2006  Bearing Witness, Stone Metal Press, San Antonio, TX

Reconstructing, Rethinking, Reacting, O’Kane Gallery, Houston

 Zeitgeist, MAMCO Museé d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva

No Free Tax Art Month, 247365, New York

 The Great Figure Part Two, The Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

2004 Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. MFA 1997 Clark-Atlanta University, Atlanta. BFA

 Boundless, Perceptions from Within, Design Automation Conference, Austin, TX


2005 Museum of Science and Industry Juried Exhibition,

2017  Amy Sherald, Monique Meloche Gallery LES, New York


Woman Made Gallery Juried Exhibition, Chicago

 Subjective Visions, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

Figure It Out, Art Palace Austin, TX

2018 Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis, MO 2016  A Wonderful Dream, Monique Meloche Gallery,

Chicago 2015  Off the Chain: American Art Unfettered, Second

Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA 2013  Amy Sherald: Paintings, Reginald F. Lewis Museum,

Baltimore, MD

2004  Unmasked: A Collective Statement on Beauty,

Butridge Gallery Austin, TX 2003 Bird Juried Exhibition, Concordia University Texas,

Austin, TX  Our Heritage–Creating New Legacies Juried Exhibition, Butridge Gallery, Austin, TX Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Juried Exhibition, Austin, TX 2002 Center for African American Studies, University

of Texas, Austin, TX

Sherrill Roland Born 1984, Asheville, NC Lives and works in Raleigh, NC EDUCATION

2017 University of North Carolina at Greensboro,

Greensboro, NC. MFA Greensboro, NC. BFA

2018 The Jumpsuit Project: ArtFor-us, Artspace,

Raleigh, NC 2017 The Jumpsuit Project: After the Wake-Up, Greensboro

Project Space, Greensboro, NC  The Jumpsuit Project, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), Los Angeles

2011  Amy Sherald, RJD Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY

The Magical Real-ism of Amy Sherald, The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2017  Face to Face: Los Angeles Collects Portraiture,

California African American Museum, Los Angeles

Shifting: African American Women Artists and the Power of Their Gaze, The David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 2016  About Face, Creative Alliance, Baltimore

Visual Art and the American Experience, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington, DC Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. Traveled to Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY Africa Forecast: Fashioning Contemporary Life, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. Travels to Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO

Center for African and African American Studies, Austin, TX SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

 Open Engagement 2017—JUSTICE!, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago

2012  Revealing the Presence of Africans in the European

The Jumpsuit Project, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC

Mosaic Project, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, Lancaster, PA

 Free Press Protest Print Party, Guilford College, Greensboro, NC

2011 Amy Sherald, Richard Demato Fine Art, Sag Harbor, NY

Greensboro Picnic 2017 (Partners In City, Neighbors In Community), Elsewhere Museum, Greensboro, NC

2008  Quasi-Painting, Randall Scott Gallery, Washington, DC

2017  Your body is your Battleground, Volta Art Fair,

New York

Hill of Munch, Rachel Uffner Gallery, NY

When Did Intimacy Begin Width, Jeffrey Stark, NY

2016  I know why the caged bird sings, George Washington

March Madness, Fort Gansevoort, New York Carver Museum and Cultural Center, Austin, TX

2015  Gently Fried, Mexican American Cultural Center,

Austin, TX  The House on Mango Street, National Museum of American Art, Chicago 2014 The Way Out: MFA, Rogue Space, New York 2013  Gender Is a Kind of Doing, Mission Cultural Center for

Latino Arts, Gallery, San Francisco


2016 Yale University School of Art, New Haven. MFA

2011 – PRESENT The Drawing Center, Viewing Program,

2007 Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. BA

New York

2011  Miráme: 21st-century portraits for Latino/a America,

2016  The Jumpsuit Project (Year-Long), University of North

Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 

2018  Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the American

Justice System, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston 2017  MFA Thesis Exhibition, Weatherspoon Art Museum,

Greensboro, NC

La Raza Galería Posada, Sacramento, CA



National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC

Lives and works in Los Angeles

Lives and works in Baltimore

 The Oakland Book Festival: Equality/Inequality: The Jumpsuit Project, Oakland City Hall, Oakland, CA

2004 South Shore Cultural Center, Chicago

Born 1985, Chicago

Born 1973, Columbus, GA

2015  Look At Me Now!, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Paper Peddling, Marvin Gardens, Ridgewood, NY

Christina Quarles

Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI

Amy Sherald

 The Jumpsuit Project (3-day Residency), Brooklyn Public Library (Central Library), Brooklyn, NY

