Deborah Buck

Deborah Buck Stand Off, 2024 Acrylic and sumi ink on panel 38.25 x 50.25 in.
   

Madison Ave  New York

Deborah Buck

Witches Bridge

May 16 – June 29, 2024


Jennifer Baahng is proud to announce Witches Bridge, Deborah Buck’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. Witches Bridge is an arc of Buck’s 40-year career span, showcasing selected works from the 1980s through the present. Coagulating abstraction and surrealism, the exhibition consists of recent paintings that depict intertwined masses that bulge and fold, ignoring illusion, perspective, or scale, flattening the hierarchical relationship between its elements.  In the 90s paintings, Buck portrays a world where familiar-made-into-strange takes on a Domination Symbolique; unconscious cultural and social domination modes occur within the social habits.  Collages, produced in the 2000s and continuing, are fragmented visuals of conjectures to be fathomed—ranging from the alchemical to the astrological and the heretical to the folklore. Witches Bridge delivers rich narratives in invented landscapes and allegorical scenes, where an absurd tale is configured to provoke profound inquiry and savoring of life.


The exhibition opens on May 16, Thursday, with a reception from 6 – 8 pm.

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Jaye Moon The Wizard Of Oz

   

The Wizard of Oz

March 1 – April 30, 2021

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LAURA BELL AND IAN GANASSI

Laura Bell and Ian Ganassi THE CORPSES March 26 - April 30

Madison Ave New York

Laura Bell and Ian Ganassi

THE CORPSES

March 26 – May 3, 2024

Laura Bell, a painter based in the Bronx, and Ian Ganassi, a poet in New Haven, met as artists in residence at the Millay Colony. In 2005, Ian mailed Laura an unfinished poem and handwritten phrases on a piece of printer paper stained with coffee rings, and in an accompanying letter asked her to do something to it. This became the first move in what evolved into their ongoing collaborative collage series, “The Corpses,” titled after the Surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse. With each mailing, words, images, and objects are added and new pieces are started; at any point, either of them can call a work finished. At first it was assumed that Ian would contribute text and Laura visuals, but this division soon dissolved, with Laura adding lines cut from ads or subway handouts and Ian melting crayons and experimenting with paint. They each had already been using collage methods in their own bodies of work, Ian with overheard and appropriated lines in his poems and Laura with photos and laser prints in the grounds of her paintings. 

Pop culture, politics, religion, and poetry make appearances, and recurring images and phrases create echoes and connections. A collage might go back and forth many times or make only one circuit between New Haven and New York. The pieces can be minimal or layered; early ones tended to be more spare, later work often gathered more objects, but over the years this has also followed an ebb and flow. Some pieces develop themes or function almost as diaries (a hospital glove, a postcard), and time frames can be felt in political or current events references. The gathering of materials has become a consuming habit for both of them, combining found objects, text, drawings, ads, photos, fabrics, and all manner of mixed media—a painterly, visceral process, the anti-Photoshop. “The Corpses turned us into scavengers,” Ian has said. “We ended up trying to get the whole world into them.” 

The process has retained its initial sense of play, while also reflecting battles over the obliteration of a passage of paint or text or the declaring of a piece finished. The series quickly demanded a level of intention equal to the work they were publishing and exhibiting individually. Called “joyously Fluxus-like” by Robert Shuster in the Village Voice and described by writer H. Byron Earhart as going “beyond collaborative to a kind of conspiratorial imagination,” “The Corpses” has evolved into more than a decade of personal and material call-and-response. At present, there are more than 300 finished works. A new batch is usually in progress or in transit.

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JANET TAYLOR PICKETT, ZHANG HONGTU, PINK and THE CORPSES


JANET TAYLOR PICKETT, ZHANG HONGTU, PINK and THE CORPSES


Madison Avenue  New York
Janet Taylor Pickett, Zhang Hongtu, PINK and THE CORPSES
October 5 – October 31, 2023

R.C. Baker
Eric Brown
Deborah Buck
Bell and Ganassi
Jaye Moon
Mr.
Janet Taylor Pickett
Zhang Hongtu

We are pleased to announce the group exhibition Janet Taylor Pickett, Zhang Hongtu, PINK and THE CORPSES, which runs from October 5 through October 31, 2023.  The exhibition marks the New York premiere of Janet Taylor Pickett’s works, previously only shown at the Oceanside Museum of Art in California, that probe a personal and collective past to posit a distinctly Black mythology of Self.  

This is also the debut of Zhang Hongtu’s never-before-seen Shan Shui Paintings from his personal collection.  Zhang’s Shan Shui series spans several years and explores the categories of “East” and “West” in a distinctive manner, reflecting his life in two cultures. He reimagines the work of seventeenth-century Chinese artists in the vibrant colors and brushwork of Monet and Vincent van Gogh.

