“Block Party” Exhibition

Jenkins Johnson Projects

poster for “Block Party” Exhibition
[Image: Kenturah Davis "Nes (from Infinity Series)" (2016) hand-written text of graphite on paper 30 x 26 in.]

This event has ended.

Jenkins Johnson Projects presents Block Party, a group exhibition featuring works by Kenturah Davis, Kearra Gopee, Kahlil Robert Irving, Alex Jackson, Devin N. Morris, Kenny Rivero, Shikeith and Vaughn Spann, curated by Project Space Director, Tess Sol Schwab. Taking inspiration from the numerous block parties that enliven our neighborhood in the summer, the exhibition takes a more critical look at the importance of these community gatherings. Not just a simple get together, block parties strengthen community ties and often function as a town hall to discuss larger issues affecting the neighborhood including violence, immigration, sexuality and race. The exhibition also marks the Project Space’s first year in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and our continuing commitment to the community. The festive opening will include a DJ set by April Hunt and BBQ by Chef Omar Tate, as part of his Reclamation Project exploring the history of African American migration through food.

The exhibition figuratively and literally begins in the streets, with works by Khalil Robert Irving. His Street Prints are made from the detritus of city life including crushed cans, playing cards, and cigarette butts. They reflect both the beauty and the grit of the American city, as well as its continually changing nature. Irving is currently an Artist in Residence at Art Omi. This work is in the collections of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, JP Morgan Chase Art Collection. He has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Wesleyan University. The street also serves as the stage for the paintings of Kenny Rivero. Autobiographical in nature, the works reference Rivero’s childhood in the NYC neighborhood of Washington Heights. His sidewalks, street corners and foreboding alleyways are often populated with disembodied legs, floating heads and small fires, alluding to a violence played out in our citites. Rivero will also create a site-specific installation in the Project Space’s jewel box which incorporates his work, Jugettes, made from discarded dominos, broken beer bottles, and sunflower scenes, remnants of a party and a memorial to connections made. Rivero is a Yale MFA graduate and studied at the Skowhegen School of Painting and Sculpture. He currently teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and has a solo exhibition at the Delaware Contemporary Art Museum.

Racial and sexual identity are explored in the works of Shikeith and Devin N. Morris. Growing up in Philadelphia, Shikeith often observed and mirrored the policing of masculinity which is ever present for black and queer boys. Anything considered feminine or homosexual was gravely rejected and persecuted. His photography dismantles the oppressive aspects of black masculinity while expanding existing notions and making room for alternative options. 2018 Yale MFA graduate, Shikieth has presented at MoMA and the Philadelphia Art Museum. He currently is in a group show at Aperture, “The Way We Live Now.”

The mixed media collages of Devin N. Morris reimagine the social boundaries imposed on black and LGBTQ Americans within surreal landscapes and elaborately constructed environments. These imaginary domestic spaces are rooted in the familiar reference commonly found household materials and fabrics. Gestures of kindness are inspired by his experiences growing up as a black boy in Baltimore and his later experiences navigating the world as a black queer man. Morris was recently in “The Aesthetics of Matter” the first NYC curatorial project by Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont. His 2017 solo show at Terrault Contemporary was listed in Artforum as the “Best of 2017”, and he was named by Time Magazine in 2017 as one of “12 African American Photographers You Should Follow.”
An investigation of who belongs and a discourse on representation are found in the work of Alex Jackson and Kenturah Davis. Jackson’s paintings deal with the history of black representation, particularly in the realm of historical and traditional portrait painting. By employing a blend of characters, symbols, and iconography sourced from a variety of cultural and artistic mediums, Jackson creates a quasi-fictional world where skins take on new textures and colors. Jackson is a 2017 Yale MFA graduate and a recipient of a 2015 Skowhegan School of Art residency. He has appeared on the cover of New American Painters. For Kenturah Davis, the figures she creates are composed from written text. In this performative act, she strips away color and instead focuses on the construction of our personal and collective identities. Using text as a point of departure, she explores the fundamental role that language has in shaping how we understand ourselves and the world around us. Recently, Davis was commissioned by LA Metro to create a large-scale site-specific work that will be permanently installed on the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line. Davis earned her BA from Occidental College and is a 2018 Yale MFA graduate.

Questions of belonging are brought to the political sphere in the work of Lizania Cruz and Kearra Gopee who explore issues of immigration. Cruz, through her participatory project, We the News, documents, publishes, and distributes the stories of Black immigrants through zines and products in a public newsstand. This newsstand will appear outside, towards the end of the exhibition, along with programming that includes a workshop, readings, and dance performance. During the exhibition, Cruz will present a wall activation where participants are invited to share solidarity by completing a written affirmation. Cruz was a 2017-2018 Create Change Artist in Residence at Laundromat Project. Her projects have been featured in Hyperallergic, Fusion News, and KQED Arts. Kearra Gopee deals with the many facets of identity, nationality and immigration that are implicit in the relationships of Trinidad and Tobago, the US, and European colonial history. In her installation, Artifact #1: Tiger Balm, she recreates her grandmother’s bureau through the careful placement of personal ephemera: family photos, medicine bottles, various salves, makeup, and Tiger Balm, a Chinese ointment that has long been used in Caribbean homes for general healing purposes. Through the installation she explores personal history, the theft of her mother and her passports by her father which prevented her re-entry into the United States and reflects upon the metaphorical state of visibility /invisibility and presence/absence inhabited by immigrant and migrant people in the United States. Gopee is a current resident at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and has shown at the New Museum and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.

The importance of family is underlined in the work of Vaughn Spann. Influenced by his grandfather growing up, Spann spent his childhood learning the craft of working with his hands and becoming a maker. Everyone in his family knew how to sew and this skill was passed down. Spann reimagines towels, t-shirts, spray paint, clay, and other objects of the everyday and transforms them into abstract works rich with color and texture. Spann seeks to contribute to the dialogue of black experience that was once written out of Art History Books. He is a recent Yale MFA graduate and a recipient of the 2017 Alice Kimball Traveling Fellowship and has shown at the Reginald Lewis Museum in Baltimore and Newark Museum.



from July 14, 2018 to August 25, 2018

Opening Reception on 2018-07-14 from 17:00 to 20:00

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