Monday, December 28, 2015

Best of 2015: Nina Chanel Abney & Jordan Casteel Respectively Spread Truth, Justice, And Love

Nina Chanel Abney placed oppressive dangers on the canvas-- albeit large scale sized in her October 15, 2015-November 15, 2015 show at Kravets|Wehby Gallery.  This is Why, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 96" x 194," 2015.
"It is an artist duty to reflect the times in which we live." 
Nina Simone is right.
Black Lives Matters has been one huge defining movement built from the anger and aggression of living in an unjust, oppressive system called "America." A most disheartening couple of days with juries choosing not to indict the prison responsible for Sandra Bland's "suicide" or not holding the officers accountable for murdering Freddie Gray or Tamir Rice. The list of police and "vigilantes" getting slaps on bloody, guiltless wrists continues to grow. Without shadow of a doubt being born black is rules enough for ones own death regardless of age.
Art becomes reason to create, to let out agitated breath.
In New York City, two prominent female painters created two different poignant bodies of work in their separate solo shows-- Nina Chanel Abney and Jordan Casteel. 
Embedded with imperative numerology and capitalized text, Abney shed a grisly confrontational reflection on police brutality, on white supremacy. Her exhibition, ironically entitled "Always a Winner," depicted that marginalized people cannot rely on heroes vilifying them. It's the marginalized people being on the other end of blasted words and guns-- those are the reaped benefits, the prize rewards of existing. Black men are treated like vicious criminals and black women are objectified.
According to the dictionary police means "the civil force of a national or local government, responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order."
Except, Abney has painted police officers as demonic monsters abusing power, matching the ferocity of a barking dog. They are violent in action and appearance, looking stern, remorseless, inhuman. 
Sophisticated strategies between flat colored imagery and volumetric line were instrumental elements of Abney's traumatic narratives. Crowns are repetitive shapes around vulnerable black bodies. Yet broad markers and thick strikes indicated the significant body count rising and rising each day-- whether it's endless incarceration or the cycle of hashtag death toll. The censor and uncensored scenes were familiar territory, opening painful wounds and deep sorrow. 

Who, unique ultrachrome pigmented print, acrylic, spray paint on canvas,
96" x 112," 2015. 
What, unique ultrachrome pigmented print, acrylic, spray paint on canvas,
96" x 112," 2015.
Where, unique ultrachrome pigmented print, acrylic, spray paint on canvas,
96" x 96," 2015.
While Abney kept a blatant opened mind on brutal events, at Sargents Daughters, artist Jordan Casteel somberly painted the black male body alive and in sync with another black male body. In "Brothers," large scale portraits intimately portrayed positive relationships, fulfilling a kindred need to reveal the sincere tenderness the black male feels for another black male. It was the kind of support, love, and companionship rarely bestowed in societal reflection-- a wonderful humanized character trait. 
Newspapers are always so quick to bring up the dreadful past whether it be poor education or juvenile detention or jail lockups, but never consider the bonding of blood relations and friendship family. Casteel's layered brushstrokes and beguiling color choices set an affectionate mood, dismissing contrived filter and putrid garbage. Each composition held beautiful integrity, a beautiful story to share. 

Jordan Casteel's ardor for black male figures and their loved ones made for a thought-provoking display of courage at her Sargent's Daughters show from October 16, 2015-November 15, 2015. Marcus and Jace, 72" x 54," oil on canvas, 2015.
Casteel's work is so moving, so pivotal, so necessary that it's impossible to not want to linger further at not just the faces and the hands, but the environments where these beautiful brown bodies are placed, positioned. Objects, books, important colors signify great importance, a wealth that is not necessarily monetary. 
These valued bonds are irreplaceable.

Three Lions, 54" x 72," oil on canvas, 2015.

Miles and Jojo, oil on canvas, 54" x 72," 2015.
Ron and Jordan, 72" x 54," oil on canvas, 2015.
Nina Chanel Abney and Jordan Casteel let known that the only times privileged to a marginalized body is the time allotted until law catches up to them.
Abney told harsh fathomless aftermath. Casteel embraced heartfelt calm before petulant storm.
Together both women artists reflected on history's past and present, leaving behind strong conscious fist bumps in the midst of their visual geniuses.

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