Jenkins Johnson Gallery New York is pleased to present Voices of Home, featuring works by Noel Anderson, Kajahl Benes, Elaine Bradford, Elizabeth Colomba, Jamal Cyrus, Delphine Diallo, Nathaniel Donnett, Zak Ové, Lisa Schmaltz, Leslie Smith III, Devin Troy Strother, Felandus Thames, and Christine Wong Yap. Each of these artists visually articulates works inspired by their diverse and rich cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Featured events include the opening reception and a panel discussion in February coinciding with Black History Month.
Elaine Bradford, Zak Ové, Lisa Schmaltz, and Devin Troy Strother use mixed media, and draw on their childhood experiences to reference the paradoxes of their current environments. Representative of the approach is Trinidadian artist Zak Ové, who uses sculpture, film, found objects and photography to reinterpret lost culture and explore his Caribbean identity. His work emanates from an anthropological interest in African mythology, diaspora, tribalism and history, including the origins of the Trinidadian Carnivale.
Through their use of visual narrative and storytelling, Noel Anderson, Kajahl Benes, and Elizabeth Colomba examine racial realities and issues of identity. Through her classical and painterly representation of traditional figures as African American, Elizabeth Columba hopes to address years of misrepresentation of blacks in art and illustrates well the effectiveness of the narrative style. Her strong use of symbolism is apparent in works like “Mama Legba,” a reference to the Haitian Voodoo spirit, Papa Legba, who takes on the shape of the mama and serves as an allegory for Haiti. Similarly, the visible rooster represents watchful vigilance against evil, the cat a symbol of freedom, and the basket of fruit a re-interpretation of a Cornucopia, a symbol of food, abundance and female fertility.
In contrast, artists like Jamal Cyrus, Delphine Diallo, Nathaniel Donnett and Felandus Thames create racial discourse through their reference to historical events and their subsequent contemporary relevance. Nathaniel Donnett’s work is an example of this approach; his mixed media work on brown paper bags offers direct references to crucial events in the history of American culture, like Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, while drawing parallels to contemporary tensions in the African American community. His Sweeten the Deal depicts an Imperial Sugar bag and highlights the lack of racial progress as the Imperial Sugar plantation site in Texas once used African American slaves to harvest and is now the site of a prison where over 85% of inmates are of color.
The artists in Voices of Home have impressive exhibition histories, and have been the recipients of many prestigious awards, too numerous to mention them all. Selected awards and exhibitions: Zack Ové studied at Central St. Martins and worked in the same studio as Chris Ofili and Peter Doig. His work has been shown internationally at the Tate Britain, London; the Freies Museum, Berlin; the Dakar Biennale, Senegal; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Fotomuseum, Antwerp; and the Dapper Museum, Paris. Ové’s first film, “I Have a Dream,” toured film festivals worldwide and won the coveted Cinit Award. Jamal Cyrus, who was exhibited in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, has shown at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; California African American Museum in Los Angeles and the Menil Collection in Houston, TX. He is a 2006 Houston Artadia Award recipient. Elizabeth Colomba has been exhibited internationally at the Balthus Foundation, Switzerland; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), New York; and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, New York. Devin Troy Strother was recently highlighted in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s bulletin “If You Like…” comparing his work to that of Laylah Ali, while 2010 Artadia Award winner, Nathaniel Donnett was compared to Kerry James Marshall. Yale MFAs, Noel Anderson and Felandus Thames have both been featured in The New York Times.
Through this survey of artists, viewers can develop an understanding of diverse backgrounds that have helped shape the work each of these artists produce today, as well as define the rich cultural messages they individually seek to convey. Please contact Karen Gilbert at 212-629-0707 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.jenkinsjohnsongallery.com for more information.