2013 Full Spectrum, Tubman Museum, Macon, GA

2006  Uncle Tom to Peeping Tom, University of Wisconsin-


2008  Forks and Spoons, South Dallas Cultural Center, Dallas

2016 Before Sunset, KARMA, Amagansett, NY

Counter Intuitive, Chicago State University, Chicago

2013  When We Just Existed, Community Folk Art Center,

 Mondialité, Boghossian Foundation—Villa Empain, Brussels

2009 University of North Carolina at Greensboro,

2011  Resistance Begins at Home: Rethinking Otherness,

Drawing Island, The Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Rock, AK

 Domestic Disturbance, Diverse Art Gallery, Austin, TX Consensual Marks, South Dallas Cultural Center, Dallas

 99 Cents or Less, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit

2007  Taking Possession, University of Arkansas at Little

New Museum, New York 2016 Partners, Abrons Art Center, New York

Her Stories, Park School, Baltimore


2013 US Embassy Dakar, Senegal

Renaissance, Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore

2010 Gallery 101, Miami

Urban Renaissance, Ramscale Penthouse, New York

2005 Femme Effect, Sub-basement Gallery, Baltimore 2004 Maryland Institute College of Art Thesis Exhibition 2003  Earth Works installation, The Labyrinth, Portobelo,


Artscape, Baltimore City Hall, Baltimore, MD 2002 MFA First Year Candidate Group Show, Maryland

Institute College of Art, Baltimore

Lipstick, Atlanta City Hall Art Gallery, Atlanta

1999 Museum of Panama, collaboration with Dr. Arturo

Lindsay, Panama City, Panama 1997 Museum of Panama Education Gallery, Panama City,


2015  Mirror/Echo/Tilt, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture: New York, New York  Reading: Blue is Ubiquitous and Forbidden, SOHO20 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY  Sifting, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY

Devan Shimoyama Born 1989, Philadelphia Lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA EDUCATION

2014 Yale University School of Art, New Haven. MFA 2011 Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.


2017 De Buck Gallery, New York

Independent Art Fair, Stems Gallery, New York

2016 PULSE Art Fair, Samuel Freeman Gallery, Miami

Beach, FL

Devan Shimoyama, Lesley Heller Gallery, New York

2015 Hocus Pocus, Bunker Projects, Pittsburgh, PA SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2017  He’s American, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts,

Pittsburgh, PA

Colored Light, De Buck Gallery, New York

Night Fever, Future Tenant Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA

2016 Myth and Body, Lesley Heller Gallery, New York

 Devan Shimoyama/Salomón Huerta, Samuel Freeman Gallery, Los Angeles  Cultural Landscapes, The Fed Galleries at KCAD, Grand Rapids, MI

Bedazzled, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY

 The Soul of Black Art: A Collector’s View, Upfor Gallery, Portland, OR

Introspective, BravinLee Programs, New York

Crystal Vision, Bunker Projects, Pittsburgh, PA

2015 Love is Love, Emmanuel Gallery, Denver

It Does and It Doesn’t, Alter Space, San Francisco

 Realities in Contemporary Video Art, Screening, Fondation des États-Unis, Paris, France  UNLOADED, Northern Illinois University Art Museum, DeKalb, IL

PaperRoute 66, BravinLee Programs, New York

2014 People Staring, Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York

13 Artists, 24-6-Space, New Haven

 Condensed Matter, Green Hall Gallery, Yale School of Art, New Haven

Unmarked, The Active Space, Brooklyn, NY

 AUNTSforcamera Artist-Devised Tour, New Museum, New York

Heart, Voice, Song: Three Meeting Performances, 2014  Museum of Arts and Design, New York

Born 1983, Los Angeles Lives and works in Richmond, VA EDUCATION

2013 Parsons The New School For Design, New York. MFA 2011 Oglethorpe University, Atlanta. BA SELECTED PERFORMANCES

2016 Artist Love Poets, The Poetry Project, New York

The Listening Party, MoMA Pop Rally, New York

 Sable Elyse Smith & Camel Collective, The Poetry Project, New York

Born 1982, Detroit Lives and works in Detroit EDUCATION


2018 MI: Liquor Store Theatre Performance Films,

Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI

2018 Believe, Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto 2017  Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art,

New York

Art @ the Max III, Max M. and Marjorie R. Fisher Center, Detroit

2017  Memory is a Tough Place, Kellen Galleries at The New School, New York

Marching to the Beat, Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

 UPTOWN: nasty women/bad hombres, El Museo del Barrio, New York

Urban Planning: Art and the City 1967–2017, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, MO

