Fall Arts 2014: Visual Art

"Annie Kevans: Women and the History of Art"

By Jonathan Curiel, September 2, 2014
In the late 1800s, Suzanne Valadon modeled for Toulouse-Lautrec and Renoir (she's the focus of Renoir's celebrated Dance at Bougival) and became close to other acclaimed French artists. Although Valadon herself became a well-regarded painter, popular history has generally marginalized her artistic triumphs. British painter Annie Kevans has dug out a long line of female artists who've gotten short shrift, including American painters like Alma Thomas, and given them a reason to be rediscovered in a series that is also a thoughtful feminist critique of art history.

Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle’s ‘Say It Isn’t So…” at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Feb 20 – April 5, New York

By Saron Obuobi, March 17, 2014
Presented by the Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York, ‘Say It Isn’t So…’ features the work of contemporary artist Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle. ‘Say It Isn’t So…’ is woven from historical and contemporary narratives that raise questions concerning the collective encounters with the black female body and its relationship to what is perceived exotic. The exhibition features a variety of media, including drawings, paintings, text-based work, audio, and video. These pieces explore personal narratives from the artist intermingled with known and unknown historical figures in relationship to notions and constructions of the black female body as a prototype for both exotic beauty and repulsion. Read More


Essaydi Arrives

By Kenneth Baker, March 15, 2014
Moroccan-born Lalla Essaydi presents an example of someone doing the right stuff at the right time to make her art seem historically inevitable. Her highly produced photographs at Jenkins Johnson revisit with theatrical flair 19th century (male) European painters' Orientalist visions of harems and female submissiveness in the Arab world. Essaydi knows both Arab and Western societies from the inside.

Viewers familiar with Orientalist painting will recognize the barbed pastiche of a sumptuous photograph such as "Bullets Revisited #8" (2012). A closer look discovers disquieting details: All the jewelry the two women in the picture wear and handle, and all the golden tesserae of the mosaics blanketing walls and floor, are shell casings. Essaydi turns the lascivious male gaze once solicited by painted images such as this into a ballistic one, a bitter reproach to Western imperialist incursion and even curiosity. Further, Essaydi has covered the exposed skin of her models - with henna calligraphic script, appropriating an artistic practice traditionally reserved to men. The theatricality of Essaydi's pictures does not count against them because they entail preparations as elaborate as many stage plays.  


Haunted Geographies: The Living Work of Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle

By Nikki Darling, March 12, 2014
Sometimes other people pack your baggage. Artist Kenyatta A.C Hinkle unpacks it. She was the youngest artist included in the 2012 Hammer biennial, Made in LA, and whose practice runs the gamut from performance and video, to writing, painting, and collage.

The Kentifrica Project was an example of this intersect. The work presented at the Hammer was possibly the artist's largest ongoing project where Hinkle's many inter-disciplinary skills came into play, creating a multi-layered project of engagement, bringing in outsiders -- not just as viewers -- but collaborators and participants. Read More.


Investigating Female Identity

The work of the Moroccan contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi (born 1956) can be described as a visual examination of female Muslim identity, an undertaking closely related to her own biography and prior experiences. Especially during her long stay in Saudi Arabia, she came in close touch with traditional Islamic life. Over the course of the past decade, Essaydi acquired international renown for her unique artistic method of covering her models, and sometimes the garments and walls, in layers of hand-painted henna calligraphy, subverting traditional Muslim gender stereotypes by adding the written word.  Read More

By Bonny Zanardi, February 21, 2014
Large-scale photographs by internationally acclaimed artist Lalla Essaydi are on view at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco. Read More


Lalla Essaydi’s installation brings sense of female progression to contemporary art world

By Addy Bhasin, February 22, 2014
The storefronts on Sutter Street in San Francisco reflect Western society so well it is almost striking — a cheesy Americana diner, some vaguely neo-impressionist work of the Eiffel Tower in a gallery off of Powell Street, a Starbucks connected to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Located just across from the Starbucks and a couple doors down is a gallery with an unusual mounted photograph in its window.

