Conversations on Culture: #20: Rhythms of Hope and Joy

4 December 2020 


On Friday, December 4th, 2020 we welcomed Art Basel Miami Beach OVR to our twentieth Conversations on Culture, a discussion with artists, curators and collectors on current art world topics with Gallerist Karen Jenkins-Johnson. 


Lisa Corinne Davis uses abstraction to explore the relationship of race, culture and history. Her work is in museums including MoMA and The Getty.  Blesssing Ngobeni of South Africa, creates a hybrid language of surrealism, dada and neo-expressionism in his paintings condemning South Africa’s political system. Ngobeni received the 2020 Standard Bank Award for Visual Arts. Enrico Riley, a Guggenheim fellow and Rome Prize recipient, investigates themes of historical and contemporary survival. He recently exhibited at the American Academy in Rome, Crystal Bridges and Hood Museum, and he is in collections including Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Studio Museum in Harlem.


Lisa Corinne Davis explores the complex relationship of race, culture, and history, where form and content merge. She uses abstraction to explore how society compresses identity into singular terms. Davis believes that identity is much more convoluted and complex to be narrowed down to race and gender. She weaves together ruled lines and primary colors with gestural work and organic forms. Davis uses the map as a metaphor for the viewer to try to locate themselves within the composition. Her work is included in many prestigious private and public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and The Philadelphia Museum of Art. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship and The New York Foundation for the Arts. She is currently a Professor of Art, and Head of Painting, at Hunter College.


Blessing Ngobeni of South Africa creates a hybrid language that includes surrealism, dada and neo-expressionism.  Ngobeni’s large scale, mixed media paintings serve as a scathing condemnation of South Africa’s political and social elite. His work brings attention to the failures of the government to deliver on Nelson Mandela’s promises of a more equal society after Apartheid, and the angst of living in a world that seeks to silence the voice and pain of Black South Africans. His multilayered canvases combine imagery from magazines, books, and social media within his distinctive figurative characters, reflecting various perspectives of current affairs of our era. 

Ngobeni was named by Artspace as one of the “most important African painters working today,” alongside Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Meleko Mokgosi; he was recently featured in Phaidon’s Vitamin P3. Ngobeni received the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art; past recipients include William Kentridge and Mohau Modisakeng. He recently exhibited at the 2020  National Arts Festival in Makhanda. Ngobeni was an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA, and Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion. His works are in public institutions throughout South Africa including Johannesburg Art Gallery.


Enrico Riley’s new body of work expands on the rich and complex traditions of African American music, especially jazz.  Influenced by his jazz musician grandfather and the jazz records of his father, Riley is interested in jazz as a symbol for creativity, inventiveness and celebration.  He thinks of his musicians in relation to the landscape, as having agency to shape an environment by playing in nature, in casual and formal clothing, having business to take care of and things to do. Enrico Riley is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize in Visual Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Prize in Painting. He recently had a solo exhibition at the University of New Hampshire, was in  “State of the Art 2020” at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art and “Black Bodies on the Cross” at The Hood Museum. His work is in institutions including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Hood Museum, and Nasher Sculpture Center. Enrico Riley has an MFA in painting from Yale University and a BA in Visual Studies from Dartmouth College. Riley lives and works in Vermont and New Hampshire. He is a professor at Dartmouth College.