Your Body is a Battleground, VOLTA NY, New York

art pop and POP, art pop, Montreal

Shell & Glimpse: Two Days of Dance with AUNTS, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, MO

2016  The Group Show, Main Gallery, California Institute of

the Arts, Valencia, CA 2015  QAC, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA 2014  Complex, Merlino Gallery, California State University

Long Beach, Long Beach, CA

Insights, University Art Museum, Long Beach, CA

 Command R, Werby Gallery, California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA 2013 Insights, University Art Museum, Long Beach, CA

Stephanie J. Williams Born 1981, Washington, DC Lives and works in Washington, DC EDUCATION

2007 Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI. MFA

Sheridan Teaching Certificate, Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Brown University

 The Exposed Suture, Rond-Point Projects, Marseille, France

Thinking Place, on works of Adrian Piper & James Boggs, Scarab Club, Detroit

2003 James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA. BFA

 Who Gets To Look, University of California, Irvine Art Galleries, Irvine, CA

2016  Performance Artist + YOU, American Anthropological


Without a Body, Andrea Rosen Gallery 2, New York

2016 Emerging Arts Fellowship Exhibition 2016, Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY

Association, Minneapolis

Tea with Performance Artist, Sidewalk Festival of Performing Arts, Detroit

Detroit Grit Lessons, AUNTS X Detroit, Detroit

 With Liberty and (in)Justice For All?, Gateway Project Spaces, Newark, NJ

2015 Art, Anthropology, Action: Familiar & Strange,

 Partner in Crime, Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers University, Newark, NJ

#BlackLivesMatter, Anthropology Graduate Students Organization Conference, Wayne State University, Detroit

 Focus on the Funk: Journeys, Serpentine Gallery and Birkbeck College, London

Over the Wall, Southern Exposure, San Francisco

 Comrade What is Your Visual Bond?, Sunday Sessions: Screening, MoMA PS1, New York  History As I Know It, On the Ground Floor Gallery, Los Angeles

La Lucha II Dom & Haiti Visions of Tomorrow, 2015  Andrew Freedman Home, Bronx, NY  Blue is Ubiquitous and Forbidden, SOHO20 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY  Dis Place, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY

RESPOND, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY

Gaze Series #5: Transgressions, Artist Television 2013  Access, San Francisco

2014 D’LECTRICITY, Detroit: Beacon, Detroit

Liquor Store Theatre: Eastern Market Edition, Sidewalk Festival of Performing Arts, Detroit

Present Futures, The Mandrake, Los Angeles

2017  Project #9: Blame It On the Trees, |’sindikit |,

Baltimore 2015  Everyone Actually Is Each Other, Hillyer Art Space,

Washington, DC 2013  Untitled Symbiant, Falls Solos, Arlington Arts Center,

Arlington, VA

Homegrown, Wriston Art Galleries, Lawrence University, Appleton, WI

UnCommon Bodies, Hillyer Art Space, Washington, DC

2012  Emerging From the Curious: Commonplace

Anomalies, DC Arts Center, Washington, DC

Detroit Dance from the Street to the Stage, Allied Media Conference, Wayne State University, Detroit


2013  The Fluid Image, N’Namdi Center for Contemporary

2017  Spiral: Recoil, The Delaware Contemporary,

2018 St. Anselm College, Manchester, NH

Wilmington, DE

Art, Detroit

Dance of the Chip Bagger, MBAD Museum African Bead Festival, Detroit

Hair: Single channel dance video, Museum of

Babel’s Bricks, MCLA Gallery51, North Adams, MA

Artists For Truth, Space Camp, Baltimore

Click Here, Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VA

In the Round, EMU, Harrisonburg, VA

Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit

Inherited, BRIC, Brooklyn, NY

 Consequential Translations, Centro Cultural de España, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

American Anthropological Association, Denver

Cloud Headed, MCLA Gallery51, North Adams, MA

Home, Capital Fringe, Washington, DC

Jazmin Urrea

2016 A Polite Distance, ACRE, Chicago

Born 1990, Artesia, CA Lives and works in Los Angeles

FilmFest52, Connecticut Film Festival, Bethel, CT


2017 California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. MFA 2014 California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach,


2017  Red 40, D301 Gallery, California Institute of the Arts,

Valencia, CA 2016  Jazmin’s Quince Años, Main Gallery, California

Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA


Florida, Orlando, FL  The Clique, Lime Gallery, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA


