IN NEW YORK CITY, five must-see exhibitions are dedicated to Amanda Williams, Vivian Browne, Shikeith, Alberta Whittle, Alanis Forde, and Akilah Watts. The artists work in a variety of mediums, most prominently painting. The group includes three artists who hail originally from Barbados; Shikeith and Whittle are presenting their first solo exhibitions in New York; and three of the gallery shows close this weekend:

 


AMANDA WILLIAMS, “CandyLadyBlack (The Champagne is Burned),” 2022 (oil and mixed media on wood panel, 20 x 20 inches / 50.8 x 50.8). | © Amanda Williams, Photo by Jacob Hand

 
Amanda Williams: CandyLadyBlack @ Gagosian, 821 Park Avenue at 75th Street. | June 10-July 8, 2022

Chicago-based Amanda Williams states in her biography that her practice “employs color as a way to draw attention to the complexities of race, place and value in cities.” An artist who trained as an architect, for her first exhibition at Gagosian gallery, Williams is presenting new paintings from her ongoing series What Black Is This, You Say? (2020–). Made in 2022 the abstract paintings are based on a palette of nine colors inspired by the hues of Now and Later and Jolly Rancher candies. The lengthy title of a painting Williams made last year—”What black is this you say?—Although rarely recognized as such, ‘The Candy Lady’ and her ‘Candy Store’ provided one of your earliest examples of black enterprise, cooperative economics, black women CEOs and good customer service”—black (07.24.20)”—informs the concept of the artist’s current show and speaks to the cultural symbolism of her palette. The exhibition is organized by Antwaun Sargent, a director at Gagosian.

…the paintings celebrate the local “candy lady”—a fixture of Black urban neighborhoods in the midwestern and Southern United States—as a source of strength, tenderness, and joy, and as an overlooked symbol of Black women as economic exemplars and community leaders.

 


ALANIS FORD, “Wise Men,” 2022 (48 x 48 inches). | © Alanis Ford, Courtesy the artist and 1969 Gallery

 
Repose: Alanis Forde + Akilah Watts @ 1969 Gallery, 103 Allen Street. | May 18-June 25, 2022

Both Alanis Forde and Akilah Watts hail from Barbados and are currently artists-in-residence at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, N.J., through the Monira Foundation and ArtleadHER. Many consider Barbados to be a vacation destination, for these artists the island is home. Their figurative paintings explore the Barbadian experience with Forde channeling fantasy and Watts focusing on identity and belonging. The exhibition is curated by John Wolf,

 


Installation view of “Shikeith: grace comes violently” (east gallery), Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, N.Y. (2022). | Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery

 
Shikeith: grace comes violently @ Yossi Milo Gallery, 245 Tenth Avenue, Between West 24th and 25th Streets. | May 14-June 25, 2022

For his first solo exhibition in New York City, “grace comes violently,” Shikeith is presenting 21 works made between 2019 and 2022 that span photography, sculpture, installation, and video. According to the exhibition description, the artist “envisions the quest for grace as an often violent process of disentangling and evolving, calling upon the experiences of queer Black men, who have had to make and remake their own rituals of spiritual nourishment.” On the occasion of the show, “Shikeith: Notes towards Becoming a Spill,” the artist’s first monograph is being published by Aperture. Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Shikeith is currently based in Pittsburgh.

Shikeith “advances his meditations on the color blue to articulate interior worlds, the uncanny, and the ecstatic.”

 


VIVIAN BROWNE, “The Gathering,” 1973 (acrylic on canvas, 55 x 65 inches / 139.7 x 165.1 cm). | © Vivian Browne, Courtesy Ryan Lee Gallery

 
Vivian Browne: Africa Series, 1971-1974 @ Ryan Lee Gallery, 515 West 26th Street, Between 10th and 11th Avenues. | May 6-July 1, 2022

In 1971, Vivian Browne (1929-1993) traveled to West Africa, a profound experience that transformed her practice. When Browne returned to New York, her work shifted from figuration largely to abstraction. “The expression was an abstract idea—not an abstract of a particular thing, but an abstract of a particular feeling, of a particular surrounding and an experience,” Brown said. “The colors were much more heightened; the use of pattern was there because that was pervading everything that I saw or reacted to in Africa.” The exhibition presents eight paintings and five works on paper from her rarely seen Africa Series. None of the works have been shown publicly since 1993 and they are on view together for the first time since 1974. A fully illustrated catalog featuring an essay by Leslie King-Hammond documents the exhibition.

This exhibition is a timely opportunity to consider the omission of African American artists from the discourse on abstraction, as well as the position African art occupies within the spectrum of American Modernist traditions. — Leslie King-Hammond

 


ALBERTA WHITTLE, “Playing numbers under Auntie Ramona’s eye (Happy Vale),” 2022 (acrylic, cloth hoodie, raffia and cowrie shells on canvas, 42 x 16 inches / 106.7 x 40.6 cm). | © Alberta Whittle, Courtesy the artist and Nicola Vassell Gallery

 
Alberta Whittle: Respectability won’t save you: a Caribbean haunting @ Nicola Vassell, 138 Tenth Avenue, Between West 18th and 19th Streets. | May 18-June 25, 2022

As her biography states, the practice of Bridgetown, Barbados-born Alberta Whittle is “motivated by the desire to manifest self-compassion and collective care as key methods in battling anti-Blackness,” which may derive from strangers or one’s own family. Growing up, the artist’s grandfather insisted on adherence to strict social and cultural codes and so-called respectable behavior. For her first solo exhibition in New York, Whittle is presenting paintings, tuftings, drawings, and a 32-minute single-channel video installation. Produced this year, the new body of work “summons a journey of assimilation, resistance and healing for herself, her family; indeed, for any of us prodded to ‘cover up’ to get-by.” The exhibition is curated by Arianna Nourse at Nicola Vassell Gallery, a Black woman-owned art gallery in Chelsea. Whittle lives and works in Glasgow and is currently representing Scotland at the 59th Venice Biennale. CT

 

BOOKSHELF
Amanda Williams was among the artists featured in “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America,” which was published last year on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The publication of Shikeith’s first monograph, coincides with his exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery. Currently available directly through Aperture, “Shikeith: Notes towards Becoming a Spill” will be published widely July 19. A fully illustrated exhibition catalog, featuring an essay by Leslie King-Hammond, documents “Vivian Browne: Africa Series, 1971-1974” at Ryan Lee Gallery. In addition to the digital version, hard copies of the Browne catalog are available through Ryan Lee. Also consider, the “Alberta Whittle – How Flexible Can We Make the Mouth,” which documents the artist’s 2019 exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts in Dundee, Scotland.

 

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