The Provenance and Crowning of King William
Steve Turner Contemporary is pleased to present Deborah Grant: The Provenance and Crowning of King William. The series is based on the life and art of William H. Johnson and it involved two years of investigation by Grant to complete the work. It consists of paintings, collages and drawings as well as some works that combine all three in Grant's idiosyncratic all-over style that she calls "random select." Over the last ten years, Grant has deconstructed and then reassembled visual, historic, and literary material from unrelated sources to create her own non-linear narrative. In appropriating the artworks of famous male artists from the canon such as Picasso, Basquiat, Bacon and Traylor, Grant has reworked images to address histories and narratives pertinent to her own life experience and identity. This is the first time that The Provenance and Crowning of King William will be presented in its entirety. It is the New York-based artist's third solo exhibition with Steve Turner, her first since 2007.
For The Provenance and Crowning of King William, Grant investigates the work of American artist William H. Johnson (1901-1970). Johnson, born in South Carolina, recognized early on that his aspiration of becoming an artist was unattainable in the segregated South. In 1918, he migrated to New York City and was soon admitted to the National Academy of Design where he excelled in painting, studying with noted artist Charles W. Hawthorne. In spite of his achievements and awards at the academy, both teacher and pupil realized that Johnson would face many obstacles as a black artist in America. In 1926, Johnson departed for Europe, where he had a very successful career, living in Denmark and Norway where he painted lush landscapes and portraits. At the outbreak of World War II, he returned to the United States, and began painting scenes of daily life in New York City and images of the rural South. Faced with personal setbacks, among them, the death of his wife, he returned to Europe after the war. He was later hospitalized in Oslo with what turned out to be syphilis and was sent back to the United States, where he was institutionalized for the last 23 years of his life. He did not receive widespread recognition in America until after his death in 1970.
For The Provenance and Crowning of King William, Grant has culled vast amounts of material from the many books and articles on William H. Johnson. She also goes beyond the Johnson biography by inventing a visual narrative of his last twenty-three years at the Central Islip State Hospital, a period during which Johnson is thought to have made no work. The series consists of three large-scale, multi-panel works along with a group of stand-alone paintings and drawings. While motifs from Johnson's output are ever present, Grant has complicated a simple reading of him by incorporating into her work numerous fragments from found photographs as well as her own complicated drawings that seem to represent a lost language. The seemingly random ideas are metaphors for the human condition.
Grant received a BFA at Columbia College, Chicago (1996), an MFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia (1999) and did residencies at the Skowhegan (1996); Studio Museum in Harlem (2002/2003); and the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito (2004. She was the winner of the 2011 William H. Johnson Prize, an honor given annually to an outstanding early career African American artist. She has had solo exhibitions at Roebling Hall, New York, (2006), Dunn and Brown, Dallas (2007) and Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles (2007). She will have a solo exhibition at the Drawing Center, New York in 2013. Steve Turner Contemporary is a contemporary art gallery based in Los Angeles that represents the work of emerging and established contemporary artists. Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11- 6. Please contact the gallery for further information. Contact: Steve Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 323.931.3721