Watchlist, SIGNAL, Brooklyn, NY

2017  From Here to There, Gallery 202, University of Central

2004 Howard University, Washington, DC. BBA



 Leftovers, FAR Bazaar, Cerritos College, Cerritos, CA

Dissident Futures Art and Ideals Festival, Yerba 2013  Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

The Future is Fantastic (If You Want It), New Museum, 2012  New York

Beach, CA

2007 The University Of Chicago. MBA

2017 Detroit: Liquor Store Theatre Performance Films,

Performative Reading Event for Daily Violence with Huong Ngo,The Window at 125, New York

2014  Bombón, Dutzi Gallery, CSU Long Beach, Long

2018 (EXP.) Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. Ph.D

 Fallow Time: Movement Research Festival: Through Body, Through Earth, Through Speech, Queens Museum, New York

Sable Elyse Smith

Maya Stovall


Good and Plenty, School 33, Baltimore

The Anatomy of Fairy Tales, Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA Mirror Mirrored: Through the Looking Glass, New Hampshire Institute of Art and Gwarlingo

Studio, Peterborough, NH

Mirror Mirrored: Art Meets the Monsters, Washington

Project for the Arts and Gwarlingo Studio, Washington, DC

To Have Done with the Judgment of God, costuming for Antonin Artaud play, a DC Arts Center production, Washington, DC

In the Round, Valley Arts Council, Harrisonburg, VA

Mutations: featuring Pamela Rogers, Bonner Sale, Stephanie Williams, Civilian Art Projects, Washington, DC 2015 ZIP!, Gwarlingo Animation Screening, Harrisville, NH

Animation Short, Visionaria International Film Festival, Siena, Italy

Curator: Alter/Ultra Ego, RISD, Providence, RI

Whimsey Sex, RISD, Providence, RI

Artists Jubilee/Traveling Theater, Warwick Museum, Warwick, RI

Rim Shot, RISD, Providence, RI

2006 Three As in D, RISD, Providence, RI

RISD Sculpture Graduates, Providence, RI

Rockingham Arts & Museum Project, “Public Art/ Moving Site,” Spurse Collective, Bellows Falls, VT

UMASS Exchange, UMASS, Amherst, MA

Kinaesthetic, Spitzer Art Center, Harrisonburg, VA

Deep End, The Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY

Spin, Dazzle, Fade, Grizzly Grizzly, Philadelphia, PA

Pebble Drinkers, Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ

2014 Dance of the Soramimi, The Fridge, Washington, DC

Strange Bedfellows, Washington Project for the Arts, VisArts, Rockville, MD

(e)merge Art Fair, Backpack Gallery, Washington, DC

DUMBO Arts Festival, Backpack Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Abraxas, Temporary Agency, Queens, NY (inter)Related, Sparkplug Art Collective, DC Arts Center, Washington, DC Alchemical Vessel, Joan Hisaoka Gallery, Washington, DC Sawhill Gallery, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA Contraptions: Reflections on the Almost Functional, McLean Project for the Arts, McLean, VA 2013  Thread, Civilian Art Projects, Union Market,

Washington, DC

Westmaryginiasylvington, Hood College, Frederick, MD External Memory, Sparkplug Art Collective, DC Arts Center, Washington, DC Between the Lines, Target Gallery, Torpedo Factory, Alexandria, VA 2012 Sculpture Now, Pepco Edison Place Gallery,

Washington, DC

Artomatic, DC Arts Festival, Arlington, VA 2011 3rd Annual Juried Exhibition, Craddock Terry

Gallery, Lynchburg, VA

Sketchbook, Transformer Gallery, Washington, DC Tompkins Projects West: Works on Paper, Dan Graham Gallery, Los Angeles

