PES Artist In Residence, Nina Chanel Abney's If You Say So… is an exhibition of large scale paintings and collages created by the artist during a recent trip to Brazil and during her residency in Newark. The works are comprised of brilliantly hued geometries, alphanumeric forms, and androgynous figures. Hyper-pigmented blues, blinding oranges, and curvaceous yet precise monochrome silhouettes of faces samba across the giant canvases. And yet, despite the apparent gaiety and vibrance of Abney’s works, the conceptual genesis of this collection  is borne from the nefarious and widespread transnational pandemic of racial discrimination, economics, and police brutality.

At its inception, If You Say So… was Abney’s reaction to a New York Times Op-Ed ‘In Denial About Racism in Brazil’ by Vanessa Barbara, discussing the unwavering and rampant trend of police brutality against young black and brown bodies in the favelas. The solid-colored arch forms found in the work draw from São Paulo’s rich architectural lexicon, while the intermittent bursts of electric spray-paint is a nod to  a tradition of street art and favela visual culture. The works that were started in Brazil were only the starting point for a much more expansive discourse on race. There is an obvious contextual parallel between the killings in São Paulo that first galvanized If You Say So… and the social climate in the United States, particularly in America’s metropolises.

The role of politics, race, power, and sexuality are at the heart of much of Abney’s work. Her recent solo exhibition, Always A Winner, directly addressed police brutality and the #Blacklivesmatter movement in America. Her work pulls from contemporary politics and pop culture and addresses them through a practice of absurdly exaggerated forms, anti-realism, and an adamantly  pop aesthetic. Her sensibility pulls from a vast mix of sources ranging from South Park to Romare Bearden.

ABOUT THE ARTIST Nina Chanel Abney was born in Chicago in 1982. She received her BFA from Augustana College in 2004, and her MA from Pratt University in 2007. Abney’s works have been featured in several significant institutions and collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Nasher Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Rubell Collection. Nina lives in Jersey City and represented by Kravets-Wehby gallery in New York City.

Nina Chanel Abney was an Artist-in-Residence at Project For Empty Space [at] Gateway Project Spaces from 2015 - 2016.

 

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