On view includes works by R.C. Baker, Eric Brown, Deborah Buck, Bell and Ganassi, Jaye Moon, and Mr. selected from the online exhibition PINK and THE CORPSES.

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Deborah Buck Participates in Women and Humor

June 23 - September 1, 2024
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May 16 - June 29, 2024
Deborah Buck Heavy Is The Head, 2023 Acrylic, sumi ink on Archers paper 55 x 156 in. Detail

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Zhang Hongtu at Museo Picasso Málaga 

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October 3, 2023 - March 31, 2024
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June 15 – Sept 27, 2023
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Group Exhibition
January 20 - March 11, 2023
(DE)CONSTRUCTING IDEOLOGY: THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION AND BEYOND November 13, 2022 to March 12, 2023

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November 13, 2022 - March 12, 2023
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July 13 - August 17, 2022
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VAN GOGH / BODHIDHARMA

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March 25 - April 27, 2022
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Eric Brown, Janet Taylor Pickett, Zhang Hongtu
May 15 - June 15, 2021

BRANDON BALLENGÉE

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Madison Ave New York

Brandon Ballengée

L’Art de la Solitude (The Art of Loneliness)

November 10, 2023 – January 27, 2024

L’Art de la Solitude (The Art of Loneliness), Brandon Ballengée’s debut solo exhibition at the gallery, presents a poignant and multifaceted exploration of the interplay between art, biodiversity, and humanity.  Showcasing more than three dozen works selected from the 1990s to 2023, the exhibition is a testament to Ballengée’s engagement with the ongoing ecological crisis and the profound ramifications of species loss, prominently coined as the Anthropocene or Sixth Great Extinction. It is an artistic intervention that beckons viewers to confront the realities and consider the urgent need for preservation and conservation.  L’Art de la Solitude (The Art of Loneliness) runs from November 10 through December 30, 2023, with the OPENING RECEPTION on Friday, November 10, 6 – 8 PM, accompanied by CENTRAL PARK BIRD WALK on November 11 and THE ARTIST TALK on November 18 at the gallery.

Brandon Ballengée, an artist, biologist, and environmental advocate, utilizes a myriad of mediums and artistic expressions to mirror the current ecological predicament.  At the core of this exhibition lie three distinct series, each foraging into the complexities of our environmental challenges:

FRAMES OF ABSENCE

‘Frameworks of Absence,’ initiated in 2006, meticulously embodies the extinct species’ haunting absence.  By physically cutting images of vanished animals from historical prints, Ballengée forges what he terms ‘Frameworks of Absence.’  These assemblages not only signify the species lost but also involve a transformative event, where the burned remains of these cut images are gathered in urns, symbolizing a personal and collective remembrance.

THE CRUDE OIL PAINTINGS

The ‘Crude Oil Paintings’ series, which commenced in 2020, immerses itself in the enigma of lost fish species endemic to the Gulf of Mexico post-Deepwater Horizon spill. The artist embarks on an arduous quest to portray these missing creatures, drawing from preserved specimens and utilizing contaminated sediments and dispersants to craft their haunting portraits. This series serves as a contemplative reflection on what is obscured and irretrievably lost due to our collective treatment of the environment.

SOS PAINTINGS

Continuing his artistic journey into the present and beyond, the ‘SOS Paintings’ provide an introspective look into the looming threat of deep-water mining in the Gulf of Mexico.  These colossal paintings, created using unconventional materials like thrift bed sheets and latex house paint, are interpretations of deep-sea species at risk due to this emerging deep-sea mining industry.  Ballengée captures the mystery and beauty of these enigmatic creatures and ignites contemplation on the potential repercussions of human intervention in this untouched abyssal zone.

L’Art de la Solitude (The Art of Loneliness) is an artistic journey reflecting our ecological plight. Through three compelling series, ‘Frameworks of Absence,’ ‘The Crude Oil Paintings,’ and ‘SOS Paintings,’  Brandon Ballengée epitomizes the essence of loss caused by species extinction and environmental perils. The exhibition’s haunting images of extinct species, the ghostly portrayal of lost Gulf creatures, and the impending threat of deep-sea mining converge. As a catalyst for reflection, the exhibition urges viewers to contemplate the implications of our collective actions on the fragile fabric of our environment.  L’Art de la Solitude (The Art of Loneliness) is a visual poetry and a thought-provoking crusade.


