AN AMAZING PAINTER who juggles a variety of projects and collaborations, Nina Chanel Abney has been channeling her talents as a curator. Last fall, Abney organized “Punch” at Jeffrey Deitch in New York. The show focused on 19 artists in her circle whose work, similar to her own, examines contemporary life through the lens of figuration. Derrick Adams, Ruby Neri, and Reginald Sylvester II, are among those who were featured. She has reprised the concept at Jeffrey Deitch in Los Angeles with a more expansive exhibition featuring 33 artists, including herself.

Reflecting the tech-based, media driven reality of the contemporary culture, Abney’s graphic compositions are densely packed with figures, shapes, and symbols. Responding to current events and addressing social justice issues, she raises everything from race, politics and police brutality to sex and art history in her work.

Abney has an incredible group of friends. Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Caitlin Cherry, Cheyenne Julien, Gabriella Sanchez, Koichi Sato, and David Shrobe are represented in both shows.

The current exhibition also includes Amoako Boafo, Greg Breda, Jordan Casteel, Kenturah Davis, Lauren Halsey, February James, Arcmanoro Niles, Pat Phillips, Umar Rashid, Tschabalala Self, and Devan Shimoyama.

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Junk Mail Scribble #2,” 2019 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 192 x 60 inches; Each panel: 96 x 60 inches). | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


Installation view of “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 

Described by the gallery, their work springs from a context similar to Abney’s:

    Many of these artists grew up in the digital age, seeing firsthand how multiple streams of information from different media can penetrate consciousness. These image streams create a common language for artists to examine and digest how developments in society and culture have altered our perception of contemporary life.

    The visual energy in these works is palpable—the rhythm and bold forms create a dynamic dialogue between art and popular culture. The works in the exhibition reference art historical precedents such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art as well as street art. The integration of design, graffiti, cartoons and satire expands the language of representation when presented with visual punch.

An Afrocentric flag made out of fake hair certainly makes a bold statement. Los Angeles-based Halsey created a flag with wide stripes composed of rows of red, black, and green synthetic hair and dedicated the work to the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association, a networking and advocacy association for the black hair care industry whose primary goal is to establish black-owned beauty supply stores nationally and internationally.

A wide range of portraits are on view. Using oil paint applied to rubber stamp letter, Davis’s portraiture explores the role of language in shaping identity. Boafo’s portraits center black subjectivity. Nine small watercolors by February James resemble portraits by South African artist Marlene Dumas.

 


Installation view of “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 

Acclaimed painter Henry Taylor is among several Los Angeles-based artists in the show. While portrayals of friends and family are often central in Taylor’s ordinary scenes, at times, his loosely rendered figuration captures historic milestones and important cultural moments. Breda also lives and works in Los Angeles. Painted on mylar, the artist characterizes his work as conveying the “strength, resilience and beauty of the human spirit.”

Focusing on queer black bodies, Chase’s paintings and drawings consider the social constructs of space and gender. He contributed a painting titled “Man Lying in Garden Bed” to the exhibition. “Her Turn” by Casteel portrays a woman sitting on the subway dressed in African garb. It is unclear whether the title of the painting references the subject turning her back to the viewer or embracing a moment of opportunity via an intercontinental journey or a local ride.

Chicago-born, New York-based Abney has said she avoids clearly defined meaning in her works. She raises specific issues but abstracts the narrative, leaving plenty to the imagination, intentionally. She wants viewers to engage with the images and develop their own interpretations around the work. The same could be said for the work of her peers. There is much to consider and dissect here. CT

 

“Punch” curated by Nina Chanel Abney is on view at Jeffrey Deitch Los Angeles, June 29–Aug. 17, 2019

 

TOP IMAGE: From left, Installation view of MONICA KIM GARZA, “Resort,” 2019; DEVAN SHIMOYAMA, “Roses Are Falling,” 2019; and KHARI JOHNSON-RICKS, “Werk it Out,” 2019, “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 

BOOKSHELF
“Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush” documents the artist’s 10-year survey organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The fully illustrated catalog includes written contributions by Marshall N. Price, Richard J. Powell, Natalie Y. Moore, Sarah Schroth, and a conversation with Abney conducted by Jamillah James. “Henry Taylor” is the first major monograph to survey the Los Angeles artist’s practice. The hefty volume features essays by Zadie Smith and Sarah Lewis, a profile by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and a conversation with Taylor conducted by fellow Los Angeles artist Charles Gaines.

 


From left, JORDAN CASTEEL, “Her Turn,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 78 x 60 inches / 198.12 x 152.4 cm). JONATHAN LYNDON CHASE, “Man Lying in Garden Bed,” 2016 (acrylic and marker on cotton bed sheet, 72 x 72 inches). | Both photos by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


Installation view of “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


DAVID SHROBE, “Nocturnal Vision-Plotting Stars,” 2019 (oil, acrylic, graphite, charcoal, flocking, cloth, wood, polished cold roll steel, tiles, sandpaper, book cloth, and mixed media, 61 x 58 x 4.5 inches). | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


From left, Arcmanoro Niles ARCMANORO NILES, “If I Get Too Close Will the Magic Fade (I Got a Taste for Poison),” 2019 (oil, acrylic, and glitter on canvas, 78 x 58 inches (198.1 x 147.3 cm); and JEFFREY CHEUNG, “Pink Curve,” 2019 (acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 x 2 1/4 inches). | Both photos by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


Installation view of “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


From left, AMOAKO BOAFO, “Blue Suit, 2019 (oil on unstretched canvas, 84.6 x 63 inches / 215 x 160 cm); and GREG BREDA, “Breadth…Width…Depth…,” 2019 (acrylic on vellum, 74 x 52 x 2 inches). | Both photos by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


PAT PHILLIPS, “You May Not Drive A Gravy Cadillac,” 2018 (acrylic, pencil, airbrush, aerosol paint on canvas, 34 x 46 inches). | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


From left, FEBRUARY JAMES, “You Played Yourself,” 2018 (watercolor and ink, 9 x 12 inches) and “Digby,” 2016 (watercolor and ink, 9 x 12 inches). | Both photos by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


Installation view of “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


HENRY TAYLOR, “Untitled,” 2014 (acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 x 1 3/4 inches / 76.2 x 101.6 x 4.4 cm). | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


Installation view of “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


From left, TSCHABALALA SELF “Madam,” 2019 (acrylic, fabric, and painted canvas on canvas, 84 x 72 inches / 243.8 x 213.4 cm); and KENTURAH DAVIS, “Breaking the Air,” 2019 (oil paint applied with rubber stamp letters and graphite grid on embossed kozo paper, 52 x 38 inches (overall), 26 x 38 inches (each panel). | Both photos by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


KHARI JOHNSON-RICKS, Installation view of “iight, bet,” 2019 (watercolor, dry pigments and ink on cut paper, 72 x 51 inches), “Punch,” Curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, 2019. | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 


LAUREN HALSEY, “Slo But We Sho (Dedicated To The Black Owned Beauty Supply Association),” 2019 (synthetic hair and foil tape on panel, 70 x 98 x 6 inches). | Photo by Elon Schoenholz, Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch

 

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