Callicoon Fine Arts is pleased to present A Field of Meaning, a group exhibition organized by Lynn Maliszewski. The works in this exhibition investigate personal, non-linear narratives in conversation with authorized accounts of history. Utilizing photography, sculpture, painting, and mixed media, A Field of Meaning employs interference and intimacy as methods for challenging historical record.
Artists in this exhibition expose the false objectivity of history by way of research and intimate experience. Crystal Z Campbell lives in and researches the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, deemed “Black Wall Street” in the early twentieth century. As a counter-narrative to the legacy of violence and erasure that has defined Greenwood since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Campbell reinterprets archival photographs of black women in moments of leisure. Textured paintings atop two seemingly banal images and a newly designed banner shift optics through abstraction, alluding to what theorist Saidiya Hartman calls “critical fabulation”—a technique of interrogating received narratives by way of considering events from isolated points of view.(1) The terms protagonist and antagonist are further disturbed by Shawné Michaelain Holloway’s book, installed on the ground. Holloway’s instructional manual for puppy-master power dynamics describes operative conditioning: a behavioral training method based on rewards and punishment. The work applies pressure to apparently simple parameters, offering a healthy scenario where seemingly submissive participants can hold the reigns.
Other works in this exhibition suggest our knowledge of history alone cannot enact a coherent resolution for issues that reappear in the present. Lyndon Barrois Jr. assembles magazine cut-outs, text, and references to everyday printing processes to investigate “stereotypography.” His works in this exhibit relate images from mass media to Neuland, a typeface designed by Rudolf Koch in 1923 in Germany—Koch hoped it could pronounce spiritual recovery in Europe after World War I; in America, it was used on cigarette cartons and in advertisements to cement stereotypes of the “exotic” or “primitive” Other.(2) In the story of Neuland, where discrimination is literally written into history, we all lose. Per Hartman, work forged with and against the archives also offers an opportunity to revisit these contested points of view.(3) Ajay Kurian’s sculpture, The Bather, illuminates a jagged smile behind a dark vinyl curtain. In the past, Kurian has used his sculptural practice to interrogate national symbols and “American” ideals by way of comedic, anthropomorphized characters. Here, Kurian’s absurd, grinning phantom finds itself in a shower scene, susceptible to the unease and exposure, carnage and pleasure, supported in that environment. With a sly humor, this work is a phenomenological reminder that bias is inherent to our analysis of images, precluding a unified system of possibility.
But history insists upon such a unified system, on linearity that reinforces “progress” and movement forward. The complexities of individuated narratives interfere, while raising a slew of new questions. Jiří Skála has gathered photographs of vintage heavy machinery from the Czech Republic, each of which were taken by the machine’s owner. These appliances were purchased by their original operators, an opportunity offered by Czech conglomerate Škoda Klatovy before they went bankrupt and closed all their factories. These images operate at the intersection of personal and industrial archives that don’t settle easily into dominant perspectives of history. Ranee Henderson’s paintings visualize a frustration with the heroism of history’s retelling, and the omission of tangents that are difficult to reconcile. Her paintings of bodies in abstracted space are punctuated by peanuts and lobsters, symbols that allude to low socio-economic status. These figures are nearly life-sized, intensified impressions, rummaging and reaching beyond the canvas. Henderson poses a challenge to the triumph associated with historical merit, recognizing inequitable circumstances and the people subjected to them. Silenced in the wider sweeps of history, A Field of Meaning provides a platform for the complex, often neglected, anecdotes some might wish to omit.
1. Saidiya Hartmann, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe, number 26 (volume 12, number 2), June 2008, pg 11.
2. Rob Giampietro, “New Black Face: Neuland and Lithos as Stereotypography,” Lined and Unlined <https://www.linedandunlined.com/archive/new-black-face>
3. Hartmann, “Venus in Two Acts,” pg 11.
Callicoon Fine Arts is located at 49 Delancey Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 6:30pm. The nearest subway stops are the B and D trains at Grand Street and the F, J, M and Z trains at Delancey-Essex Street. Contact: Photi Giovanis, email@example.com, 212-219-0326 for further information.
Lyndon Barrois Jr. (b. 1983, New Orleans, LA) is an artist and writer based in Portland, Oregon. He uses magazines, advertising, cinema, and vernacular imagery as primary subjects of inquiry, translating the language of printing and design layout into and variety of formal and material propositions. Barrois received his MFA from Washington University, St. Louis (2013), and his BFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore (2006). He recently completed a year-long residency at the Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, and is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.
Crystal Z. Campbell (b. 1980, Prince George’s County, MD) is a multidisciplinary artist and writer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Campbell's practice excavates public secrets using live performance, installation, sound, paintings, and film/video, wherein witnessing is abstracted through varied combinations of rumor, found footage, archival research, and site intervention. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY; Drawing Center, New York, NY; ICA Philadelphia, PA; SculptureCenter, New York, NY; Studio Museum Harlem, New York, NY; and Project Row Houses, Houston, TX. She has participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the MacDowell Colony, and the Whitney Independent Studies Program, among others; she has received awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, MAP Fund, and Mid-America Arts Alliance. Campbell is currently a Drawing Center Open Sessions Fellow and Tulsa Artist Fellow (2016–19).
Ajay Kurian (b. 1984, Baltimore, MD) currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has had solo exhibitions at CAPRI, Düsseldorf; White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO; Artspeak, Vancouver; Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai; and Audio Visual Arts, New York. He has exhibited work in group exhibitions at K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; 2017 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Øregaard Museum, Copenhagen; Art Commissions GI on Governor’s Island, New York, NY; MoMA PS1, New York, NY; the Fridericianum, Kassel; CAM Raleigh, North Carolina; Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY; and White Columns, New York, NY. His work is included in public collections including the Aïshti Foundation Collection, Beiruit, Lebanon.
Shawné Michaelain Holloway (Chicago, IL) is a new media artist and sex educator based in Chicago. Known for using sound, video, and performance, Holloway shapes the rhetorics of technology and sexuality into tools for exposing structures of power. She has spoken and exhibited work internationally in spaces like the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, NY; Sorbus Galleria, Helsinki, Finland; The Kitchen, New York, NY; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK; and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL. Holloway teaches in the New Arts Journalism and Film, Video, New Media, and Animation departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jirka Skála (b. 1976, Sušice, Czechia) is a visual artist based in Prague. His work utilizes text, performance, installation, photography, and video in the tradition of historically post-conceptual art practices. His earliest works considered alternative modes of communication. Skála’s current practice investigates socially- and privately-determined relations to consumer products by means of work or leisure. His work has appeared in group exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo, Paris,; Secession, Vienna; UBS Art Gallery, New York, NY; Wiels, Brussels; Seventeen Gallery, London; and Manifesta 11, Zurich. He has had solo shows at Display Gallery, Prague; Art in General, New York, NY; Hunt Kastner, Prague; Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; and Etc Gallery, Prague. He received the Jindřich Chalupecký Award in 2009. He teaches at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts.
Ranee Henderson (b. 1981, Lincoln, NE) is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Los Angeles, CA. She received a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver (2010), and the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA (2015). She completed her MFA at Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College, in 2019. Most recently, she was in-residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Ranee’s current work zeros in on representational, figure-based scenarios that point toward experience-driven decision-making, inspired by earning badges related to her personal experience.