MIXING BOWL, Target Gallery, Alexandria, VA

2010 Emerging Sculptors, Craddock Terry Gallery,

Lynchburg, VA 2009 Animation Feature, Craddock Terry Gallery,

Lynchburg, VA

Creature Feature, Studio2 Gallery, Austin, TX

2008 Duration, Sawhill Gallery, James Madison University,

Harrisonburg, VA 2007 Words No Words, Geborgen Kamers, The Hague,


Magic Latern Film Festival, Pixilerations, FirstWorks Festival, Providence, RI

Introductions 3, Irvine Contemporary, Washington, DC

RISD Graduate Thesis, Providence, RI

Esthetic Surplus, Staygold Gallery, Brooklyn, NY



Contributor Biographies

Jessica Bell Brown is an art historian and writer based in New York. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University. Her dissertation examines art of the post–civil rights decade in the suspended paintings of Sam Gilliam and Joe Overstreet. Bell Brown holds a BA in Art History from Northwestern University, and an MA in Art History from Princeton. She is a Teach for America alumna and has worked at New York City cultural institutions including Creative Time, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Alex Fialho is a Brooklyn-based curator and arts writer. He is a frequent contributor to Artforum, and Programs Director at Visual AIDS, where he facilitates projects on the history and immediacy of the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly those intervening in the recent widespread whitewashing of HIV/AIDS narratives. Together with Melissa Levin, Fialho co-manages The Michael Richards Estate and has co-curated multiple exhibitions on the work of The Studio Museum in Harlem 1995–96 artist in residence Michael Richards. Fialho has presented his research on the art of Glenn Ligon and Keith Haring at the College Art Association and NYU Fales Library.

Ashley James is Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Prior to this position she worked in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Museum of Modern Art, where she was a Mellon Research Consortium Fellow assisting on the 2017 Charles White and Adrian Piper retrospectives. James holds a BA in American Studies and English Literature from Columbia University and is a PhD candidate in the Departments of African American Studies, English Literature, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. At Yale, she cocurated the 2014 University Art Gallery exhibition Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection.

Ciarán Finlayson is a writer based in London. He studies at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, and is a member of the political education collectives Hic Rosa and Black Study Group (London). Recent writing can be found in Feminist Takes on Yugoslav Black Film (Prague: Tranzitdisplay, forthcoming) and Studio magazine.

Lucy Mensah is an art curator specializing in post-WWII

Eric Booker is the Exhibition Coordinator at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Charmaine Branch is a Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Curatorial Fellow.

Dessane Cassell is a Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Curatorial Fellow.

Erin Christovale is the Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. She is the curator of Black Radical Imagination with Amir George, which has screened in spaces such as MoMA PS1, MOCA Los Angeles, and the Museo Taller José Clemente Orozco. Exhibitions include a/wake in the water: Meditations on Disaster (2014) at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Memoirs of A Watermelon Woman (2016) and A Subtle Likeness (2016) at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, and S/Election: Democracy, Citizenship, Freedom (2016) at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. She is currently organizing the 28th anniversary of ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS with Vivian Crockett as part of Visual AIDS’ longstanding project, A Day With(Out) Art and “Made in L.A.” 2018 with Anne Ellegood at the Hammer Museum.

Yasmine Espert is an artist. She is pursuing a doctorate in Art History at Columbia University where she studies cinema, diaspora, and the Caribbean. She is the former editor of sx visualities, a Small Axe Project. She has contributed texts to The Museum of Modern Art’s Museum Research Consortium (MRC) and Self-Knowledge: A History, for Oxford Philosophical Concepts. Support for her work includes a Mellon Humanities International Travel Fellowship and a Fulbright research grant.


Uchenna Itam is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. She specializes in modern and contemporary art of the African diaspora, focusing on embodiment-based practices in photography, video, and installation art. Her dissertation considers site-specific installations created in the United States from the early 1990s to the present that affect the senses of touch, smell, taste, and hearing while engaging with the politics of race, gender, and nationality. Itam is a founding member of the curatorial collective INGZ, which collaborates on projects that foster new ways of engaging the visual and political. Danielle A. Jackson is currently the Mellon Interdisci­ plinary Arts Fellow at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Previously Jackson was the 2015–16 Friends of Education Twelve-Month Intern in the Department of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art, where she worked on the exhibition Projects 102: Neïl Beloufa and the publication Ralph Lemon: Modern Dance.

and contemporary African-American visual culture. She is currently an assistant curator of Post-1950 Contemporary Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Mensah holds a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University, an MA in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University, and a BA in English from Bucknell University. Her museum career includes a fellowship at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC; a curatorial internship at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville; and a post-doctoral fellowship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

dissertation The Black Aquatic: Affect, Occiduus, and Temporality Beyond the Atlantic explores diaspora’s political, cultural, and theoretical engagements with water. He is currently investigating black surfing cultures in the United States and Caribbean.

