Group Exhibition Highlights the Use of Unconventional Portraiture to Question How Identity is Constructed
Featuring David Antonio Cruz, Yashua Klos, Tschabalala Self and Yoon Ji Seon
BRIC is pleased to present Look up here, I’m in heaven, a group exhibition of unconventional portraits featuring paintings, works on paper, and mixed-media work by David Antonio Cruz, Yashua Klos, Tschabalala Self, and Yoon Ji Seon. Genres are cut up and new materials enter the conversation, unraveling the traditional understanding of portraiture as a singular representation of an individual. By countering old narratives which had long framed the representation of persons of color—of privilege and exclusion, vulnerability and typecasting—the four artists foreground their diverse perspectives and question how identity unfolds.
While cultural and political realities are central elements of the work on view, the artists in Look up here, I’m in heaven create imagery that aims to transcend the here and now to establish a more transcendent sense of self. Although the artists shed physical, temporal markers of identity in their works, they never fully escape the world at hand. In exploring issues of race and representation, the figures portrayed by David Antonio Cruz, Yashua Klos, Tschabalala Self, and Yoon Ji Seon, also seem to be bound up in gazing upon, or imagining a different reality. They aim for a form of transcendence—not quite heaven, but a place where the self can exist on its own terms.
Curated by Elizabeth Ferrer, Vice President of Contemporary Art at BRIC, and Jenny Gerow, Assistant Curator, Look up here, I’m in heaven is on view from June 30 – August 14 at BRIC House (647 Fulton Street), home of Downtown Brooklyn’s largest contemporary art gallery. An opening reception will take place on Wednesday, June 29, 7-9pm. Gallery hours are Tuesday–Saturday, 10am-6pm; Sunday, 12-6pm, and closed Mondays. Gallery admission is free. In conjunction with the exhibition, a series of performance art, music, and dance programs that respond to the exhibition will take place in the gallery. All are free, on Wednesday nights at 7 pm.The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.
David Antonio Cruz works across painting and mixed media, performance, and video, to explore his identity as a queer artist negotiating the politics of gender, race, immigration, and cultural difference. In Look up here, I’m in heaven, he presents erotically charged self-portraits and underscores the visceral, physical elements of identity, pouring paint over some of the bodies in his compositions and calling them his “chocolate works.” On Wed, July 6 at 7pm, Cruz will perform How To Order A Chocolate Cake, in addition to performances by artists Jaamil Olawale Kosoko and David Thomson.
To work through issues of race, identity and community, Yashua Klos employs techniques like woodcutting and etching to produce innovative, large-scale collages, expansive figurative portraits of friends and fellow artists rendered in a quasi-cubist, bricolage style.
Similarly, Tschabalala Self employs printmaking, painting, fabric, and other materials to create fragmented collages that challenge misconceptions of black femininity within and outside of her community. Self employs a bricolage of various prints and fabric that flatten and abstract her subjects, sometimes beyond recognition. Self will present all new work for this exhibition at BRIC House.
In her ongoing series Rag Face, Yoon Ji Seon pairs photography with colorful multilayered machine-sewn thread to create a totally new form of self-portraiture. Photographing herself with comically exaggerated features, she further distorts her printed face allowing the thread to pull, cinch, and twist her features into painful submission, speaking to the pervasiveness of plastic surgery in South Korea. Yoon’s eyes are the only part of her face not obscured by thread.
Elizabeth Ferrer, Vice President, Contemporary Art at BRIC said, “The portrait has become a loaded subject in contemporary practice. Particularly for artists (or subjects) of color, it often becomes a socio-political tool, a pointed declaration of ethnic or racial identity. With the selection of the four artists in Look up here, co-curator Jenny Gerow and I asked ourselves if it was possible for artists to portray traditionally marginalized subjects while looking beyond the specificities of the here and now. In addition to presenting the work of Cruz, Klos, Self, and Yoon, we are excited about the possibility of using the gallery at BRIC House as a platform for varied programs that respond to the art on view - performance art, music, dance, conversation, and yoga.”
