Page 1

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


Devin 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.


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



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



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



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



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


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.


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

Errata Page 60: “Texas Isaiah describes himself as a “transmasculine femme boy,” a first-generation American of Guyanese and Venezuelan (Arawak and Carib) descent born and raised in Brooklyn.” Should instead have read: “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.”

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.