REVIEW:

https://www.villagevoice.com/ecology-minded-artist-brandon-ballengee-pictures-what-weve-lost/

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DEBORAH BUCK

Deborah Buck Heavy Is The Head, 2023 Acrylic, sumi ink on Archers paper 55 x 156 in. Detail
La MaMa New York
Deborah Buck
INTO THE WILD: To Crash is Divine
Sept 28 – Oct 27, 2023
 
La MaMa Galleria
Guest curated by Jennifer Baahng
 

INTO THE WILD:  To Crash Is Divine

Into The Wild presents the pathbreaking, allegorical works of protean painter and ardent colorist Deborah Buck.  It is a focused solo exhibition showcasing nearly two dozen recent works. An exploration into contemporary concerns, the works are incarnations of Buck’s inquiries on social attitudes, culture and blasphemy, and emotional freedom at once personal and universal.  Elegant and polemical, the art included in Into The Wild attests to Deborah Buck’s arrival at a distinctive narrative filled with fantastically Fauvistic personas and cautionary tales.  Colliding secular with the sacred, the exhibition hints at essential codes that unravel the icons and slogans of our time; protest and provoke.  Into The Wild invites a raw and fresh conversation with playful aesthetics, humor, and imprudence.  It is a baroque fantasy fortress that upholds active pursuit and the joy of queueing.

Born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, Deborah Buck grew up on a farm. Her home provided a fertile environment for creative exploration, which led to the distinctively unique, sculpted, archetypical visual motifs later in her art.  In 1975, she attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where, at age 18, she was mentored by Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, who told her: “Nobody can teach you to paint – you already know how. But to be taken seriously, you should learn everything about the world around you – religion, politics, design, science.”  She moved to New York City in 1990 and joined the wave of female artists who gained prominence in New York in the 90s.

ABSURDITY

Into The Wild is Deborah Buck’s response to the absurdity of life.  At the exhibition, first up is an elongated convex wall dedicated to a bizarre, vibrant scene of solo works painted with exuberant colors on 300-pound, hot-pressed Arches paper. The works, each measuring 45 x 55 inches, bear joy, nostalgia, anger, frustration, and love.  They are the ethos of the artist’s thinking and grounding moments: “Bite-Sized,” the virtuoso vision of war; “The Judge,” a sense of primal justice; wacky “House Plants”; “Deep Space Hedges,” the Hamptons; “Coffee (Talk) Clutch;” and “Mr. Nervous,” a possible self-portrait.

THE WILDS AND THE LAURELED 

Deeper into the exhibition is a forest of wilds; “Throw Me A Bone,” “Pig Never Wins,” and “Royal Flush.”  A march of sexy retro magenta and Barbie pink therianthropes who conjure melancholy and compassion.  The tall feature wall unveils three portraits on wood, embellished with period frames; a laureled threesome: “Widow’s Peak,” “I’m No Angel,” and “Dark Roots.”  As part of Buck’s new and ongoing series of portraits of contemporaries, these harken back to the inventor of Cubism, Pablo Picasso’s perspective on abstraction and deconstruction.  Both artists paint their thoughts rather than what they see.

CRASH IS DIVINE

The apotheosis of the exhibition is Deborah Buck’s eclectic tour-de-force murals: “Heavy is the Head” and “The Eyes Have It.”  Striking and enormous, the two murals, which mirror each other and occupy the vast main gallery, are cinematic spectacles depicting nuanced performers, unleashed, intense, and intimate.  They contain shifting facades, overlapping planes, and fragmented, condensed flat surfaces that snap into surprisingly coherent compositions, a conference of pictorial intelligence.  A visual constant in the murals is the strands of pearls, which signify the currency and the agency women hold.   

“Heavy Is the Head” is a commemorative majesty that commands the first wall in the main gallery, comprised of a half dozen of the artist’s solo works cut and collaged.  At about 5 feet tall and 13 feet wide, it is a Surrealist dreamscape of a free-flowing connection to wisdom and knowledge passed down generations of women saints and personages: After Botticelli, Queen Elizabeth I, Empress Dowager Cixi, Venus of Willendorf, Cleopatra, a Bedouin woman, a futuristic female robot, and the artist herself.

“The Eyes Have It” is a multifaceted phosphorous display that commands the second wall.  Also, at about 5 feet tall and 13 feet wide, it contains fragmented visuals that insist on conjecture to be fathomed.  The symbols range from the alchemical to the astrological and the heretical to the folklore.  Grand and engrossing in its spatial genres, the mural is born from the artist’s dozen solo works that were chopped and coalesced back – “The Mechanical Girl and Her Mechanical Dog,” “Easter Bunny Bandit,” “In the Land of Peacock Trees,” “Proud Parents,” and “Enchanted Forest” – and dares us to see the complexity of the objects and ideas in the work.  Notable is the extravagant staging and devising within the flat, two-dimensional work.  Reminiscent of Japanese manga and anime that uses flat planes of color to emphasize the surface, à la Superflat by Takashi Murakami, the mural reinforces Deborah Buck’s commentary on culture with little distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low.’