The photograph is of a woman lying on her side in an odalisque position. Her cascading, dark hair frames her tattooed face, and she boldly looks out at the viewer. She is enveloped in what look like gold sequins, glittering in beautiful Near Eastern mosaic-esque patterns like an exquisite kaleidoscope. If strolling down Sutter Street, this would be the window that would attract the pedestrian, forcing him or her to stop walking altogether, glancing into the gallery with curiosity and intrigue.  Read More


Solo Show Pick: Lalla Essaydi: New Beauty

By Danica Willard Sachs, February 24, 2014
Lalla Essaydi’s highly staged tableaux employ the domestic spaces of her native Morocco to challenge the Orientalist imaging of Arab women. New Beauty at Jenkins Johnson Gallery brings together sixteen photographs from the artist’s two most recent series, Harem Revisited and Bullets Revisited, which expand her investigation of the harem as an architectural and social structure of confinement for women in Islamic culture.

Essaydi’s large-format chromogenic prints, all shot in the isolated space of the harem in palaces and homes around Marrakech, are visually alluring. The pictured women glint with gold clothing and jewelry made from bullet casings, or are swathed in intricately adorned fabrics in saturated hues. For the models’ poses and groupings, the artist references an art-historical lineage that includes 19th-century painters Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Eugène Delacroix, twisting familiar imagery into disconcerting scenes. Read More

Carrie Mae Weems gives eloquent speech to accept her BET Honors Visual Arts Award

Watch Carrie Mae Weems' lens on life: The visual artist's journey is worth a thousand words.
(click here)

I just want to be remembered as being fair, being honest, being able to tell the truth. That would be enough. 
--Carrie Mae Weems


Dressed for Revolt: A Photographer's Moroccan Portraits Reinstate Women at the Forefront of the Arab Spring

By Jonathan Curiel, February 12, 2014
For followers of women's rights in the Arab world, the headlines of the past few months have been bitterly disappointing. "Women Among the Biggest Losers in Arab Spring," announced one recent news story, while another shouted, "Why does the world ignore violence against Arab women in public spaces?" The question is vexing because of the prominent role that women played in the Arab Spring revolutions that transformed the Middle East. Lalla Essaydi sees those headlines and recoils, but as a prominent artist from the Arab world who now lives in the United States, she can make photos that seem an emphatic antidote to the news from Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The women in Essaydi's panoramas are safe and well-off. No men are ever seen. No violence is ever apparent. But in Essaydi's newest work, on display at San Francisco's Jenkins Johnson Gallery, bullet casings are everywhere. On the walls. On the beds. Even in the clothing the women wear. At first glance, the shells resemble gold and bronze jewels that form beautiful, glistening sheaths. But of course, the shells were made to be fired, to kill. On these women, the shells become a metaphor for an odd new reality in Arab countries. 
Read More


Congratulations to Carrie Mae Weems!

2014 BET Visual Arts Award Honoree

Artist, activist, and 2013 MacArthur Genius Grant winner Carrie Mae Weems is honored by BET for her provocative art, which tackles complex issues of race, gender, and class through video and photography. Along with Weems, this Black History Month, BET also celebrates Nelson Mandela, Aretha Franklin, Berry Gordy, Ice Cube, and Kenneth Chenault. The BET Honors air Monday, February 24 at 9 pm. 

Carrie's work is also on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, through May 14, and at the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum Series, through June 29. 

Along with the BET Visual Arts Award, she is a recent recipient of: MacArthur Fellowship Award; Lifetime Achievement Award from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Gordon Parks Foundation Award; Medal of Arts, USA Department of State; and Keeper of the Flame Award, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. 

