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…of the land: acts of refusal and ratification

July 15 - September 24

A three-person exhibition featuring new and recent works from Chicago-based artists Ajmal ‘Mas Man’ Millar, Lola Ayisha Ogbara, and R. Treshawn Williamson exploring homeplace through sculpture, self-imaging, & materialism. 

 

R. Treshawn Williamson. Charcoal rubbing, screen printed debris, White Oak, Etched plaque.
Left half. 15 x 20. 2021.

 

…of the land: acts of refusal and ratification features new and recent works from Chicago-based artists Ajmal ‘Mas Man’ Millar, Lola Ayisha Ogbara, and R. Treshawn Williamson exploring sculpture, self-imaging and history through postcolonial lenses, collective & individual recollection and peculiar materialism. Their use of storytelling holds significance for spatiality and locality to become common ground through the fielding of land, labor and industry.

Ajmal ‘Mas Man’ Millar expands the sculptural form welding metal, Trinidadian carnival culture and identity politics alongside the African diaspora. Lola Ayisha Ogbara merges West African and African American interior design aesthetics with bodily sculptural ceramic forms, with performative photography – that rest and refuse a Western gaze.

 

R. Treshawn Williamson creates historical context for his own familial roots in the mining of charcoal material for large scale screen-printed tapestries in a careful consideration of laborious processes as praxis. Millar, Ogbara and Williamson engage in practices that consider topographic timelines and performance as an essential tool making for an interesting dialogue about homeplace.

 

An opening reception will take place July 15th, 5- 8pm.

Please RSVP here

 

 

Ajmal ‘MAS MAN’ Millar is a self-taught contemporary visual artist and mas man (carnival costume designer). His work includes mixed–media sculpture that combine collage, painting, repurposed materials, scrap metal, performance, and photography interrogating notions of cultural heritage, sexual and gender identity, and ritual practices as a first-generation African American black queer man born to Trinidadian immigrants. Ajmal earned an undergraduate degree from Morehouse College in 2008 and earned an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2021.

 

I am working on a collection of works engaging the Yoruba cosmological concept of Chi and its existence in everything, alive or inorganic. I create amalgamations of found objects and scraps of steel combined with encaustic. Inspired from my carnival technique of ‘wire bending’, Afrofuturism, and Afro Surrealism, I have an opportunity to express my emotions and thoughts as experienced in the various environments I collect from and exist in. My welding is drawing in space to depict the transcendent properties in masquerade. My goal is to contextualize a queer blackness rarely experienced through imagination, invention, and the investigation of dreams, magic, and ritual.

 

He currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

 

LOLA AYISHA OGBARA (cultural worker & artist) born and raised in Chicago, Illinois holds many talents under her belt, i.e. sculpture, sound, design, photography and installation art. Ogbara holds a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Entertainment & Media Management from Columbia College Chicago in 2013 and a MFA in Visual Arts from Washington University Sam Fox School of Art & Design.

“My practice explores the multifaceted implications and ramifications of being in regards to the Black experience. I work with clay as a material in order to emphasize a necessary fragility which symbolizes an essential contradiction implicit in empowerments.”

 

In 2017, Ogbara co-founded Artists in the Room, a collective of artists and scholars who host artists, emerging and established, in hopes of serving as a catalyst for artist development and networking. Ogbara has also received numerous fellowships and awards, including the Multicultural Fellowship sponsored by the NCECA 52nd Annual Conference, the Arts + Public Life and Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture Residency at the University of Chicago, and the Coney Family Fund Award hosted by the Chicago Artists Coalition.

Ogbara has exhibited in art spaces across the country and is currently based in Chicago, IL.

 

 

R. Treshawn Williamson is a Chicago based essayist and multidisciplinary artist of Black American descent, from Prince George’s County, MD, by way of Livingston, Alabama, and Augusta, Georgia.

 

Williamson’s work is a meditation on the obstruction and surveillance of the lived histories of African-Americans. He investigates the application of cultural re-imagination in the African Diaspora through the engagement of oral histories, post-colonial theory, folklore, and ethnomusicology. In 2020 Williamson earned his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

He currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

 

Details

Start:
July 15
End:
September 24
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MIXED MEDIA AND STILL LIFE

Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.