PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER Tyler Mitchell has joined Jack Shainman Gallery. Mitchell’s practice explores a new vision of the beauty and power of Blackness. Defined by a sense of optimism and aesthetic creativity, his images imagine a Black utopia.

A closely watched talent, Mitchell experienced a meteoric rise in 2018 when he photographed Beyoncé for American Vogue’s September fall fashion issue. It was a historic assignment, he became the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for the magazine. He was 23. Subsequently, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery acquired one of Mitchell’s portraits of Beyoncé for its permanent collection.

 


TYLER MITCHELL, “Untitled (Group Hula Hoop),” 2019. | © Tyler Mitchell, Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

 

As the gallery notes, Mitchell works across many genres and his work is regularly published in avant-garde magazines, commissioned by prominent brands and fashion houses, and displayed in major museums.

“I am thrilled to join Jack Shainman Gallery and be in the company of some of the artists who I’ve admired for a long time, such as Kerry James Marshall, whose work and legacy is central to my practice today,” Mitchell said in a statement. “I am very much looking forward to the incredible range of opportunities that I know the Gallery, with its respected roster, program and vision, will bring to my career.”

At 25, Mitchell is the youngest artist on the gallery’s roster. The representation was announced yesterday, coinciding with a new group exhibition opening online at Jack Shainman.

“Black Joy” reflects the overarching theme that courses through Mitchell’s images and showcases works by the gallery’s diverse slate of artists. The presentation features Barkley L. Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Carrie Mae Weems, and Nina Chanel Abney, putting two photographs by Mitchell in conversation with works by other gallery artists.

“I am thrilled to join Jack Shainman Gallery and be in the company of some of the artists who I’ve admired for a long time…I am very much looking forward to the incredible range of opportunities that I know the Gallery, with its respected roster, program and vision, will bring to my career.”
— Tyler Mitchell

BROOKLYN-BASED MITCHELL grew up in Marietta, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Early on, his image-making concentrated on music, fashion, and youth culture, and filming skateboarding videos with his friends. He earned a BFA in film and television from New York University’s Tisch School (2017), where Deborah Willis was among his instructors.

While he was still in school, Mitchell visited Cuba and documented the experience with a self-published photo book. “El Paquete” (2015) focuses on Cuba’s architecture and emerging skateboard culture. Two more volumes feature his work. A striking portrait by Mitchell covers “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion” and the newly published “Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good” accompanies his first solo exhibition.

“I Can Make You Feel Good” opened in 2019 at Fotografiemuseum (FOAM) in Amsterdam and traveled to the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, debuting in January of this year. After the run of the show was interrupted by ICP’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition has been extended and will be on view from Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2020.

“I feel an urgency to visualize Black people as free, expressive, effortless, and sensitive,” Mitchell wrote introducing the exhibition. “I aim to visualize what a Black utopia looks like or could look like. People say utopia is never achievable, but I love the possibility that photography brings. It allows me to dream and make that dream become very real.”

The images featured in “I Can Make You Feel Good” document outdoor scenes. Mitchell’s subjects are swimming, soaring into the air on a swing, and lounging on grassy landscapes. They are also hula hooping on a city sidewalk.

“Untitled (Group Hula Hoop)” (2019) is also presented in “Black Joy” at Jack Shainman, along with Mitchell’s “Untitled (Still from Idyllic Space) (2019). The latter image captures a young man, up close, perched on a some kind of playground equipment, eating an ice cream cone. Evoking sheer delight, the composition is embellished with what appear to be spheres of pink spray paint.

A portrait by Hendricks is presented adjacent to the image. “Victory at 23” (1981) conjures a similar feel in another era with a dose of cool. In the painting, Hendricks’s female subject sports a white pantsuit with a bandeau top beneath her jacket. She has close-cropped hair. Star Trek-style sunglasses rest on her forehead and the broach on her chest is a slice of watermelon. She’s holding a black ballon and blowing a round pink bubble with her gum that matches the hue of her nail polish.

Quotes from professor and author Brittney Cooper’s book “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” begin and end the presentation (“When we lack joy, we have a diminished capacity for self-love and self-valuing and for empathy. If political struggle is exercise for the soul, joy is the endorphin rush such struggle brings.”).

A brief essay by Mitchell provides context for the selected images in “Black Joy” and shares his “first moments of photographic joy,” early in his training. He wrote:

    My first moments of photographic joy were sneaking into the photo lab on the 8th floor of NYU Tisch and scanning my film negatives, usually casual portraits of friends. As a film major, it was against the rules to go into the labs. Students needed a password to get in. I was always sneaking in after students who cracked the code until Deborah Willis told me in the hallway, “You know you could just take a class in the department with me and you can access the lab all you want?”

    So I did. And through Professor Willis, I immersed myself in the worlds of many of the beautiful artists featured in this very viewing room. People like Kerry James Marshall, Malick Sidibé, Carrie Mae Weems, Gordon Parks, Barkley L. Hendricks, and many more.

Mitchell is a 2020 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellow. In spring 2021, he will present a selection of new works at the foundation in Pleasantville, N.Y. Mitchell’s first solo exhibition with Jack Shainman will also debut a new body of work and be on view at the gallery’s West 20th street location in September 2021. CT

 

IMAGE: Above left, Tyler Mitchell. | Photo © Owen Smith-Clark

 


TYLER MITCHELL, “Boys of Walthamstow,” 2018. This image appears on the cover of his exhibition catalog “I Can Make You Feel Good.” | © Tyler Mitchell, Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

 

FIND MORE about Tyler Mitchell on his website

 

BOOKSHELF
Newly published “Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good” accompanies his first solo exhibition presented at FOAM in Amsterdam and the International Center of Photography in New York. Tyler Mitchell is also featured in “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion.” In 2015, Mitchell self-published “El Paquete,” documenting his experience in Cuba. The limited-edition of 200 copies is now out of print.

 

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