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Nathlie Provosty’s current exhibition at Nathalie Karg Gallery, (the third ear), is a study in the emotional, sensuous (and sensual) potential of tightly bound, minutely considered, rigorously constructed abstraction. The show consists of three large paintings (grouped against a long wall, flanked by tall windows) and 12 smaller works, all abstracts in carefully controlled tonalities. Provosty is interested in inaudible sound and how it impacts humans; her work here explores its parallels in the color spectrum. It is an eloquent, supremely assured corrective to both discourses and practices prevalent in current abstraction: a counterpoint to critiques of fatuousness or irrelevance, it resonates by diving into itself, transports without shouting.
Three large black paintings — “Twice Six” (2016), “Gilles” (2014), and “West” (2016), all 84 by 92 inches — appear, at first glance, to anchor the show. They are multilayered, disruptive explorations of dichotomy (conceptually half of “black-and-white”) that quickly dispense with any essentializing notion of color. Provosty’s “blacks” are hardly straightforward: there are variations in texture and tone, in opacity and reflectivity. She flirts with a central shape, which gestures toward the figurative while remaining resolutely abstract. The works are demanding: looked at simply, head-on, they are black-on-black compositions. To see them fully requires approaching them very closely and seeing where the first layers of the paint — royal blue; deep violet; a near-cerulean so vibrant it’s shocking we could ever have overlooked it — bleed out at the edges of the canvases. They diffuse at the margins, resonating into space.
“Resonance II” (2016), occupies a conceptually and spatially transitional space in (the third ear): hung on the farthest back wall of the gallery, smaller (at 19 by 15 inches) than the black works, but larger than the 8-by-6-inch watercolors that round out the show, it works as a kind of oblique master key, foregrounding the colors that seeped from the edges of the black works; collapsing the scale but retaining the planar dynamics. “Resonance II” is exemplary of the operations in Provosty’s work. Here, her intensely cerebral engagement with surface relations is evident: seen up close, the work is a relationship of flat planes; from the side, seen at an angle, it becomes a Cubistic abstraction, an unfixable perspective whose careful construction gives the impression of objects compressed, off-kilter, into an impossible space. All this rigor might run the risk of making the work feel chilly or academic, but in fact the opposite is true: “Resonance II” feels warmly personal, even organic, an effect derived from a process which, in Provosty’s description, straddles the universality of geometry and the specificity of subjective perception. “The interactions of the quadrants was a visual/intuitive process,” she told me. “Once I decided where they would go, the movement became decided by color/space needs (what goes forward or back, warm or cool, range and harmonies).”
The works in the series Council, Untitled (2016) are small (8 by 6 inches); watercolor and ink on paper, they have the density and depth of oil, and this final compression of scale cements the dynamic tension of the show. Each is composed of two circles, vertically stacked; while they are quite flat, their mysterious quality brings to mind the word “orbs.” They are, like all the works in the show, asymmetrical to varying degrees. The light disconnect feels like a skipped beat in music — rather than plodding along the predictable path, it makes the mind reset, activating new pathways of interpretive possibility and raising questions about our own optical assumptions. Why do we expect the shapes to fit together? How do we feel they ought to fit into each other? They play with scale even within themselves, in the tight relationship between the two orbs in “Council, Untitled (15–52)” (2015); the orientation of the inky purple orbs is the same, while the size of their central ruptures is wider or narrower. In “Council, Untitled (15–53)” (2015), the orbs are nearly mirrored images (they seem a millimeter from kissing), and their ivory edges almost recede into the background; only up close do we see that they are actually, barely, touching.
Provosty’s work is masterfully executed, its formal rigor enriched by its deep sensuality. Organic, materially luscious in the way of ripening fruit, the split circles of Council, Untitled are at once elegant and inescapably seductive; an eloquent reminder of what abstraction can do, and of how it can feel.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…