social works organized by Antwaun Sargent at the Gagosian Gallery, (24th St, NYC)
June 24 – August 13, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present social works, a group show curated by Antwaun Sargent with participating artists David Adjaye, Zalika Azim, Allana Clarke, Kenturah Davis, Theaster Gates, Linda Goode Bryant, Lauren Halsey, Titus Kaphar, Rick Lowe, Christie Neptune, Alexandria Smith and Carrie Mae Weems.
social works considers the relationship between space – personal, public, institutional and psychic – and black social practice. With a wide range of material and theoretical approaches, the work presented is united by a conscious engagement with the cultural moment of today, in which many social factors have converged to produce an increased urgency for black artists. use space as a tool for community building and a means of empowerment.
Known for his masterful use of light, shadow and space, as well as for his integration of diverse forms, David Adjaye approaches architecture as a way to promote inclusive accessibility and to reflect on human heritages. anchored in the constructed past. Asaase (2021), his first large-scale stand-alone sculpture, is a labyrinth of interlocking mud walls that climb to a conical summit, referencing historic works of West African architecture such as the Royal Complex of Tiébélé in Burkina Faso and the walled city of Agadez in Niger.
Theaster Gates’ installation is dedicated to legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles, the “Godfather of House Music” whose pioneering sounds shaped the 1980s black and queer-led house music scene. A collaboration with the Rebuild Foundation, Gates’ Chicago-based nonprofit focused on art, cultural development and neighborhood transformation, the work features a special exhibition of more than five thousand recordings from the archives. Personal Knuckles, many of which will be digitized as they play in the gallery.
Throughout her fifty-year career, which includes the opening of Just Above Midtown, one of the first New York galleries to focus on the work of color artists, in 1974, Linda Goode Bryant created spaces that allow darkness to resonate through personal, official and public events. Created in collaboration with architect Elizabeth Diller, Goode Bryant’s Are we really that different? (2021) – an installation featuring an operational farm and a new video – brings together her work as a filmmaker and gallery owner with Project EATS, the urban agriculture organization she founded in 2009, highlighting symbiotic relationships, and often parasitic, between humans and nature that arise in the modern industrial world.
Lauren Halsey draws on Afrofuturism, funk, and her roots in south-central Los Angeles to construct radical visions of city life. Halsey’s “box” sculptures include acrylic blocks adorned with colorful fragments of commercial signs, graffiti and other examples of the community hieroglyphics that bring visual life to his neighborhood. They recognize South Central’s past as well as its imagined future, but also evoke a fantastic space for improvisation where imagination, celebration, and self-reinvention are collective phenomena.
Titus Kaphar’s art deconstructs existing representations and styles, seeking to dislodge history from its “past” status in order to understand its continuing impact on the present. In 2015, Kaphar co-founded NXTHVN, a nonprofit arts center in Dixwell, New Haven, Connecticut, which provides scholarships, residencies, and professional development opportunities for artists, curators, and students. For social works, Kaphar presents his painting A bitter trade (2020), which he blanked for a live NXTHVN event in 2020.
Next to Kaphar’s painting is a selection of diverse artwork by five artists, all former NXTHVN Studio fellows, offering new meditations on the black body’s use of space. By overlaying literary and archival material over photographs, Zalika Azim explores personal and collective narratives as a means of studying their broader effects on memory, lineage, possibility and belonging. Allana Clarke’s sculptures and performances destabilize ideas of beauty, care and work, seeking to replace them with an unlimited approach to physical and psychological existence. Weaving the written word – both materially and conceptually – into intricate designs, Kenturah Davis emphasizes the fundamental role language plays in shaping personal and public identity. Christie Neptune’s photographic and video works capture precise moments, drawing attention to the charged interactions between the structures of society and those they categorize and constrain. Populating canvases fashioned with clean forms reminiscent of the medium of collage, Alexandria Smith’s dreamlike allegorical paintings visualize the many unspoken roles, contradictions and uncertainties imprinted on the black female body.
Rick Lowe’s abstract paintings allude to a phenomenon he calls “domino culture”: the social spark and the unique union of lives that flow from the game. Lowe, who founded the community platform of art Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward, Texas brings its social engagement approach to a new series of canvases that commemorate the 1921 massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where white supremacists razed the city’s Greenwood District, the thriving neighborhood known as ‘Black Wall Street’, and commemorates the resilience of survivors who rebuilt their hometowns from the ground up.
In the photographic series of Carrie Mae Weems Roaming (2006) and Museums (2006-), the artist, dressed in a flowing black dress and turned away from the camera, appears on many sites: Roman palaces, rustic paths and majestic museum facades. Poetic and emotionally charged, the images meditate on the “edifices of power” that racialize, sexualize and confine the human body. Yet Weems’ presence calmly dominates these vast spaces; she lives and faces each site with quiet dignity, asserting her indelible freedom to roam.