Lilia Rocio Taboada is a first-year master’s student in the Department of Art History at the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on African-American and Latinx artists from the 1960s to present. Previously, Lilia was Curatorial Intern at The Studio Museum in Harlem. She completed her BA in 2016 at UCLA in the Department of World Arts and Cultures, and was an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Lilia has also held positions at The Museum of Modern Art, Paulson Fontaine Press, and the Hammer Museum. Terence Washington completed his BA in liberal arts in

Rachell Morillo is the Community Engagement Associate at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

2015 at St. John’s College after a stint as an Air Force linguist. In 2017, he graduated with an MA in art history at Williams College, engaging with living African-American artists, afro-pessimism, and, when he could get away with it, Jorge Luis Borges. He has interned at the National Gallery of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Williams College Museum of Art. He recently returned to the National Gallery to work as a program assistant for Academic Programs.

Oluremi C. Onabanjo is Director of Exhibitions and

Adeze Wilford is a Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA

Collections for The Walther Collection Project Space in Chelsea, NY, and co-curator for the exhibition Recent Histories: Contemporary African Photography and Video Art (2017). She lectures internationally on photography and contemporary arts of Africa, and has contributed to publications by 1:54, Aperture, Autograph ABP, and The Walther Collection. She holds a BA in African Studies from Columbia University, and an MSc in Visual, Material, and Museum Anthropology from University of Oxford.

Curatorial Fellow.

Jared Richardson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. Richardson’s research interests include art history, visual culture, black popular cultures, and sound studies. He has published essays in ART PAPERS, Women & Performance, and The Black Scholar. His forthcoming


Doris Zhao is the Curatorial Assistant at The Studio Museum in Harlem.


One of the misconceptions surrounding the mounting of any exhibition is the number of people involved in developing the list of contributing artists. We wanted Fictions to examine art making in places across the United States, places that, in some cases, we had never been. We would be remiss not to send our most sincere thanks to our fearless leader and founder of the “F” show series, Thelma Golden. Thelma, thank you for providing us with the perfect balance of guidance and freedom and for trusting us with this exhibition. We are fortunate to belong to a community of curators who supported us at every turn. Lauren Haynes, Naima J. Keith, Jamillah James, and Thomas J. Lax were our guides throughout the “F” show process, providing excellent artist recommendations and insightful feedback. Choosing to work with nineteen artists from mostly outside New York City—all in an exhibition at the Museum for the first time—was one of the bigger risks we’ve taken in our careers. Andy Hawkes’s genius advice forever changed the show, and Amanda Hunt’s sage wisdom got us going. We especially want to thank Richard Aste, Nicole Dowd, Kevin Dumouchelle, Blair Murphy, Emily Stamey, and Eugenie Tsai for their recommendations and assistance in locating some of the amazing artists in Fictions. The Museum would be empty if not for the generosity of the incredible artists in Fictions and the lenders to the exhibition. We are eternally grateful to Sarah Arison; Jessica Stafford Davis; the Jenkins Johnson Collection, San Francisco; the Rennie Collection, Vancouver; the Samdani Art Foundation, Bangladesh; the Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection; and all of the private collectors who made this exhibition possible. A very special thanks goes to David Castillo Gallery; De Buck Gallery; Fort Gansevoort; Charlie James Gallery; Karma; Monique Meloche Gallery; Shulamit Nazarian Gallery; and Jessica Silverman Gallery. Fictions is the fifth in the series of “F” shows, and so one might think that the process for creating and installing the exhibition would be second nature. Not so. Fictions includes nine completed site-specific installations, a first for us, and we were faced with questions such as: How are we going to get ninety-six pounds of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and where are we going to put them? Where can we find mirrors large enough for an immersive reflecting installation? What are contact mics and transducers and how can we install them under the floorboards? We thank Lisa Bruno, Jakki Godfrey, and Jessica Ford for their advice and endless patience as we asked what were some of the


