NEW GALLERY REPRESENTATION for up-and-coming artists often follows a succession of critical recognition—high-profile awards, acquisitions, and exhibitions. Diedrick Brackens has achieved all of that and then some over the past year.

The Los Angeles-based textile artist was invited to participate in the Made in L.A. biennial at the Hammer Museum last summer, won the Studio Museum in Harlem’s annual Wein Artist Prize last fall, and earlier this month, “Diedrick Brackens: Darling Divined” opened at the New Museum. The installation is his first solo museum exhibition in New York.

 


DIEDRICK BRACKEN, “the cup is a cloud,” 2018 (cotton yarn, acrylic yarn, and mirrors, 74 × 78 inches / 188 × 198.1 cm). | © Diedrick Brackens, Courtesy the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, and Various Small Fires

 

The accolades and opportunities have culminated with Brackens joining Jack Shainman Gallery. The New York gallery made the announcement June 21. Jack Shainman is representing Brackens in collaboration with Various Small Fires (VSF), his existing gallery with locations in Los Angeles and Seoul, South Korea.

Traditional weaving techniques form the foundation of Brackens’s practice. He has mastered and innovated the craft making wall hangings, sculptures, and installations that interrogate contemporary issues and personal narratives. His abstract and figurative images explore complex political, social, and identity issues. Brackens uses his own body as a template for his silhouetted figures. Cotton in his choice material, a fiber loaded with historic symbolism.

Here is how Jack Shainman Gallery introduced his work:

    Diedrick Brackens (b. 1989, Mexia, TX) creates woven tapestries that explore allegory and narrative through the artist’s autobiography, broader themes of African American and queer identity, as well as American history. Brackens employs techniques from West African weaving, quilting from the American South, and European tapestry-making to create both abstract and figurative works. Often depicting moments of male tenderness, Brackens culls from African and African American literature, poetry, and folklore as source. Beginning his process through the hand-dying of cotton, a material he deliberately uses in acknowledgement of its brutal history, Brackens’ oeuvre presents rich, nuanced visions of African American life and identity, while also alluding to the complicated histories of labor and migration.
 


May 2-5, 2019: Installation view of Various Small Fires booth at Frieze New York, featuring three works by Diedrick Brackens. The Brooklyn Museum acquired one of the artist’s works from the art fair, “when no softness came” (2019), shown at center. | via Various Small Fires

 

IN MAY, Various Small Fires dedicated its booth in the Frame section of Frieze New York to Brackens. He presented a trio of new works inspired by black cowboys in 19th century.

VSF described the meaning behind the works: “Brackens focuses on the relationship between man and horse, continuing his exploration of animals as social archetypes. Wrestling with tropes of masculinity and using horses to conjure stereotypes associated with black bodies, Brackens investigates the unheard history of black cowboys in three new woven works. By the late 19th Century, one in four American cattle ranchers were Black, pejoratively described as “cowboys,” a term which today is ironically associated with bootstrapping, gun-toting, white males.”

The Brooklyn Museum acquired one of the works displayed at the art fair through the LIFEWTR Fund. Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, called Brackens’s “when no softness came” (2019) “exceptional.” She said: “He’s weaving these beautiful images in a painterly way. I love how the threads are just hanging in some places, as if they’re drips of painting.”

“He’s weaving these beautiful images in a painterly way. I love how the threads are just hanging in some places, as if they’re drips of painting.” — Anne Pasternack, Director of Brooklyn Museum


“Diedrick Brackens: darling divined,” 2019. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. Shown, “bitter attendance, drown jubilee” (2018). | Photo by Dario Lasagni, Courtesy New Museum

 

ANOTHER WORK BY BRACKENS demonstrates the gravity of some of his themes. “Bitter attendance, drown jubilee” (2018), shown above, was presented in Made in L.A., and is currently featured in his New Museum exhibition. The work documents a drowning incident in Mexia, Texas, from nearly four decades ago.

“I was trying to take a story that I am familiar with from my hometown: Three young men who were drowned in a lake in the town that I am from in police custody,” Brackens has said.

The artist said he wanted “to sort of tell that story in this newly imagined language. It’s been important for me to use these techniques, in particular, because I think they have such a relationship to a different period of time and I think using this medium that historicizes things has been important for me to think about how to give these contemporary moments context, through this sort of storytelling.”

“It’s been important for me to use these techniques, in particular, because I think they have such a relationship to a different period of time and I think using this medium that historicizes things has been important for me to think about how to give these contemporary moments context, through this sort of storytelling.” — Diedrick Brackens

TEXAS-BORN BRACKENS lives and works in Los Angeles. He received his BFA from the University of North Texas, Denton (2011) and earned an MFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco (2014). He is a professor at California State University, Long Beach, where he is head of the fiber program.

In September, Brackens was recognized with the 2018 Brandford/Elliott Award for Excellence in Fiber Art, which is administered by the Textile Society of America.

Shortly before Brackens received the Studio Museum’s 2018 Wein Artist Prize, the museum announced a bequest of hundreds of works from the late arts patron Peggy Cooper Cafritz. The gift included two tapestries by Brackens. His work has also been acquired by three Los Angeles museums—the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Museum of Contemporary Art—and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

THIS FALL, Brackens has a solo exhibition at University Art Gallery at Sewanee University, The University of the South. “Diedrick Brackens: Allegiance” opens Oct. 25 in Sewanee, Tenn. His first show at Jack Shainman Gallery is slated for spring 2020. CT

 

WATCH Diedrick Brackens talk about his work in a video for Made in L.A. 2018

FIND MORE about the 1981 Mexia, Texas, drownings that inspired one of the artist’s works here and here

 

FIND MORE about Diedrick Brackens winning the 2018 Wein Artist Prize on Culture Type

FIND MORE about Diedrick Brackens on his website

 

BOOKSHELF
“Made in L.A. 2018” documents the Hammer Museum biennial in Los Angeles and features contributions by co-curators Erin Christovale and Anne Ellegood. The exhibition featured 33 artists, including Diedrick Brackens.

 


“Diedrick Brackens: darling divined,” 2019. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. | Photo by Dario Lasagni, Courtesy New Museum

 


“Diedrick Brackens: darling divined,” 2019. Exhibition views (2): New Museum, New York. | Photo by Dario Lasagni, Courtesy New Museum

 

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