Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
British-Ghanaian artist Lynnette Yiadom-Boakye’s canvases call attention to the simple pleasure of looking, even as they acknowledge the complex, freighted nature of the act. Her celebrated portraits of fictional imaginary black people, whose bodies are in various states of pose and repose, are expressive marvels of wet-on-wet painting. Her charismatically nonchalant brushstrokes contour moody sections of paint that cohere into low-contrast compositions in which figure and ground incorporate shades of coffee, tan, and brown. Even as she uses overcast, muted hues to underscore her subjects’ bodily expressions of malaise and ennui, Yiadom-Boakye’s canvases affirm painting’s tactile verve.
Yet her subjects’ introspective languor can make the viewer feel uncomfortably voyeuristic, similar to the intrusive feeling of glimpsing a stranger crying in public. Their eyes are particularly telling in this regard. Many, such as the woman in “Level with the Lawn” (2018), have a downcast or averted gaze. Others have a wary or distant stare. Still others, as in the figures in “Monday Midnight” (2018) and “Southbound Catechism” (2018), look back at the viewer with searching, almost accusatory vulnerability. A couple have a jarring splotch of color — orange or green — in lieu of the white of one eye. In all their guises, the characters’ eyes hint at psychological depths that a painted surface, however evocative, can only begin to plumb.
Considerations about looking matter not just to Yiadom-Boakye’s work but also to its reception. Her paintings have often drawn comparison to the supposed timelessness of Old Master portraiture, as well as historical and contemporary traditions — and omissions — of black figuration. But as her renown has increased, some critics note subtle developments over time, such as her selective incorporation of bold color in her latest exhibition, In Lieu Of a Louder Love, at both Chelsea locations of Jack Shainman Gallery. Others find her new work too familiar, like a pop song that reiterates the same formula as the artist’s previous hits. Yet her work, sensuous and smart, encourages us to reflect on what we think we’re seeing when we look at something, and on why we choose to look in the first place.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: In Lieu of a Louder Love continues at Jack Shainman Gallery (513 West 20th and 524 West 24th Street) through February 16.
This is Yuskavage’s great gift, turning upside down our settled ways of thinking and seeing and, with ease, transforming the vulgar and ridiculous into the sublime.
While hardly about the pandemic, or any of the other crises so afflicting us, all are invoked in this exhibition, which is also often tender and profoundly soulful.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
These glowing, dynamic artworks reproduce something of Bosch’s chaotic energy, but on an immersive, multi-sensory scale.
This week, addressing a transphobic comedy special on Netflix, the story behind KKK hoods, cultural identity fraud, an anti-Semitic take on modern art, and more.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
51 international publishers and galleries showcase their latest editions in prints and artists’ books at this free public fair, which is fully online this year.
Minneapolis-based Chicano artist Luis Fitch designed the stamps, which were released ahead of the upcoming holiday.
The sale confirmed predictions that the painting’s unconventional backstory would only increase its value.