Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York / Beacon
Aboudia's (b. 1983, Abidjan) multi-layered paintings offer a simultaneity of images and meanings that conduct a continuous discourse with each other and with the viewer. In any glance the eye takes in one or other layer, which is soon overcome by the next. We are aware of the vivid, brutal pageant of contemporary Africa weaving before us like a fabric of consciousness — soldiers, skulls, African fetishes, flashes of street life — expressed with a naïf vitality. The surfaces deploy fragments, cuttings, from bits of comic strips, magazine ads, newspaper images, set into the paintings' overall compositions so as to suggest current events cohering through the imagination into a troubled and troubling vision. In the end though, the artist's gift of cohesion transforms chaos into vitality, painful events to esthetic redemption, so one is able to see the whole as a changeable tide forever renewing hope.
Slavoj Zizek advocates that to properly confront the threat of ecological catastrophe our premodern obsession with nature and beauty must be replaced with ‘love’ for the horrors of our socially constructed reality, i.e. the urban landscape and the social contradictions it reproduces. Thus, for Zizek the task of the arts is not only to embrace the artificial (man-made nature) but also to develop a spiritual / more terrifying abstract materialism inspired by trash, urbanization, and the unimaginable catastrophes to come.
Along similar lines the wall works of DeShawn Dumas like the materialist abstraction of international painting during the post WWII period through the early 1960s, e.g. Alberto Burri, Jacques Villeglé and Antoni Tàpies, Dumas focuses on destruction as a mode of production.
Dumas’ formal assault on the picture includes burning, puncturing, and cutting through the two-dimensional support. At the same time, the artist uses layering and industrial materials — chain-link fence, aluminum roof coating, and laser fusion foil — to emphasize the three dimensionality of his work and its commodity status. Therefore, if past assaults on the picture plane resonated with the unprecedented and overt devastation of WWII ⎯ Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Holocaust, Dumas’ colorful abstractions strike an ostensibly celebratory stance.
By contrast, Dumas takes pre-gentrified cityscapes and the secular spirituality of mass consumerism as aesthetic inspiration. For the artist the urban landscape and the phantasm of consumer culture become, what André Malraux once called, a “museum without walls." Nevertheless, Dumas hopes to open a critical dialogue around the possibility that the rationality of liberal democracy (the socio-political victor of WWII) may very well harbor the seeds of an even more destructive mode of 21st century totalitarianism. Albeit, the philosophical insights etched into the wooden surfaces of Dumas’ paintings that could potentially broach this critique of liberal democracy — Michel Foucault’s notion of biopower or Marquis de Sade’s critique of Enlightenment thought — are obliterated by the artistic act of production.
Consequently, Dumas’ self-described tablets, which are entombed behind polished Plexiglas leave viewers with the ghostly reflection of themselves and the surrounding social space. More to the point, these tablets do not confront on-lookers with philosophical rhetoric but with traces of linguistic signs. Thus, if the metal letters of Gutenberg, as Victor Hugo suggested, dethroned architecture, then a ceaseless stream of fragmented information and images dethrones the printed book. For the artist, “despite the gratification of the media consumed on / interconnectivity provided by tablets and IPhones, these modes of telecommunication do little to clarify the complexity of a globalized world and the great catastrophes to come.”
Jeffrey Hargrave (b. 1973, Salisbury, NC) is a North Carolina born, African-American artist based in New York. Hargrave deals with representations of African-Americans, often putting them in the context of art history, remaking works by artists such as Matisse to include black figures, with racially charged stereotypical imagery.
Tapping into his own memories of growing up in the midst of a sharply divided community, Hargrave translates his personal experiences into playful, yet biting images that mix art-history clichés and racial stereotypes. Ultimately, the artist seeks to engage viewers in a dialogue on class, religion, sexuality, racial identity and privilege based on a repertoire of familiar images.
Hargrave attended the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His works have been exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and other prestigious venues.