Trends: Julia Fullerton-Batten's Korea Series

By Séverine Morel, February 12, 2014
Korea is the latest series of Julia Fullerton-Batten. She became interested in the contrasts and tensions that dominate the country, expressing them through staged portraits of Korean women wearing traditional dress in the heart of their modern, spare cities. It’s a wonderful contrast which the photographer illustrates with formalism and poetry to tell the story of this country and the lives of its delicate citizens in a strict environment. Read More


Karen Jenkins-Johnson showcases artists pushing boundaries of gender and color

By Vicki Larson, February 13, 2014
As her San Francisco gallery marks its 17th year (her New York gallery opened in 2005), Jenkins-Johnson is committed to showcasing female artists who are making cultural statements or who are offering informative views on relevant topics, such as the current show featuring Essaydi's works, "New Beauty." Read More

Color and class are still the great divides in American culture, and few artists have surveyed them as subtly and incisively as Carrie Mae Weems, whose traveling 30-year retrospective has arrived at the Guggenheim Museum. From its early candid family photographs, through series of pictures that track the Africa in African-America, to work that explores, over decades, what it means to be black, female and in charge of your life, it’s a ripe, questioning and beautiful show. Read More

Carrie Mae Weems is finally getting the star treatment that has largely eluded her during her career. The artist's first New York museum retrospective opens Friday at the Guggenheim. " Carrie Mae Weems : Three Decades of Photography and Video" examines race, class and gender with work that includes posed domestic scenes, historic re-enactments and pieces using appropriated objects. The exhibition is the latest in a spate of honors for Ms. Weems. In September, the MacArthur Foundation awarded her a "genius grant" worth $625,000—a moment she celebrated by donning a tiara, evening gown and fake jewels. Next month, she will join Aretha Franklin among the artists celebrated at the annual BET Honors, established by BET Networks, news she greeted with a near swoon. Read More


Kenyatta Hinkle "Say It Isn't So..." @ Jenkins Johnson Gallery, NY

January 28, 2014
Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York will be presenting Say It Isn’t So…., the New York debut of critically acclaimed contemporary artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle. The exhibition features a variety of media, including drawings, paintings, text-based work, audio, and video. These pieces explore personal narratives from the artist intermingled with known and unknown historical figures in relationship to notions and constructions of the black female body as a prototype for both exotic beauty and repulsion. Read More


Exhibitions: Julia Fullerton-Batten's "A Testament to Love"

By David Schonauer, January 16, 2014
We recently took note of photographer (and PPD reader) Julia Fullerton-Batten’s series Korea 2013, Now we feature her new series, A Testament to Love, on view at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in New York City through February 15. Building on her earlier work investigating the psyches of teenage girls, “Testament” narrates the life struggles that occur when love goes wrong, featuring women wrestling with the eternal search for happiness amid feelings of solitude, loneliness, fear, regret, and resignation. Fullerton-Batten says the work is visually inspired by Hollywood films of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as by the paintings of Edward Hopper. Read More

"A Testament to Love’ is a narrative about the struggles of life when love goes wrong. The women in my images wrestle with the eternal search for a happy ending, but find themselves left with feelings of solitude, loneliness, fear, regret and resignation. Are they searching for a meaning to their lives or just waiting for something to happen. Each image is set against a cinematic background, which is inspired by the style of locations and lighting in Hollywood films from the 1960s and 1970s as well as the iconic work of Edward Hopper." Read More


Middle Eastern women, supposedly powerless and oppressed behind walls and veils, are in fact a force in both society and the arts. They played a major role in the Arab Spring and continue to do so in the flourishing regional art scene—specifically in photography—which is alive and very well indeed. Some Middle Eastern photographers have taken their cameras to the barricades, physical ones and those less obvious, like the barriers erected by stereotypes, which they remain determined to defy. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, takes note in “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers From Iran and the Arab World,” an ambitious and revealing exhibition of work by 12 women, some internationally known. 

