Catharine Clark Gallery is pleased to present the concurrent solo exhibitions: Shadow, new works on paper by Jonathan Solo, and Love to Lose, video, sculpture, and photography by Kambui Olujimi. The exhibition dates are January 8 – February 19, 2011. Both artists will be present for the opening reception on Saturday, January 8, 5–7 pm.
Kambui Olujimi is an artist who works within the realm of ideas rather than within an exclusive medium. Although he has directed a great deal of work in film, his is truly a multi-media practice. He crafts potent social commentary from delicate wisps of myth and whimsy mixed with real-world narrative. His current exhibition Love to Lose, composed of video, photography and sculpture, delves into contemporary tragedy and demonstrates Olujimi's interest in “transforming the mundane into legend, the absurd into custom, and the creation of icons.” In his works, the violence and destruction of identity—the grief and subsequent anesthetization of grief—become poignant symbols of the contemporary condition. Lyrical and elliptical rather than ideological, Olujimi’s art transcends the political sphere, affirming its own autonomy.
The first of the two video pieces on exhibition, Heartaches and Toothaches, is a short film that follows the demise of a young prostitute, from her days as an innocent child to the horrors of her adult life, and her eventual suicide by fire. Rather than shock the viewer with overt violence, Olujimi poetically mixes symbolism and narrative to manifest the destruction of the woman’s innocence and purity, something that is returned only by her eventual cleansing in the purification of the flame. The video is accompanied by Nina Simone's House of the Rising Sun (this work was originally included in a solo exhibition dedicated to the musician). The song acts as the basic temporal unit for the piece. The combination of video/pop song recalls a popular form of feminist video art in the 1990s, in which the duration of the video played for the length of a popular song was a common device. With the roles of the original format reversed, Olujimi’s aesthetic achieves an intriguing dialectic. The artist is a man, yet he also explores a woman's struggle, played out to a song—an aural-visual experience that solidifies the sense of an internal struggle made external.
Olujimi’s second video, the widely acclaimed Winter in America, was created in collaboration with Hank Willis Thomas. This video combines stop-motion animation with still photographs of G.I. Joe action figures. The video reenacts the robbery and murder of Thomas’s cousin, Songha Thomas Willis. Here violent contemporary culture is represented in the popularized formats through which it is typically disseminated. We have become immune to the horror of violence—a ubiquitous form of entertainment. Here the actuality of violence becomes represented by children's toys and animation, and the object of play becomes objects of horror.
Other works presented are sculptures from The Blackout Collection and a series of silver gelatin prints, The Mourners. In The Blackout Collection, Olujimi shows his interest in the surreal, calling to mind work such as Meret Oppenheim’s now-infamous sculpture of a fur-lined teacup. Olujimi creates emblematic, mixed media works using objects such as handcuffs and pearls. Bizarre icons of criminality, his sculptures highlight the process through which crime becomes a product to be exploited like any other, its particular imagery appropriated and popularized within mass culture. In The Mourners, Olujimi uses the medium of the silver gelatin print, but within the aesthetic of abstract expressionism. The evocative pieces exhibit various levels of expression representing partial portraits, the gestural splotches and tear-like forms alluding to the manifestations of grief.
Kambui Olujimi is a graduate of Parson's School of Design and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recently his work has been exhibited in solo shows at Art in General and Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. His work has also has been exhibited widely across the US, and internationally at institutions such as the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. His work is in collections such as that of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY and the Orange County Museum of Art, CA. This is the artist’s first exhibition at Catharine Clark Gallery.