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Monique Long, curator, brings together a group of more than fifteen artists who have disrupted or extended the traditional presentation of still lifes.

Devan Shimoyama, For Tamir VII, 2019. Silk flowers, rhinestones, jewellery, canvas, found objects and chains on industrial vinyl swing seat. 18 x 22 x 8 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

The artists have appropriated the genre in order to create works within a framework of Black diasporic identities, histories, and collective experiences. The works are expressed through various mediums, including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, performance, and installation. Many of the artists are primarily known for portraiture, therefore the still lifes are compelling outliers in their practices. A central discourse in this exhibition considers Blackness in relation to the existential question, “How does an artist create work about the body without the body being present?” resulting in political, historical, and art historical interventions. ‘Elegies’ is a thematic exhibition that presents two parallel narratives: one is an art historical examination of still lifes and the other is how that history is connected to Black figuration.

Pittsburgh-based Devan Shimoyama’s installations For Tamir VII and For Tamir VIII (2019) depict swings festooned with flowers and decoration, serving as a poignant monument to twelve year old Tamir Elijah Rice, an African American boy who had been playing outside a recreation center with a toy gun in November of 2014. He was subsequently killed by police responding to an anonymous complaint.

New York-based artist LaKela Brown’s bas relief, Doorknocker Still Life Cluster with Eleven Golds (2020), centers gold hoop earrings in a monument to a feminine aesthetic within early hip hop culture.

Participating artists include Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Sadie Barnette, LaKela Brown, Elizabeth Colomba, David Antonio Cruz, Awol Erizku, Leslie Hewitt, Yashua Klos, Deana Lawson, Azikiwe Mohammed, Rashaad Newsome, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Devan Shimoyama, William Villalongo, and Brittney Leanne Williams.

‘Elegies: Still Lifes in Contemporary Art is curated by Monique Long’, a New York-based independent curator of contemporary art, art advisor, educator, and writer. The exhibition will travel to the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia in fall 2022. Elegies: Still Lifes in Contemporary Art is supported by The Kinkade Family Foundation and The Girlfriend Fund. For more information, please visit the Museum of African Diaspora.

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