‘Black Eye’: Impressive Gathering of Artists Aims to Defy Categorization

NEW YORK—Just south of Canal Street, a refreshing new show explores 21st century black identity. “Black Eye,” a new group exhibition features emerging talents alongside some of the most innovative and critically recognized artists working today. All of them black, the show contends that beyond race their are many more factors—from gender, sexuality and geography—that define the artists and influence their work.

Two generations—including Derrick Adams, Sanford Biggers, Kerry James Marshall, Nick Cave, David Hammons, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Kehinde Wiley, Rashid Johnson, Jason Musson, Wangechi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas, Xaviera Simmons, Toyin Odutola, Nari Ward and Gary Simmons, are among the 26 artists represented. Most are U.S.-born, but several are British, Caribbean and African.

Housed in a pop-up gallery space in Tribeca, framed works are exhibited on the main floor and a series video and multimedia installations are on view downstairs.

“Black Eye” includes works by 26 artists.

The works reflect the shifting dynamics of race over the past 20 years, from the overt symbolism of “Buy Black,” Marshall’s red, black and green mixed-media work (shown at top of page) to more subtle realities as described by Thomas in his video installation. He talks about perspectives and “framing” in his work—reframing notions of identity and history in a different context.

“What I know about myself has been taught to me by people who identify specifically as white. I really am curious about who benefits from being able to tell the story.…The meanings I see may be different from meanings other people see,” Thomas says.

Johnson offers an ode to artist Barkley Hendricks. Signature portraits by Boakye and Wiley are featured. Meanwhile, Musson contributes a large-scale typographic work. Reflecting the reality of American society and contemporary television programming, “My Million Dollar Idea” describes a new show called “Find the White Neighborhood.” The pitch: White contestants are dropped off in a black community in an undisclosed city at night, leaving them to their own devices to find their way back to a white neighborhood. At the bottom of the proposal, Musson invites interested producers to contact him via email.

Curated by Nicola Vassell, a veteran of Pace Gallery and Deitch Projects, “Black Eye” is on view from May 2 to May 24, 2014 at 57 Walker Street.

All photos by Arts Observer

A pair of works by Xaviera Simmons flank a mixed-media work by Rashaad Newsome (center).

From left, Oil on canvas portrait by Lynette Yiadom Boakye, and from top, “Head #13 (Floor Plan)” and “Head #12 (Floor Plan),” both 2012 (mixed media collage) by Derrick Adams.

A trio of works by Kudzanai Chiurai.

From left, Portrait by Kehinde Wiley, with photograph by Sanford Biggers, who attended Morehouse College and took most of his art courses at Spelman.

Detail of portrait by Kehinde Wiley, who is known for his images of black men captured in poses and against backgrounds that conjure canvases by old European masters. In 2012, Wiley painted, “An Economy of Grace,” a series of black women for the first time. He cast women he spotted on the streets of Harlem and outfitted them in gowns designed by Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy.

“Untitled (body print),” 1991 (pigment and ink on paper) by David Hammons.

“366-Don’t flush urinals with your hand—use your elbow,” 2014 (powdered graphite, nails and rubber bands) by Tony Lewis, with “Great Reburn” by Nari Ward in background.

“Great Reburn,” 2012 (plexiglass, aluminum, linen, flag ash, gesso, aluminet shade cloth) by Nari Ward.

In foreground, at right, “Hold it in Your Mouth a Little Longer,” 2013 (charcoal, pastel, and graphite on paper) by Toyin Odutola. At left, Works by Derrick Adams (2), Christian Rosa (top) and David Hammons.

From left, photographs by Maria Magdalena Campos Pons and “My Million Dollar Idea” by Jason Musson.

Self portrait by Steve McQueen, the artist and filmmaker who directed the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave.”

From left, Work by Gary Simmons; self portrait by Rashid Johnson, an ode to Barkley Hendricks; and photograph by Deana Lawson.

Multimedia installations by artists including Wangechi Mutu, Jacobly Satterwhite, Nick Cave, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Simone Leigh and Hank Willis Thomas are on view downstairs.

Still from Hank Willis Thomas video installation.

At left, “Blot,” 2012 (electronic transfer file, 42:57 minutes, edition of 5, + 2 artist proofs, edition EP3) by Nick Cave

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