2020 was a crazy year for the art world (and the world in general), but I still got to see a lot of wonderful art - which was a pleasant surprise. At the beginning of the pandemic, art institutions shifted everything online; and although it was fun at first, after a while the “virtual viewing rooms” got really old. I was ready to consume art in person again and luckily (through necessary safety precautions) I was able to see some amazing exhibitions.
Here are a few of my favorites from the year:
MUSA X PARADISIACA by Bony Ramirez at Thierry Goldberg, NYC
This was a random find on Instagram. After my normal, endless scrolling I found Bony Ramirez’s work and I was blown away from just the online images, so I had to go see it in person! I went up to NYC and got to see the show and let me tell you - the images do not do it justice. The work speaks for itself, but this artist’s concept was out of this world.
The show explores the history of imperialism in the Domincan Republic (his lineage) and the results of that colonization. It was powerful. Portraits of these disfigured humans and hybrids alike tell a story of pain, confusion, rape, and death in a very beautiful way.
Some works were hard to look at and hard to look away from at the same time.
As impressive as this show was, the narrative behind the show is just as impressive. Bony Ramirez is self-taught in his early 20s and his first solo show is in the middle of Chelsea and it completely sold out! Congratulations!
Here is more information about the show: https://thierrygoldberg.com/Bony-Ramirez-MUSA-X-PARADISIACA-Images.
Grunch in Bed by Jamaal Peterman at James Fuentes LLC, NYC
Jamaal Peterman’s exhibition was such an imaginative compilation of artworks that brought the space to life. The architectural connectedness of the shapes and images within his paintings definitely illustrated his thought processes when creating the works during this pandemic. The show seemed like a stream of consciousness he was experiencing when viewing the world in 2020.
The work touches on narratives and important aspects of today such as facist tactics being used in the media such as fear mongering and supremacy, the bravery of heroes and vileness of villains we see and hear about, the visible and invisible biases and wealth gaps, and where he sees himself within all of this. It was a very thought provoking show to say the least.
For more information about the show: https://www.jamaalpeterman.com/grunch-in-bed.
Jacob Lawrence The American Struggle at The Met, NYC
I always enjoy seeing Jacob Lawrence in any setting - the last time I saw a full exhibition of his work was at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. This particular show was about a series of his work that is a little less well known. The series is entitled: "Struggle: From the History of the American People" and it focuses on Black people and other people of color’s experiences and struggles to build this nation. I was interested in his depictions of Chrispus Adducts (the first person to take a bullet for the US who was actually Black and Native American) and other people of color who fought for the nation.
His focus on lesser-known people of color within the context of war and the labor it took to build this nation was very interesting. It was also refreshing to see people in color being referenced in the infrastructure building of the US.
For more information about the show: https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2020/jacob-lawrence-american-struggle.
Hasani Sahlehe I Can’t Wait to See You at Resort Gallery, Baltimore
I must say this was the most placid show I saw this year. Sahlehe’s work looked so gently created, it made me fully appreciate the application used to create the works. I could just picture him applying the paint and making marks within the works in such a concentrated manner.
A show in-which I can focus on the practice of creating art and experimenting with materials always puts me in a good headspace. It helps me to clear my mind and it actually energizes me to go get other things done. So, I certainly enjoyed everything about this show and the lane he took.
For more information about the show: https://www.resortbaltimore.com/hasani-sahlehe-i-cant-wait-to-see-you
Akea Brionne Brown, Jambalaya at Eubie Blake Cultural Center, Baltimore
I had the privilege of facilitating this collaboration between the artist and Eubie Blake Cultural Center, and it did not disappoint! This show was all about lineage and self-identity, which is always a treat for me to see - it feels like I’m really getting to know the artist when they decide to give so much of themselves to an exhibition.
Brown provides insight to how she lives and is perceived within the dominant society through her photograph/fabric pieces. She takes us on a trip through her old photo albums and pays homage to family history and culture in her multidimensional photo collages. She also provides an archival element to show heritage and culture through images of objects that are important to her upbringing such as earrings, a toothbrush and gel for her hair, and a baby doll.
This was an incredibly immersive exhibition and required a decent amount of time spent within the space to receive the full effect.
For more information about the show: https://www.eubieblake.org/gallery.
Overall, 2020 was still a year full of great art. No matter what, art must endure! Now, I am looking forward to everything 2021 has to offer.