“Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape” at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

 

A CAMPFIRE, BIKES, AND FRESHLY CAUGHT FISH have replaced the tumult and complexity of contemporary urban life that have animated Nina Chanel Abney‘s paintings in recent years. Her latest exhibition features rural scenes: farming, hunting, and kayaking. The graphic, boldly hued paintings embrace the great outdoors and celebrate communal living.

“Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape” is her second solo show at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. Abney is showing 22 new paintings. The joys of leisure, freedom of open space, and beauty of nature are represented. Idyllic Blackness and a queer utopia are on view.

The paintings are partially inspired by Abney’s recent experiences. In May, she bought a bike in response to the pandemic lockdown. Cooped up in her New Jersey studio and apartment, which are located in the same building, the artist was eager for a change of venue. She loaded the bike onto her car and headed out of the city. That trip led to others and the rural destinations stirred up ideas.

Abney wrote a brief, two-paragraph essay about the exhibition. She said in part:

    Is there space for Black autonomy in a world organized by white supremacy? If it were an actual place – a space absent of race relations, antagonistic or friendly – what would it look like? This series responds to these questions by reimagining Black people’s relationship to nature, property, and each other. Taking inspiration from the fugitive utopias of Black queer social life, these scenes refuse the enclosure of Blackness to topographies of the city and to ideals of heteronormativity. Instead, communal living in rural, wooded outdoors figures as a place for the performance of a Black autonomy that evades the ballistic force of the white gaze.

Abney’s images tend toward abstracted narratives, dense compositions that explore race, sex, and social justice issues and reflect a frenetic, media-driven culture. Her new paintings are more traditionally composed scenes layered with details that convey a sense of agency, belonging, and radical refuge beyond the white gaze and the increasingly divisive nature of American life.

The world Abney envisions is transporting, but it is not free of reality. “Where’s the Remote” (2020) is an interior scene with the 2020 election results displayed on a television screen. Another painting, “Being Mixie with my Fixie” (2020), two bike riders on a rural road passing a “Black Lives Matter” sign. CT

 

“Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape,” on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y., from Nov. 12– Dec. 23, 2020

 

TOP IMAGE: Installation view of “Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape,” Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. (Nov. 12– Dec. 23, 2020). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Being Mixie with my Fixie,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 84 x 84 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


Installation view of “Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape,” Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. (Nov. 12– Dec. 23, 2020). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “HouseTop,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 84 x 84 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “If You Wanna Ride, Don’t Ride the White Horse,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 96 x 96 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


Installation view of “Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape,” Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. (Nov. 12– Dec. 23, 2020). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Plenty of Fish,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 48 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


Installation view of NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Storytime – Learn How to Read,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 96 x 96 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Finessing,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 84 x 84 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Where’s the Remote,” 2020 (spray paint on canvas, 48 x 72 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Off,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 48 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Helen with the Drip,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 36 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Femme Games,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas
96 x 96 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


Installation view of “Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape,” Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. (Nov. 12– Dec. 23, 2020). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Cocks & Balls,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 84 x 84 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


Installation view of “Nina Chanel Abney: The Great Escape,” Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. (Nov. 12– Dec. 23, 2020). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Buoyancé/Seas the Day,” 2020 (acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 96 x 96 inches). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 

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.

 

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