Lehmann Maupin is pleased to present American Landscape, a group exhibition featuring work by Teresita Fernández, Catherine Opie, Tim Rollins & K.O.S., and Nari Ward. Using sculpture, photography, painting, and installation, the artists in this exhibition each uniquely engage the genre by expanding our perception of what a landscape is, and how the story of the United States is told through this representation. Nari Ward sources found material from Harlem, including shoes and a neon liquor store sign, to create a representation of urban American life through its physical ephemera, while Catherine Opie captures suburban America through her photographs of Los Angeles mini-malls, as well as stretches of landscape unchanged by time in her end-of-the-century photographs of rural America. Teresita Fernández responds to the fraught history of America by using charcoal to create a massive, charred map installation suggesting an American history left untold. Tim Rollins & K.O.S. further illustrate the origins of the American narrative through literature that recounts a complicated past. Together, these artists visualize the complex political and social reality of the American landscape that is marked by a long history of violence, discrimination, and urbanization. American Landscape offers an alternative perspective on the genre of landscape through examination of the histories and realities that often receive only peripheral glimpses. There will be an opening reception at the gallery on Thursday, March 15, from 6-8 PM.
Teresita Fernández (b. 1968 Miami; lives and works in Brooklyn) creates vast abstracted landscapes that prompt us to question how we experience and construct landscapes in relation to culture, history and citizenship. For this exhibition, Fernández will present Fire (United States of the Americas) (2017), a recent work and continuation of the artist’s investigation into the significance of physical landscape and imagined place. Using raw, sculptural charcoal affixed to the gallery wall, Fernández refers to contemporary American violence as well as the technique of “slash and burn” used by indigenous people throughout the Americas to shape and cultivate the land. In this work, Fernández seeks to highlight and revise our notion of the American landscape, while also questioning who makes and documents history, as well as who is rendered invisible or excluded from this narrative.
Catherine Opie, (b. 1961 Sandusky, OH; lives and works in Los Angeles) is a renowned photographer who creates powerfully dynamic portraits and landscapes that examine the ideals and norms surrounding the culturally constructed American identity. For this exhibition, Opie will present a selection of work from her Mini Mall (1998), and 1999 (1999) series. The former offers a unique look at America through the proliferation of the mini-mall, a staple of any small or mid-sized town and a beacon of 20th-century modernization and capitalism. Opie photographs these spaces empty of people in the early hours of the morning to offer a meditation on the Los Angeles landscape, as represented in these shopping districts that, through their architecture, signs, and the types of businesses represented, serve as manifestations of the neighborhood communities they serve. For the 1999 series, she documents a road trip across the United States, resulting in photographs of the most rural stretches in anticipation of the new millennium. While the media stoked a generalized sense of dread during the peak of “Y2K” hysteria, these photographs depict a portion of America seemingly untouched by technological anxiety.
Tim Rollins (b. 1955 Pittsfield, ME; d. 2017 New York, NY) was a teacher, artist, and activist who began the collective Tim Rollins & K.O.S. (Kids Of Survival) through an after-school program in 1984. Together, they developed a unique method of art making that involved painting and drawing directly on the pages of books or sheet music adhered in a grid to the surface of a canvas. They have used numerous works as source material, including literary classics by William Shakespeare, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mark Twain, and musical compositions by Felix Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss. This exhibition will include Amerika the Stoker (1993), The Red Badge of Courage (1990), and The River (after Duke Ellington) (2012) works, responding to Franz Kafka’s Amerika, which recounts the tale of a young immigrant shipped off to America by his parents; the American Civil War novel by Stephen Crane; and American composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington, respectively. Each of these works exemplifies the ways in which Tim Rollins & K.O.S. have created a complicated visual history of America through literature and music that recounts its double-edged development.
Nari Ward (b. 1963 St. Andrews, Jamaica; lives and works in New York, NY) is known for his sculptural installations composed of discarded materials collected from his neighborhood. For this exhibition, Ward will include three new works from some of his best-known series. Mount Eden LiquorsouL (2017) uses a broken liquor store sign where Ward applied pieces of shoes and artificial flowers, altering the lettering slightly to read “Soul,” thus creating a symbol of loss and mourning. Last words of John Brown (2017) calls attention to American history as well as issues of race, identity, and politics. Ward renders the last words of John Brown, the abolitionist who died advocating for black slaves’ freedom in 1859, using hundreds of shoelaces to spell out, “This is a beautiful country.” This work continues Ward’s ongoing examination of discrimination and belonging. By enlarging this powerful moment in U.S. history, Ward asks the viewers to contemplate and reexamine where we are today as a society. Finally, Ward will present Precession (2018) from his Breathing Panels series that feature punctured geometric patterns in copper. Ward first came across these symbols that reference traditional Congolese “cosmograms,” an ancient prayer symbol, during a visit to the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, which was part of the Underground Railroad. Here, Ward focuses on the resilience of the element and its conductive power in relation to human energy in tandem with the resilience these cosmograms, rendered in the antebellum South on the journey to freedom, represented. Considering various cultures that use copper for medicinal purposes, Ward seeks a healing power that could stand against such traumas as racism, violence, and other injustices.