strangest questions we hope we’ll ever need to ask conservators. When we needed to know how to plug dozens of tube televisions into only one outlet, Jonathan Odden and Michael Rooks generously shared their experience. It hasn’t been easy to install in a more than one hundred-year-old building, and Kurt Smith went above and beyond to make sure everything went smoothly for us. Each artist’s installation proved to be a unique challenge, and we were lucky enough to be surrounded by the most amazing department who made the impossible possible. Dessane Cassell, the incredible Studio Museum/ MoMA fellow, expertly coordinated every aspect of more than seventy studio visits, accompanying us on most while seamlessly managing communication with the artists and administration of the exhibition. Dessane, we can’t overstate the importance of your tireless work and contributions to this exhibition. Exhibition Coordinator Eric Booker’s thoughtful treatment of each and every artist and artwork (and patience with us) made extremely complicated installations happen. We relied on his insightful advice at every turn, from the conceptual to the technical, to bring this exhibition to fruition. Gina Guddemi, registrar extraordinaire, patiently sourced work from near and far, and never batted an eye when we had yet another seemingly crazy request. From suspending horse manes from the ceiling to installing zebra and wildebeest skulls, Gina made it happen. Bruce Gluck, the most relaxed senior preparator we’ve ever met, kept the mood light and standards high, even during the most stressful moments of install. He skillfully managed an art handling team working long days, and occasionally nights, on multiple projects. This catalogue was an absolute joy to create with the extremely capable coordinators, Elizabeth Karp-Evans and Doris Zhao. Elizabeth understood our priorities and goals from the beginning, challenged us to try new things, and never ran out of patience. She brought us Beverly Joel, the brilliant designer of this publication, and made this process truly seamless. We must also thank Jessica Lott for her attention to detail when editing this publication, and Samir S. Patel for his expert proofreading during the final stages of the process. The difficulty of coordinating twenty-one texts and wrangling their respective authors is hard to overstate. Doris expertly handled each, while writing her own essay, preparing exhibition materials, and working on a slew of other projects. Doris, we can’t imagine this exhibition without you.

We’re fortunate to work alongside visionaries in other departments whose contributions to this project brought it to life. The Public Programs and Community Engagement Team, with Nico Wheadon at the helm, have critically engaged with many of the themes and artists in this exhibition. The Education Department, under the leadership of Shanta Lawson, worked their creative genius to bring Fictions to audiences young and old. Elizabeth Gwinn’s Communications team helped us put words to ideas and skillfully told the world about our show. A very special thanks goes to Jodi Hanel, and our partners in Development, for making this exhibition possible. This exhibition wouldn’t be open to the public if not for the work of Shannon Ali and her amazing team who work tirelessly to protect the galleries and visitors. Lastly, completing this exhibition wouldn’t have been possible without our friends and families. Hallie sends her deepest gratitude to her husband Gavin Hackeling whose love, partnership, and support kept her going. Hallie was lucky to be surrounded by an incredible support system of friends and family too large to list here, and, at the center of them all, Bill, Georgia, and Charlotte Ringle kept her (mostly) sane. Connie is always thankful to have the mentorship and friendship of Terry Carbone. She is also forever grateful for the never-ending support of her family, especially her parents.


Board of Trustees The Studio Museum in Harlem

Staff The Studio Museum in Harlem

Raymond J. McGuire

Laura Day Baker

Allen Accoo, Fire Safety Director


Dr. Anita Blanchard

Shannon Ali, Visitor Services Director

Nectar Knuckles, The Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Curatorial Fellow

Kathryn C. Chenault

SaVonne Anderson, Communications Assistant

Malaika Langa, Director, Finance & HR

Joan S. Davidson

Zalika Azim, Imaging & Permanent Collections Associate

Shanta Lawson, Education Director

Gordon J. Davis, Esq.

Timotheus Ballard, Assistant Building Manager

Dana Liss, Digital Content Manager

Rodney M. Miller, Sr.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Alani Bass, Marketing Coordinator

Julia Lo, Special Events Associate


Sandra Grymes

Joshua Bell, Major Gifts Officer

Terence Mackie, P/T Deputy Fire Safety Director

Arthur J. Humphrey Jr.

Eric Booker, Exhibition Coordinator

Betsy McClelland, Project Manager, Resources & Planning

George L. Knox

Pierre Boursiquot, Information Technology Manager

Sheila McDaniel, Deputy Director, Finance and Operations

Nancy L. Lane

Jonathan McLean, Custodian

Dr. Michael L. Lomax

Charmaine Branch, The Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Curatorial Fellow

Bernard I. Lumpkin

Ronnell Carpenter, Security Supervisor

Rachell Morillo, Community Engagement Associate

Dr. Amelia Ogunlesi

Dessane Cassell, The Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Curatorial Fellow

Henry Murphy, The Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Public Programs Fellow

Connie Choi, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection

Terry Parker, Assistant Security Manager

Reginald Van Lee

Re’al Christian, Assistant to the Director’s Office Jeffrey Cohen, Systems Administrator

Ailen Pedraza, Assistant Director, Development Data Management & Development Operations


