When I see Abstraction in the Black Diaspora at False Flag gallery I think about what Lowery Sims said to me years ago when I asked her about the historical basis for a young cohort of Black artists using abstraction to signal a distinctly political Blackness: “If you take the track that abstraction came out of African art, then we are just claiming our birthright.” The work here, co-curated by the artist Tariku Shiferaw and curator and artist Ayanna Dozier, confidently lays claim to this inheritance.
This sense of rightfully belonging to this aesthetic and cultural form comes through in pieces like Shiferaw’s “Kenya” (2020), which mimics the Kenyan flag but renders the horizontal bars of color in freehand swirls of red, green, and black, with the central Maasai shield and crossed spears made visible by selectively masking parts with white paint — suggesting that the tools for defense become apparent under the imposition of whiteness. Ashanté Kindle’s “The Crown” (2020) assembles a black set of squares daubed with acrylic and spackle to give an aerial view of what might be 360-degree waves radiating out from the crown of a Black man’s head — a sensual and surprising vista for me. Hair also shows up in Adebunmi Gbadebo’s “Da Da” (2015) where short locks supported by wire jut out from the wall in a line to form a kind of column with aspirations to be endless.
It is one thing to assert one’s right to something and quite another to act as though it already belongs to you. Dozier has done the former in writing a long (80 pages) and rather anxious catalogue text that argues for this work not needing to “outwardly critique systems of power,” since it “does so through the critical ontological refusal to participate in anti-Blackness, and through … reinterpretations of reality.” Too often in the art scene, essays of overwrought and labored scholarly argumentation are produced to prove that work legitimately belongs to a movement or genre. Here, the work palpably validates the artists’ birthright claim because they act from that place of ownership.
Abstraction in the Black Diaspora continues through December 20 at False Flag Gallery (11-22 44th Rd,
Long Island City). The exhibition was curated by Tariku Shiferaw and Ayanna Dozier.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.