INFECTIOUS GLEE AND RENEGADE

Into The Wild is a wild west, where convention and fiat are unchained and released, and the world’s traditional satire and viral lampooning are surpassed.  Alluding to Hieronymus Bosh’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” the exhibition is a three-wall-triptych of drawings and murals of fantastical figures and anthropomorphic forms, and portraitures, living on Abstract Expressionistic dripping and scuffed-up grounds.  Combining abstraction and surrealism, Deborah Buck creates rich narratives and invented creatures that quiver with life amongst dreamlike landscapes and allegorical scenes imbued with meaning and emotion.  Through her masterful employment of sumi ink and skilled craftsmanship, she advocates the value of discourse on femininity and identity.  The exhibition is a glimpse into the elusive conquest of making the world to our liking.  Into The Wild is a clever farce that joyously upends normality and delivers infectious glee.  And Deborah Buck relishes being a renegade

Dr. Jennifer Baahng, Guest Curator

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Sept 28 - Oct 27, 2023
Madison Ave New York Picasso, Welcome to America June 15 – July 31, 2023

PICASSO, WELCOME TO AMERICA

June 15 – Sept 27, 2023

Categories: exhibitions

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PICASSO, WELCOME TO AMERICA

Madison Ave New York Picasso, Welcome to America June 15 – July 31, 2023

Madison Ave New York

Picasso, Welcome to America

June 15 – September 27, 2023

R.C. Baker

Brandon Ballengée

Romare Bearden

Deborah Buck

Shijia Chen

Billy Copley

Eileen Foti

Björn Meyer-Ebrecht

Jaye Moon

Pablo Picasso

André Raffray

Janet Taylor Pickett

Zhang Hongtu

Every artist since the early 20th century has been influenced by Pablo Picasso.  The protean painter/ sculptor/ printmaker/ ceramicist helped define what “modern” art once was – and is still becoming.  In 1939, MoMA’s staff was gathering 300 works by the world’s “most famous living artist” (according to the museum’s press release) for Picasso: Forty Years of His Art.  A centerpiece of the exhibit was Guernica, his grisaille mural decrying the destruction of the small Basque town by Nazi bombers, in 1937.

Along with Michelangelo and Rembrandt, the name Picasso (1881-1973) has become a synonym – a cliché, even – for “artist.”  But none of the artists in Picasso, Welcome to America see the Spanish-born titan as an old hat.  Instead, these ten Americans find in the European trailblazer constant inspiration and ongoing challenge.  Zhang Hongtu imagines Chairman Mao exposed by glaring illumination similar to the all-seeing lantern in Guernica.  Jaye Moon also reimagines Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece, in When Bob Dylan Meets Picasso, Guernica – using Lego bricks in Braille rather than paint.

The bodies and masks in another Picasso touchstone, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), come under scrutiny from Eileen Foti and André Raffray through substitution and homage.  Billy Copley finds masks in unlikely surroundings, while Janet Taylor Pickett moves effigies aside to place her powerful female figure at center stage.  Deborah Buck turns Picasso’s infamously harsh male gaze around, painting surreal figures that might be asking, “Who’s crying now?”  In Weary of Treading the Earth, from 1945, Romare Bearden, working in watercolor and ink rather than his later signature collage, energizes cubist space with a circus-like palette.  R.C. Baker riffs beyond Picasso’s Blue and Rose periods through primary-colored aluminum printing plates.  Björn Meyer-Ebrecht’s dynamic wood and enamel sculpture strips the figure to cubist angles and voids, while Brandon Ballengée searches for animals that, like Picasso’s minotaurs, are no longer with us. Original works by Pablo Picasso will also be on view, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death.

All of the artists in this exhibition have been influenced by Picasso’s experiments with form and perspective – his breaking of traditional and academic rules.  Some of the work here also comments on his darker side, while other pieces engage with the social and political aspects of Picasso’s art.  Ultimately, these ten contemporary artists in Picasso, Welcome to America appreciate the formal and aesthetic complexity of a constant innovator.  This great artist was effectively barred from ever visiting the United States because he was a member of the French Communist Party.  But the joke was on the Feds – Picasso has been in America all along.