The curator, Kristen Gresh, says in the catalog that this show, which runs through Jan. 12, was intended to explore “the dualities of the visible and invisible, the permissible and forbidden, the spoken and the silent, and the prosaic and the horrific.” These approximately 100 photographs and two videos generally respond to that intention and open a wide window on what preoccupies women in regions that are read about here more often in news articles about riots and refugees. At times, the ideas in this show count more than the images, which range in quality from remarkable and convincing to the merely derivative in some cases. Read More

A Show of Strength by Middle Eastern Women Photographers

By Kerri Macdonald
“She Who Tells a Story” opens at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston this week. Four of the artists included are Iranian; three — Ms. Tavakolian, Gohar Dashti and Shadi Ghadirian — live and work in Iran today. The exhibit also highlights work by Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar and Shirin Neshat, the fourth Iranian artist, who lives in New York. Read More

"Lalla Essaydi: New Beauty"

n the 19th century, Orientalist painters were widely celebrated in Europe for their vivid depictions of Muslim women in sexualized states of undress. These exoticized images are still prevalent, which is one reason why Lalla Essaydi's modern photos of beautiful women posing in intimate Islamic settings are so provocative. Essaydi's women are surrounded by Islamic calligraphy and, in some new works, by bullet casings that at first glance seem like jewels. By disrupting stereotypes, Essaydi's images are a 21st century bookend to outdated exoticism. Read More

Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens

Last  August, Toyin Odutola brought a stack of ballpoint pens and markers into the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, sat down, and drew a picture. A large screen projected her progress as she filled the paper with thousands of marks. Museumgoers circled around her and asked her questions. “One lady was like, ‘Is that pen? I don’t believe it!’” Odutola recalls. “I was drawing, and she took the pen out of my hand and looked at it.”

To shut out these kinds of distractions and focus on the task at hand, Odutola put on headphones and listened to dance music. Four hours after she started drawing, she was done, having produced a densely limned portrait of an Asian woman with golden hair and eyebrows, her skin composed of Odutola’s signature sinewy ballpoint lines, with blue, green, and flesh tones rising from underneath. “It was shocking that I finished, because I’d never really performed drawing,” says Odutola, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in the Bay Area and Alabama. “It’s normally a very solitary act within my studio.” Read More


Williamson Gallery, Art Center / Los Angeles

The art of Lynn Aldrich celebrates and extrapolates on the ordinary. She focuses on objects from the world of everyday life to both transform them structurally and insinuate a sense of larger mysteries. She takes utensils and garden-variety household items and through both imaginative additions and deviations from function turns them into vehicles of greater significance. Aldrich veers into the transcendental without any irony and draws out the quotidian into an expansive field of multiple meanings.

While some artists transform found objects through more theatrical arrangements, Aldrich stays close to her source. She wants to reference the object as something we use (and often it is in direct relationship to a woman’s work in the household) as well as look for epiphanies in the ordinary. She is interested in how commonplace things and situations contain the potential for transcendence, and thus she sets her art apart from both the formal bent of minimalism and the self-reflexive penchant of appropriation. Read More

Lynn Aldrich: "Un/Common Objects" at Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design

by Christopher Michno
On cursory glance, Lynn Aldrich's sculptural objects share some of Pop Art's fascination with consumer goods: an array of wax paper cartons, a shelf crammed with canned food tins, a surfeit of garden hose. And the title of Aldrich's 23-year survey, co-curated by James Daichendt and Christina Valentine, seems to allude to "New Painting of Common Objects," Walter Hopps' seminal 1962 show at the Pasadena Art Museum, which lent critical support to Pop Art. Yet, while Aldrich constructs her sculpture using common objects and construction materials, home improvement supplies, and other domestic items--her survey observes the artist playfully transforming the stuff of everyday life into elegantly poetic meditations. Aldrich keenly subverts the intended functions of domestic objects, and crystallizes the effect with language. Pithy titles, like The Birds of America (1993), a work of collected feathers stuffed into a brass cage and suspended from the ceiling, can elevate the object, casting it in a momentous light. In Pressed for Time (1994), an ironing board loaded with layers of pressed flowers separated by sheets of wax paper introduces a play on words and offers a reminder of the withered future we face in common. Read More

"Seven Sisters" at Jenkins Johnson Gallery

by Barbara Morris
Presenting a welcome change from the stale atmosphere of the boys club, Jenkins Johnson Gallery recently presented "Seven Sisters," a group show where powerful women artists from ethnically diverse backgrounds shared images of passion, remembrance and caution. The title is drawn from the star cluster The Pleiades, also known as Seven Sisters, which represents in Greek myth the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Read More