Ivette Dixon, Security Officer

Danessy Pineda-Virgil, Part-Time Sales Associate

Anaïs Duplan, The Studio Museum in Harlem/MoMA Public Programs Fellow

Syed R. Razvi, Security Officer

Frederick Ellis, Security Officer

Evans Richardson, Chief of Staff

Roxanne John

Cindy Frometa-Cleto Nieves, Office Coordinator

Lisa Ann Richardson, Security Officer

Mayoral Designee

Maryann Frometa, Part-Time Facilities Assistant

Hallie Ringle, Assistant Curator

Timothy Gibbs, Security Officer

Te’al Rosa, Part-Time Sales Associate

Bruce Gluck, Senior Art Preparator

Kurt F. Smith, Facilities Director

Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator

Monique Stewart, Part-Time Sales Associate

Thelma Golden

Corrine Gordon, Development Associate

Timothy Stockton, Visitor Services Coordinator

Director and Chief Curator

Gina Guddemi, Registrar

Leon Thomas, Part-Time Custodian

Elizabeth Gwinn, Communications Director

Marcus Ward, Assistant Manager, Retail Services

Jodi Hanel, Associate Director of Development

Jeanette Waters, Executive Coordinator, Director’s Office

Jennifer Harley, School and Educator Programs Coordinator

Thomas Webb, Maintenance Worker

Chloe Hayward, Family Programs Coordinator/ Teaching Artist

Ketter Weissman, Campaign Manager

Carol Sutton Lewis Vice-Chair

Jacqueline L. Bradley Secretary

Holly Peterson Ann G. Tenenbaum

Hon. Bill de Blasio Mayor of New York City

Hon. Tom Finkelpearl Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs

Reynold RiBoul, Security Supervisor

Sapphire Hilton, Education Assistant

Nico Wheadon, Director, Public Programs & Community Engagement

Hallie Hobson, Deputy Director, Institutional Advancement

Lucretia Williams-Melendez, Project Associate

Chanice Hughes-Greenberg, Membership &

Susan Wright, Special Events Manager

Fatima Zaidi, Campaign Assistant

Direct Mail Coordinator

Ginny Huo, Expanding the Walls/Youth Programs Coordinator Naomi Jackson, Grant Writer Paul James, Security Officer Dennell Jones, HR Generalist Elizabeth Karp-Evans, Communications Coordinator


Christopher Mittoo, Security Officer


Doris Zhao, Curatorial Assistant

This publication was organized on the occasion of the exhibition Fictions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, September 14, 2017–January 15, 2018. The Studio Museum in Harlem

Lead sponsor of Fictions

144 West 125th Street New York, New York 10027

Exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem are made possible

thanks in part to support from The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the

© 2018 The Studio Museum in Harlem

support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Council.

Fictions was organized by Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator, Permanent Collection and Hallie Ringle, Assistant Curator.

Additional support is generously provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This publication was produced by Elizabeth Karp-Evans, Communications Coordinator and Doris Zhao, Curatorial Assistant. Design: Beverly Joel, pulp, ink. Copyeditor: Jessica Lott Proofreader: Samir S. Patel Printed by Allied Printing Services Typeset in Conduit and Maison Neue Publication © The Studio Museum in Harlem All artworks © the artist All texts © the authors Library of Congress Control Number: 2017963238 ISBN: 978-0-942949-44-5 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without prior written permission from The Studio Museum in Harlem. We would like to thank all those who gave their kind permission to reproduce material. Individual works of art appearing herein may be protected by copyright in the United States of America or elsewhere, and may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the rights holders. In reproducing the images contained in this publication, the Museum obtained the permission of the rights holders whenever possible. In those instances where the Museum could not locate the rights holders, notwithstanding good-faith efforts, it requests that any contact information concerning such rights holders be forwarded so that they may be contacted for future editions.


Image credits Unless otherwise noted all images © Adam Reich. Pages 2–7, 14–15, 22–23, 24, 29, 30–31, 108–09: Installation views of Fictions, The Studio Museum in Harlem, September 14, 2017–January 15, 2018. Photos: Adam Reich Pages 64–67: Photos by Michael Underwood Pages 74–75: Photo by Brica Wilcox Pages 77–78: Photos by Philip Rogers Page 79: Photo by Don Felton Page 81: Photos by Gregg Richards, News and Record, and Sherrill Roland Page 82: Photo by Alvaro Escalante Cover image Texas Isaiah

My Grandson’s Stretch, 2016 Giclée print on archival paper, 20 × 30 in. Courtesy the artist


This catalogue accompanies the 2017–18 exhibition Fictions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Fictions is a survey of recent work by nineteen e...


This catalogue accompanies the 2017–18 exhibition Fictions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Fictions is a survey of recent work by nineteen e...