From May 8-15, 2020, Jenkins Johnson Gallery will exhibit at Frieze New York ‘s virtual viewing room. Our viewing room will feature works depicting social and historical tensions now in full focus as the world deals with the COVID-19 crisis. Artists Ming Smith, Enrico Riley, Rashaad Newsome, Lavar Munroe, Blessing Ngobeni, and Chase Hall reveal the racial and economic inequalities that have contributed to the crisis, and its effect on marginalized communities. Together, they remind us of the power of human connection and resilience even in the most trying times.
Ming Smith documents everyday moments through her ethereal and transcendent vision, combining experimental post-production techniques to amplify the works’ dream-like quality. Smith captures the depth of the human soul with subjects ranging from portraits to busy street scenes. In 2019, Jenkins Johnson was awarded the Frieze NY Stand Prize for our presentation of her work in the Just Above Midtown section at Frieze NY curated by Franklin Sirmans. Smith was the first Black female photographer acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and the first female member of the influential photography collective, Kamoinge. Her work is currently featured in the traveling exhibitions “Soul of A Nation,” Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop, and A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Rendition. In Fall 2020, Ming Smith: An Aperture Monograph spanning her 50-year career will be published. Smith was included in MoMA’s 2010 groundbreaking Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s 2017 show, We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85.
Enrico Riley challenges viewers to decipher and contextualize his work’s fractured narratives. His paintings are part of an unfolding and evolving cycle investigating themes of time, historical and contemporary violence, and grief within a fixed spatial domain. In Riley’s Card Player series, he conjures games of chance – the act of concealing and revealing one’s cards and the heightened risks involved – as a metaphor for some of the heightened pressures experienced by Black Americans. Also, visible in the work is a connection to community which so many of us are striving to maintain in this time of isolation and social distancing. Riley is featured in State of the Art 2020 at Crystal Bridges Museum, and has a forthcoming solo exhibition at the University of New Hampshire Museum of Art. He is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a Rome Prize in Visual Arts, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Prize in Painting, and holds the George Frederick Jewitt Professorship in Art at Dartmouth College. His 2019 solo exhibition, Enrico Riley: New World at Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY, was reviewed by The New York Times and The New Criterion.
Rashaad Newsome reframes the Black body and Black contributions to the art historical canon to create new and inclusive forms of culture and media. He collages images of "traditional" African sculptures, fragments of advertising imagery, textile, stones, and portraits of members of his community to create neo-cubist geometric forms. His work is interested in generating new creative applications and perspectives derived from established fields of knowledge – including physics and artificial intelligence. In his engagement with quantum mechanics he considers the flow of energy through the body as the same energy sustaining all living things. His collaged works are a celebration of that energy, of cultural retention and innovation, and the resilience of the human spirit.
In Fall 2020, Newsome will debut new projects at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Stanford University and Oakland Museum. He is the recipient of grants from the Pollack/Krasner Foundation, LACMA Art + Technology Lab, the MAP Fund and others. He has exhibited and performed in spaces including Centre Georges Pompidou, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, MoMAPS1, and Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. Newsome is in collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, LACMA, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He has participated in the Whitney Biennial and the Greater New York at MoMAPS1. He lives and works in Oakland and Brooklyn.
Caribbean artist Lavar Munroe’s most recent series, The Redbones, explores global political strife and societal ills including: income disparity, war and racism. Based on photo-documents and artifacts collected over four years in Senegal, Munroe created the fictitious Redbones, a group of child-soldiers placed on the frontlines of war by the wealthy elite. The series follows these boys as they seek heroism and freedom amidst poverty and violence, referencing Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth (The Hero’s Journey). These cultural works form narratives around survival, loss and trauma and they balance real life issues within a fictional setting. Made during his time in the first cohort of Norton Museum of Art’s new artist residency, Munroe’s Bathwater addresses burdens carried by marginalized members of society. In the United States, African Americans account for 30% of all COVID-19 cases, and only 12% of the total population.
In Bathwater, Munroe collapses the distance between current events and his fictional world highlighting the implications of COVID-19 for Black people who are often at risk as essential workers and staff on the frontlines. Munroe is currently featured in The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art at the Perez Art Museum, Miami. His works were recently exhibited in Get Up, Stand Up Now at the Somerset House, London, UK and Coffee, Rhum, Sugar, Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox, curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah and Dexter Wimberly at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco. Munroe was a participant in Okwui Enwezor’s 56th Venice Biennale and Trevor Schoonmaker’s Prospect.4.
South African artist Blessing Ngobeni creates large scale, multilayered works on canvas that combine imagery from magazines, books, and social media within his distinctive figurative characters, to reflect the various perspectives of current affairs of our era. Ngobeni is the 2020 recipient of South Africa’s prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award; past awardees include William Kentridge, Mary Sibande and Mohau Modisakeng. His work examines the ripple effects of past moral and ethical failings, as well as, the role and responsibility of art in our time and in the future we will build. Ngobeni’s Suspended Democracy sounds the alarm on ineffective leadership and corruption and its chaotic impact on governance, civil liberties and human dignity. He was named by Phaidon’s Vitamin P3 and Artspace as one of the “most important African painters working today,” alongside Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Meleko Mokgosi. Ngobeni studied at Newtown’s Artist Proof Studio. He was also a first prize and gold award winner at the Gala Ex-Offenders Awards.
Emerging artist Chase Hall’s paintings, works on paper, and sculptures activate and disrupt generational traumas encoded in American historical memorabilia. Conversely, his paintings feature loose and audacious strokes harnessing the spirit, resilience and fortitude of people who have triumphed in the face of racist and classist structures. His palette permits a color sensibility focusing on the histories of landscape and labor. Hall’s Uncle Chuck captures notions of family and connection. In the face of this pandemic, we are all facing stillness. In these moments, we consider the families and legacies from which we are born. Chase Hall has been included in exhibitions at Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland, Museo Tamayo in Mexico, Depart Foundation and LTD in Los Angeles, The Mass in Tokyo, Cob Gallery in London and Museo Nacional de San Carlos in Mexico, among others. He works and lives in New York and Los Angeles.