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Play Video about Romare Beardon, Björn Meyer-Ebrecht, André Raffray
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Pitches & Scripts

PITCHES & SCRIPTS

Group Exhibition
January 20 - March 11, 2023
Zhang Hongtu at Museo Picasso Málaga 

Zhang Hongtu at Museo Picasso Málaga 

October 3, 2023 - March 31, 2024
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June 15 – Sept 27, 2023
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Group Exhibition
January 20 - March 11, 2023
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Zhang Hongtu lectures and exhibits at the Wende Museum

November 13, 2022 - March 12, 2023
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Summer Exhibition
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VAN GOGH / BODHIDHARMA

Zhang Hongtu
March 25 - April 27, 2022
LOVE DIFFERENCE

LOVE DIFFERENCE

Eric Brown, Janet Taylor Pickett, Zhang Hongtu
May 15 - June 15, 2021
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June 23 - September 1, 2024
Deborah Buck Stand Off, 2024 Acrylic and sumi ink on panel 38.25 x 50.25 in.

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May 16 - June 29, 2024
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Madison Ave New York Picasso, Welcome to America June 15 – July 31, 2023

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June 15 – Sept 27, 2023

JENNIFER CHO: HAYSTACK, MOUNTAINS AND WATERLILIES

Madison Ave New York Jennifer Cho Mountain, Haystack and Water Lillies

Madison Ave New York

Jennifer Cho

Haystack, Mountains and Waterlilies

April 25 – May 31, 2023

In Haystack, Mountains and Waterlilies, Jennifer Cho mobilizes “Slow Art” to articulate the need for sensuous and sensible vigilance within art-making. The exhibition is an ecology of built forms, a simulacra—a made up ecosystem that offers a view of a world proximate to our own.   It fuses warm atmosphere with conceptual elegance, drawn from outworn materials. The installations delight and enchant while destabilizing what qualifies as a landscape. In Haystack, Mountains and Waterlilies, all five senses are employed with grace and acerbic wit, balancing consistency with surprise. Cho inhabits the painterly practices of Cezanne, Monet and Millet, transporting their intensely embodied preoccupations with landscape onto her own artistic concerns. Complicated and subtle, the exhibition excavates the sedimentary layers of technology that develop a scene of both intimacy and ignorance; technology we entrust with our most vital choices and secrets.

“Haystack” (2000-2023) is a ghostly, crystalline work carved from soldered compact discs. The term “Slow Tech,” coined by Jennifer Cho, enlists rigid, glittering forms that resemble a natural haystack. Extravagant yet tranquil, the work triggers a human nostalgia for a primordial state of cultivation, as art objects are culled from the natural world. Like Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) tributes to the endurance of unrewarded toil for peasants, unspooling the strands of the compact disc requires careful, assiduous work. Taking the time to unfurl these strands, Cho engages in an epic struggle with seemingly slight and minuscule material.

To raise “Mountains” (1995-2023), Jennifer Cho inhabits the practices of Jeong Seon (1676-1759) and Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). While these artists walked through the respective mountains of Mt. Kumgang and Mt. Saint Victoire, they used their footsteps as a way to physically and psychologically register the scene they were about to paint. Cho transposes that footwork into handwork, creating a delicate, melancholy rendering of “Mountains.”

Haunting and menacing, “Waterlilies” (2000-2023) erects shallow pools at the center of a gallery room containing Siamese fighting fish and floating compact discs. Hazy and textured, the clear water grows progressively murky as the fish dart around the pond. The work interlaces narrative with fantasy, developing a false ecosystem from fish and obsolete technology that nonetheless teems with life. The result is an otherworldly biome that seems to exist outside of time and space—an altered reality. 

Haystack, Mountains and Waterlilies confers the history of landscape as a long arc, connecting Asian landscape to European plain air works, to Contemporary Art. In these respective works, history provides the framework for new matter, as ostensibly obsolete technology is re-released as mountains, flora, fauna, and water. The exhibition persuades for a fresh conceptualizing of time, asserting a vision of history less as a linear progression but more as a topography whose past is layered within its present material. The beauty of the physical universe is not an illusion of the human eye and the rest of the human sensorium, but a true glimpse into the inner nature of things. Daring to look at works of art in the flesh, Jennifer Cho sees the landscape both in its beauty and in its terror. 

VIDEO

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JANET TAYLOR PICKETT: LIGHT, COLOR AND DESIRE

NECESSARY MEMORIES | March 15 - April 28 | SUNY Old Westbury NY
JANET TAYLOR PICKETT: Light, Color and Desire

May 27 – September 3, 2023

Oceanside Museum of Art

Light, Color and Desire presents the art of Janet Taylor Pickett, whose pathbreaking work explores Blackness, identity, and history.   A focused solo exhibition of nearly thirty (30) paintings and combines produced between 2003 and 2023, Light, Color and Desire  coronates the artist, as a synecdoche for all women, as  a contemporary goddess who reigns over fertility, fecundity, and embodied experience.  This mythology of Self reaches its apotheosis in Taylor Pickett’s luminous portraiture. Emanating expectancy and resolve, the subjects appear as incarnations of an ongoing desire for social, sexual, and spiritual freedom that is personal and universal. Polemical, unique, politically and socially committed, the art included in Light, Color and Desire demonstrates Taylor Pickett’s arrival at a distinct narrative voice inspired by Johannes Vermeer, Henri Matisse, and Frida Kahlo.

