Lehmann Maupin is pleased to present Repossession, a group exhibition that investigates intersections between the work of Kader Attia, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., and Mickalene Thomas. Each of these artists has devoted their practice to confronting predominant historical narratives embedded in Western culture. Using the language of collage, the artists mine historical and cultural ephemera to create alternative histories that reveal omissions and inaccuracies and celebrate the voices of those who are often invisible or overlooked.
Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, New Jersey) draws on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of black female sexuality, beauty, and power. Best known for her large-scale paintings that depict African-American women, domestic interiors, and vast landscapes adorned in Swarovski rhinestones, Thomas has recently embarked on a series of video installations that recasts notions of beauty, gender, race, and representation. Repossession presents the New York premiere of Angelitos Negros, 2016, an eight-channel video installation that depicts Eartha Kitt and three women (including the artist herself) performing the Antonio Machín song “Angelitos Negros.” The song poses the question: Why are there no black angels? Thomas’ appropriation and recreation of Kitt’s performance becomes a multilayered investigation of race, femininity, and sexuality today.
Kader Attia (b. 1970, Paris, France) sources historical memorabilia and archives as tools to expose the wide-ranging repercussions of Western cultural hegemony and colonialism on non-Western cultures—particularly the effect colonialism has had on the construction of identity. Attia, who grew up in Algeria and the suburbs of Paris, draws from his experience of living within two disparate cultures to create collages and installations that visualize the systemic construction of difference. His practice is deeply rooted in anthropology, history, and politics, and often deals directly with violence and repair. The works presented in Repossessionexemplify Attia’s aptitude in creating hybrid cultural objects and collages that transform Western artifacts from icons of power and domination into symbols of freedom and resistance.
Tim Rollins (b. 1955, Pittsfield, Maine), a renowned educator, has been active in the South Bronx since teaching at a public middle school there in the early 1980s. In 1984, Rollins launched the Art and Knowledge Workshop in the South Bronx with a group of at-risk students who called themselves K.O.S. (Kids of Survival). The collective, still working with at-risk youths today, has created a practice that merges literature and art as a way to visualize and negotiate issues of race, class, and gender. Since the collective’s inception, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. have challenged the notion of individual authorship by working within a more collaborative structure that prioritizes social engagement and education. Each member lends his unique perspective and skills, resulting in a body of work that embodies social action, in content and in practice. Repossession will present monumental collages and drawings inspired by the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, and Mark Twain, exposing and illustrating the power of the written word to both confront and perpetuate racism and difference.
On view in Lehmann Maupin, 201 Chrystie Street, New York.