Lee Jaffe “History Revisited”

Nohra Haime Gallery

poster for Lee Jaffe “History Revisited”
[Image: Lee Jaffe "Portrait Of John Brown And Nat Turner" (1983) oil and varnish on canvas with wood, rope and gallows 144.09 x 179.92 in.]
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For the first time since 1984, multi-disciplinary artist Lee Jaffe will exhibit HISTORY REVISTED a series of large-scale mixed media artworks addressing the sharp edges of American history. Born in the Bronx in 1950, Jaffe grew up with his Jewish family during the social tumult of the Civil Rights and decolonizing movements around the globe in the 1960s. Jaffe’s command over composition derives from his extensive training as a conceptual visual artist but also guided by a broader commitment towards social justice. As a filmmaker in the 1970s and 80s, Jaffe collaborated with revolutionary artists Gordon Matta-Clark (Chile) and Hélio Oiticica (Brazil). Jaffe is perhaps most recognized for his ubiquitous photo portraiture of popular culture and music figures such as reggae pioneers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and visual artist JeanMichel Basquiat whose collaborative work titled Portrait of Cinque is included in the exhibition.

Initially exhibited at Peter Bonnier Gallery in 1984, Jaffe describes the impetus of the series, “At the time of its creation in 1983, I felt an intense need to retell these stories that have been skewed, or largely untold. By combining painting, drawing, sculptural and natural elements, as well as archival documents and photography, I could unearth the contradictions of American history, bone by bone, bill by dollar bill.” For example, in Portrait of Sacco and Vanzetti, Jaffe applies animal material, namely fish scales, and bones, against an encasement of gold leaf and decadence. Furthermore, Jaffe uses greenbacks to undermine its value in Portrait of George Washington. In The Life and Times of Sally Hemmings, Jaffe uses the dollar bill to underscore how Trans-Atlantic slavery produced America’s wealth but also to reassert the story of Sally Hemmings, a Black woman enslaved and coerced into pregnancy by Thomas Jefferson.

According to Nohra Haime Gallery, “It is uncanny how relevant Lee Jaffe’s artwork is today. We are excited that these works created nearly forty years ago will now be viewed in the context of today when these very questions around race, violence and power remain embittered and unanswered.” In Portrait of John Brown and Nat Turner, Jaffe reconstructs a map of the United States and wooden gallows to foreground the violent consequences of insurrection and rebellion. In HISTORY REVISITED, Jaffe reminds viewers that history is always in the making, and for the taking.

The historical references in these works are made clear to the viewer. Subtleties are combined with obvious signs that jump out at us - the dollar bills in Portrait of George Washington and The Life and Times of Sally Hemings, the map of the United States and literal gallows reconstructed at the front of Portrait of John Brown and Nat Turner.

By the time of the creation of these works, Jaffe had an installation at MoMA and spent five years with Bob Marley in Jamaica, where as a young filmmaker he was informed by another way of life and met many other musicians and forward-thinkers. Whether he is on stage with Lenny Kravitz playing the harmonica, creating large-scale paintings with feathers and bones, or an installation with sound and drawings, Jaffe’s work never ceases in its ambition or depth.



from October 21, 2021 to December 11, 2021


Lee Jaffe


http://www.nohrahaimegallery.com/ (venue's website)



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