Janet Taylor Pickett was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1948, the third generation in her maternal family to be raised in that city, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her father, Dempsey Taylor Jr., was born in Brownsville, Tennessee and travelled north during the Great Migration, settling with his family in Ypslanti, Michigan. This imbrication of personal and shared Black History is concealed in Taylor Pickett’s work, which pours forth from an arduous path sowed with the sorrow of memories and a sea of desires. In particular, Janet Taylor Pickett’s becoming was influenced by Romare Bearden, whose collaged elements became the bedrock of her own work, situating her as a celebrated collagist.

LIGHT

Janet Taylor Pickett has always been intrigued by light, a preoccupation that she shares with Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675). Vermeer implemented camera obscura and applied layers of shadow to achieve the effect of an illuminated subject emerging from the darkness. Taylor Pickett begins with a full composition and then engages color blocking, leaving light to illumine her central subject. Neither plaintive nor condemning, the subjects seem to gaze both inwards and outwards, beholding internal and external topographies with poise and depth. In The Artist Unmasked (2021), the steadfast female gaze belies colossal emotions that the subject restrains. The expression harbors a universal vulnerability; an imperative grace under pressure that a (white) culture expects Black women to retain. This self-possession within constriction also figures in the painting Ladies in Waiting (1981), where the artist is framed by luscious, magenta walls. The light-infused domestic interior pulses with a celestial buoyancy, as though the space hums with ethereal hymns.

COLOR

Light, Color and Desire positions Janet Taylor Pickett as a colorist: an artist keen to the affordances of each hue, and how they inter-animate each other. Taylor Pickett forgoes neutral tones in favor of a kaleidoscopic color scheme, which conjures mood, light and space. Her saturated palette and enlistment of cutouts highlights her dialogue with Henri Matisse (1869 -1954). In The Ritual (2003), an amalgamation of painted and collaged elements, Taylor Pickett recruits cutout dress forms, which augment and amplify Matisse Cutouts. The work curates an altar that colligates a European reference (a painting by Fra Angelico) to African ones: hennaed hands and a fertility figure ringed with a golden aureole. Its display of talismanic forms and Christian iconography renders the work an homage to Black faith and a votive in its own right.  Taylor Pickett’s Indigo Blue further highlights her visual dialogue with Matisse (Prussian) Blue. This deep affinity for Blue is enacted in Memory of Water II (2021), which substantiates the ever-present call and response water has had in the collective history of African Americans. Water symbolizes the flow of memory from the Nile, to the Mississippi River to the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean; it is the genetic rhythm of memory that water holds.

DESIRE

Engulfed in flora and fauna, ripe with bold self-possession, the intensely embodied subjects in Janet Taylor Pickett’s work suggest her spiritual linkage to Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), who deployed self-portraiture to explore sexuality, femininity, and her relationship to the natural world. In Forest Born (2022), the roots and curls of flora render an organic issuance from nature. Both artists share an autobiographical narrative that weaves pain and joy to desire. In their political commitments and their unapologetic examination of suffering as well as beauty, they are thematically and aesthetically connected across time and space. Taylor Pickett and Frida Kahlo turn to their own bodies as a site and source of inspiration. While Frida Kahlo lingers on trauma, Taylor Pickett, attuned to life’s difficulties, tributes the beauty of the world and the joy of life. This resiliency and jubilance is personified in the recent painting series Gaia (2022), the goddess of the earth, whose gaze is defiant and searching. The portraits enact the apotheosis of self-actualization; the artist-as-subject is endowed with full agency, and regards the viewer with a gaze that harbors the command of a mystic. As a conceptual linchpin of the exhibition, Gaia confers that Light, Color and Desire is seeing the life of Janet Taylor Pickett.

Janet Taylor Pickett is utterly authentic in her vision and scope: an expression of a life being led in pursuit of psychical, spiritual and aesthetic liberation. It marks her as a vessel for femininity writ large—a contemporary goddess whose beauty and power supercharges life itself. While Taylor Pickett approaches the present as a benediction, she also presides over the past. History suffuses her art. As sustained visual poems, the paintings and combines in Light, Color and Desire probe a personal and collective past to posit a distinctly Black mythology of Self. Taylor Pickett’s work is a serious intellectual interrogation of beauty, nature and emotions that enables her recognition at the fore of Contemporary Art. Imbued with the mysticism of devotional work and the enigmatic lyricism of folklore, Janet Taylor Pickett paints as she emotes.

