Jenkins Johnson Gallery is pleased to present Seven Sisters, a group exhibition opening Thursday, October 3, 2013. Seven Sisters features world-renowned artists’ commentaries on the intersection of ethics, race, culture, and self-expression. Participating artists include Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, Rina Banerjee, Patricia Piccinini, Camille Rose Garcia, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Toyin Odutola, and Vanessa Prager.
The star cluster Pleiades is the touchstone for Seven Sisters. While only six are discernible to the naked eye, these stars represent the seven daughters of Atlas, a Titan who was punished by Zeus to hold the weight of the heavens on his shoulders, and Pleione, an oceanid and the protectress of sailing. Each daughter held a mythological role: one was the goddess of spring and farmers while another was the queen known to ward off storms. Many gave birth to rulers of ancient cities: the founder of Troy, the king of Messenia, and the founder of Sparta. Like the Seven Sisters, each artist brings a lasting cross-cultural approach and influence to painting, drawing, sculpture, and video.
Carrie Mae Weems’ artistic accomplishments and contributions to contemporary art are arguably as important as any other female artist of her time. As The New York Times writer Holland Cotter describes, “No American photographer of the last quarter-century…has turned out a more probing, varied and moving body of work.” Weems uses film, video, photograph, and text to answer questions of blackness and beauty, investigating family relationships and gender roles, as well as the histories of racism, sexism, class, and various political systems. In “The Edge of Time – Ancient Rome,” from Roaming, Weems tackles questions of identity and the sense of belonging; the black-clad figure serves as a muse and a leader, Weems stating, “This woman can stand in for me and for you; she leads you into history. She’s a witness and a guide.” In the series Slow Fade to Black, Weems addresses the fade from cultural prominence of such famous women as Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, and Katherine Dunham by blurring publicity images. Further addressing femininity, beauty, and race, Weems’ video “Afro Chic” captures women as they stride down the runway in brightly colored clothes, complementing their huge Afros; these women are confident, vibrant, and beautiful, but projected behind them are images of Angela Davis and Huey Newton, elevating the work from a simple commentary on aesthetics to a juxtaposition between beauty and civil rights. Weems has exhibited at such prominent institutions as: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and many others. Coinciding with Seven Sisters is a traveling retrospective, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, which will arrive at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University on October 16, 2013. The retrospective will end at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Similar to Weems’ ability to capture her perception of beauty, Brooklyn artist Mickalene Thomas celebrates the relationship between women and beauty. Thomas, primarily a colorist painter and photographer, uses her art history background to inspire her elaborate and ornately colorful images, approaching the romanticized image of femininity and power with a new perspective. Similar to Weems’ “AfroChic,” Thomas’ video “Ain’t I a Woman” transforms photographs to portraits that hone in on her subject’s intrinsic beauty. Thomas has shown at: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, among others.
Taking a different approach to our environment, Australian artist Patricia Piccinini is interested in bioethics and biotechnologies. Piccinini’s mixed media sculptures and installations of half-human, half-animal creatures are interpretations of technology’s new ability to control what nature cannot yield. As The New York Times noted in 2005, Piccinini’s sculptures blur the distinction between human and animal. With the same concern for human-induced environmental changes, Piccinini’s “Eulogy” portrays the blobfish, a victim of overfishing in Australia’s waters: the man in this hyper-realistic sculpture bends over the fish, lamenting the loss of a species on the brink of extinction. The artist is fascinated by and empathetic towards the creature, seen as the collateral damage of unethical circumstances. Piccinini represented the Australian pavilion in the 2003 Venice Biennale, and her work is collected by museums across Australia.