by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle
An all star line up of prominent and emerging artist A Shape That Stood Up curated by Jamillah James, Hammer Museum assistant curator is lyrical, dense, luminescent, sensual, mischievous, fluctuating and vivacious all at the same time. Although the subject matter and motives for the creation of the works differed, the common thread concerning abstraction and figuration that danced with hyper-visibility and invisibility wove beautifully throughout the exhibition. Upon entering the exhibition space one felt alive, assaulted with color and movement and what felt like visual improvisational jazz. One sees presences of fragmented bodies, twisted, re-mixed and reimagined sprawled upon canvases, boards and assemblage sculptures. It is refreshing to view work that makes the audience work for what they are witnessing.
Although the show was heavily dominated by paintings and works on paper 3-D works are also present. A sculpture by Kevin Beasley commanded a unique perspective amongst the vivid colors and dynamism found in majority of the 2-D works. A sculpture titled Untiled (Organ) 2015 featured black and tan T-Shirts covered in resin that were positioned in a way that evoked a ghostly presence/chorus of hyper-invisibility. The usage of the color black conjured up Western associations with death and the fear and presence of irrevocable blackness. The title of the piece hearkens back to a choral musical instrument often used as a tool for transcendence or catching the Holy Spirit in Southern Baptist churches. It also hearkens to recent nationwide protests concerning instances of violence perpetuated on the black body at the hands of police brutality.
- And Its Shadow, 2014 Waxed steel Math Bass
Math Bass’ lyrically, poetic and theatrical sculpture titled And It’s Shadow fluctuates between the 2-D and 3-D planes is a thin sheet of steel that leans gracefully against the wall and towers over the viewer. The thinness of the sheet of steel gives a slight bowed affect showing a vulnerability within the presence depicted for one cannot discern if it is indeed a fully fleshed representation of the body or an elongated letter “H” because the potential figure is decapitated in a sense. Causing the viewer to push and pull between trying to define the possibilities within the absences of gender or confinement to a set pictogram or symbol.
- Democratization #3, 2006 Sue Williams
Sue William’s piece Democratization #3 2006 depicts a visceral close up viscera in which she captures a comical and grotesque claustrophobic vignette in which the body is present yet fully exploded and departed. It is also reported that her own urine is present within the work.
- Ole McWillie’s Farm, 2002 Robert Colescott
Robert Colescott’s work is known for his depiction of interrupting master narratives of art history by inserting the presence of African Americans to provide social critiques about the performance of race and visual representation. His pieces in the show were graphic and unfastened in which the figures fought with and bleed back and forth between the foreground and backgrounds to create a frothy visual dynamism in which one couldn’t make out or decipher from the hodgepodge of colors notable racial features and/or the distinction of the not yet figures. Yet they still evoke the presence of distorting mythologies concerning whiteness and desires in which one piece is titled, Sleeping Beauty? and within Ole McWillie’s Farm a mass of black figures glom onto what appears to be a white blond smiling figure.
Henry Taylor ’s piece The Darker The Berry The Sweeter The Juice, 2015 depicts a centralized figured in which the sitter’s visage is engulfed with the color black in which the facial expression is mysterious and indiscernible yet through the visual cues and suggestions of the hands near the hips a seat of power depicted in African art the coolness and innate beauty and self-possession of the viewer is somehow without question. The political implications and shouts to colorism within communities of the African diaspora make this figurative abstraction a cautionary tale to what happens when we judge books by a cover, therefore the face does not need a cover because it’s blackness and the complexity of its presence is already “sweet” or beautiful. The work also speaks to hashtags #BlackGirlMagic and #MelaninOnFleek that are the modern day progeny of the Black Power Movement’s slogan “Black is Beautiful.”
The show runs until June, 18, 2016 at Art + Practice in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, CA and is definitely a must see for lovers of both abstract and figurative art.
Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle is a Kentifrican-American artist who focuses on questions of race, sexuality, and history through a variety of visual, performative and textual mediums. Her artwork and experimental writing has been exhibited and performed at The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, Project Row Houses in Houston, TX, and The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, CA.