Dr. Jennifer Baahng, Guest Curator

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JANET TAYLOR PICKETT: NECESSARY MEMORIES

Janet Taylor Pickett, Melon Dress, 2001, oil, charcoal, oil stick and collage on canvas, 60 x 40 in
JANET TAYLOR PICKETT: NECESSARY MEMORIES

March 15–April 28, 2023

Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY College at Old Westbury

Necessary Memories is a solo exhibition of Janet Taylor Pickett that explores her sustained engagement with identity, heritage, and the complexity of lived experience. The exhibition is presented on the occasion of the inauguration of the Black Studies Center and the Black Studies major at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, an initiative representative of the College’s strong social justice mission and racial diversity. A survey of the artist’s prolific body of work from 1972 to 2021, the exhibition showcases over fifty (50) works that externalize the interior life of Janet Taylor Pickett. Intimate and confessional, Necessary Memories pinpoints moments of tension in competing desires for rootedness and freedom. Replete with visual motifs, Janet Taylor Pickett draws on personal biography as a compass to chart a path towards a broader collective heritage that prompts imaginative sustenance for the present.

Janet Taylor Pickett was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1948, the third generation in her maternal family to be raised in that city, a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her father, Dempsey Taylor, Jr., was born in Brownsville, Tennessee, and traveled north during the Great Migration, settling with his family in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This imbrication of personal and shared Black history, concealed in Taylor Pickett’s birthplace, is central to her work. Attuned to the socio-political affordances of her practice, she wields her art as activism: a cautionary tale about the recalcitrance of historical trauma on both the individual and national psyche. Combining quilted constructions, sculptural works, and storytelling through images and handwritten texts, the artist conjures the past with ease, galvanized by her embrace of frustration and pain, and her reckoning with struggle as a touchstone for healing.

HERITAGE

Janet Taylor Pickett’s excavation of her heritage finds its beginnings in her 1972 MFA thesis at the University of Michigan, entitled, black art: reviewing its roots. This project catalyzed the artist’s activist concerns that became the conceptual framework for her artmaking. Adinkra, emblazoned on the book’s cover, was developed by the Ashanti tribes to symbolize various natural and metaphysical concepts. Mobilizing African visual poetics, Taylor Pickett reconceptualizes the relationship between text and image, narrative and myth—tensions and interchanges throughout her art practice.

Taylor Pickett’s thesis was a questionnaire to over three hundred (300) Black artists listed in the Afro- American Slide Depository at the University of Southern Alabama, including Romare Bearden, Benny Andrews, Emma Amos, and Jacob Lawrence, and a compilation of their survey responses. Taylor Pickett and Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) take Blackness as their formal and conceptual subject. “Migration Series” (1940-41), Lawrence’s ambitious, sixty (60) panel work, focuses on the people at the heart of the great Migration, breaking apart the massive relocation into intimate vignettes. In these works, figures and landscapes are reduced to sparse shapes and abstracted figures. This economy of composition also characterizes “The Skin I’m In” (2016), which reflects Taylor Pickett’s belief that simplified forms convey a wellspring of meaning. A spartan composition, “The Skin I’m In” is a non- figurative portrait that deconstructs the female body, casting it as a flat, white dress sewed with beads, collaged with African masks and ridged tribal markings, and set against Matisse Cutout and a cropped photograph of the artist. In aggregate, these sewed surfaces form an epidermis that literally sutures beauty to pain.

IDENTITY

While deep historical roots and the traditions of Janet Taylor Pickett’s ancestors are at the fore of her conceptual concerns, she assembles these histories to investigate her identity. In “Melon Dress” (2001), the artist enlists a dress form patterned with watermelons and cotton tufts, pejorative symbols yoked to the trauma of slavery, as a metaphor for selfhood. A scroll wraps around the dress featuring text from Larry Vincent Buster’s The Art and History of Black Memorabilia (2000) that elucidates the historical significance of the watermelon:

Watermelon is believed to have originated more than 4,000 years ago in southwestern Africa, where it provided a ready-made water canteen.

It’s high in nutrients and low in calories—just the kind of food to keep slaves alive aboard ship during the transatlantic passage from Africa.

The artist’s figuration of the written word further underlines the socio-historical charge of her work; in coopting and retooling traumatic history by way of watermelon and cotton, she generates a new personal mythology that combines words and repeating visual motifs to forge an alternative canon.

Identity is also a central theme in “An Odyssey” (2014-2015), Taylor Pickett’s milestone wall installation, comprised of over fifty (50) dress forms. Deeply influenced by the color and textiles of Henri Matisse (1869-1954), the artist made cutouts as open secrets; portals to the past that declare their story through a mixture of photographs and collages, while retaining a patina of mysticism and abstraction. Solemn and meditative at times and buoyant and animated at others, the works are, she contends, “conduits and vessels of meaning…visual records, captured memories, observations, and inspirations.” Each dress form cutout compels the viewer to consider its interrelated images, as a myriad of stories reveal themselves. An Odyssey is a matrix for Taylor Pickett’s creative process, a conceptual tool to examine identity politics, and a vessel for transformation.

The artist’s quest to unpack the ancestral heritage nestled in her identity manifests in “Hot House” (1996). An oil painting with collage elements on combined un-stretched canvases, the work is an amalgamation of the artist’s philosophical and aesthetic preoccupations in the early 1990s. Teeming with verdure that presses out of the frame with an anthropomorphic aliveness, the work asserts sexuality, sensuousness, and nature. It bears the influence of Taylor Pickett’s creative conversant, Sam Gilliam (1933-2022), with whom she worked at the Vermont Studio School in 1991. Gilliam, known for his “Drape Paintings,” encouraged Taylor Pickett to “get off the canvas” and wrestle with the inchoate three-dimensionality in her work. A turning point in Taylor Pickett’s practice, the conversation instilled in her a sense of liberation that was as emotional as it was formal.

COMPLEXITY OF LIVED EXPERIENCE

Engaging with beauty and the difficulty of embodiment, Janet Taylor Pickett produces work that speaks to the complexity of lived experience. Art’s capacity to function as a totalizing enactment of life is most acutely evident in her fabric constructions, which she began making after her father’s death in 1992. Quilted on felt, “Healing Shirt” (2007) demonstrates a striking tactility and weight. Its display of talismanic forms and Christian iconography renders the work both an homage to Black faith and a votive object in its own right. In its immersive humanism, Taylor Pickett’s oeuvre resonates with German performance artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986). Beuys, who constructed environments out of felt and other materials, was enraptured by the ritualistic interactions created by participatory art. Similarly energized by the metaphysical transmissions afforded through visual work, Janet Taylor Pickett affirms art as healing; a channel to a realm deeper and more expansive than the purely visible world. Beuys’ notion of art as a “social sculpture,” a shared Happening that can reshape society and culture, is taken up by Taylor Pickett. The artist uses Blackness as a “social sculpture”; her embodied experience as an African American person is her art.

Aesthetic and existential arrival are realized in “She Blooms in Her Own Time” (2021). [Pic 7] This self- portrait enacts the apotheosis of self-actualization; the artist-as-subject is endowed with full agency and regards the viewer with a gaze that harbors the command of a mystic, seeing through and beyond the viewer. Flanked by slabs of saturated color, she deploys orange burnt sienna, the skin tone that resembles her father’s tanned forearm, and that she uses to depict all of her subjects. While Matisse clearly figures as a creative interlocutor, the work is utterly authentic in its articulation of Taylor Pickett’s distinct narrative voice. As the conceptual linchpins of the exhibition, “Healing Shirt” and “She Blooms in her Own Time” confer that Necessary Memories is seeing the life of Janet Taylor Pickett. These two works posit the convergence of the artist’s social, ethical, and metaphysical commitments with her blossoming as an artist. As she erases boundaries to create work that is relatable and transcendental, Taylor Pickett offers a visual scripture that is entwined with her own becoming.

Necessary Memories affirms how art is a physical experience, and a public one—an impulse that is intuitive, introspective, and geared towards the world outside oneself. Sensitive and visceral, Taylor Pickett delivers a narrative of mythic proportions through her radiant, experimental, and intensely articulate works. History suffuses Janet Taylor Pickett’s art. As sustained visual poems, the paintings, collages, and sewed works in Necessary Memories probe a personal and collective past to posit a distinctly Black mythology of Self. Multi-textured and multi-dimensional, with vibrant color and unexpected juxtapositions, Taylor Pickett’s work is a serious intellectual interrogation of beauty, nature, and the human condition. Galvanized by the socio-political activities in her formative years, Taylor Pickett began to formulate “an aesthetic language, a visual synergy” that spoke to the demands of the historical moment. The artist’s activist concerns remain a through-line in her practice, as recent paintings build upon the commitments and convictions articulated in her early work. Necessary Memories traces the artist’s swan dive into the murky waters of both her own and her country’s past, and her ultimate resurfacing, clear-eyed, with a deeply embodied sense of truth in her art. Janet Taylor Pickett is the artist, and Janet Taylor Pickett is the oeuvre.

Dr. Jennifer Baahng, Guest Curator

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