PERFORMANCES AND PUBLIC PROGRAMS
All events are free, open to the public, and take place on the Stoop at BRIC House.
An Evening of Performance Art
Wed, July 6 at 7pm
Performances by artists David Antonio Cruz, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, and David Thomson that explore contradictions in identity, freedom and materiality of the black/brown body.
Look up here, I’m in heaven Panel Discussion
Wed, July 20 at 7pm
Join artists David Antonio Cruz and Tschabalala Self from Look up here, I’m in heaven, as they talk about themes and subjects addressed in the exhibition and their individual work.
Brooklyn Raga Massive: Africa Meets India
Wed, August 3 at 7pm
Africa Meets India is an innovative convergence of classical Indian raga melody and Traditional Zimbabwean song.
Summer Art Social
Wed, August 10 from 7-10pm
Celebrate the summer with BRIC's contemporary art program. Join us for an evening of performance and music, celebrating the work of multiple visual artists. The evening will include open studios with our summer artists-in-residence, performance art, a tour of the exhibition on view, and an open mic tribute to shape shifters Prince and David Bowie. Snacks, refreshments and a cold treat will be served.
Lunchtime Yoga and Live Music with Bend & Bloom Yoga
Fri, July 8 – August 12, 1-2pm
Transcend your own body with these mixed-level Vinyasa Flow classes.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
David Antonio Cruz received his BFA from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, and his MFA from the Yale University School of Art. He was recently included in the Portraiture Now exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. He has exhibited at Momenta Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, and Jack Tilton Gallery, all NY; Gateway Projects, Newark, NJ; Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia; and El Museo del Puerto Rico, SJ. He has performed at El Museo del Barrio (Performa 13); The High Line, NY; Art in Odd Places, NY; Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens, NY, and at Longwood Gallery, the Bronx; among others. His residencies include those at Gateway Projects, Newark; LMCC Workspace, NY, and the Skowhegan School of Painting, Madison, ME. In 2006 he took part in the Artist in the Marketplace program, Bronx Museum of the Arts.
Yashua Klos’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at Jack Tilton Gallery, NY. His work has also been included in group shows at Studio Museum in Harlem, the Abrons Art Center, Deitch Projects, and Rush Arts Gallery, all NY; Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ; and Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL, among others. Klos has received residences and grants from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Bemis Center of Contemporary Art. He was the recipient of a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts Grant and a 2014 Joan Mitchell Award. Klos received his BFA from Northern Illinois University and his MFA from Hunter College in New York.
Tschabalala Self has had solo exhibitions at Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York, NY; The Cabin, Los Angeles, CA; T293, Naples, Italy; and at Schur-Narula, Berlin, Germany. Her group exhibitions include those at Thierry Goldberg Gallery; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Yale School of Art Green Gallery, New Haven, CT; Art +Practice, Los Angeles; and at Litvak Contemporary, Tel Aviv, Israel. She has had residencies at the La Brea Studio, Los Angeles; Fountainhead, Miami, FL; T293, Naples; and the American Academy in Rome, Italy, where she was an Al Held Fellow. Self received her BA in Studio Arts from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; and her MFA in Painting/Printmaking from the Yale School of Art, New Haven.
Yoon Ji Seon was born in 1975 in Seoul, South Korea, where she continues to live and work. She has an MFA and BFA in painting from Hannam University, Daejeon, Korea. The artist has had solo exhibitions at Yossi Milo Gallery, New York; Ilwoo Space, Seoul; Space MOM, Cheongju; Song Eun Art Cube, Seoul; Restree, Seoul; and Gallery Halfway, Daejeon. She is the recipient of the 2014 Daejeon Culture and Arts Foundation award, 2012 Ilwoo Photography Prize, and 2011 Song Eun Art Cube award. Rag Face, Yoon Ji Seon’s monograph, was published by Hatje Cantz in 2014 with essays by Young Min Moon and Suejin Shin. She is represented by Yossi Milo Gallery, NY.
BRIC is the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, and one of the largest in New York City. The organization presents and incubates work by artists and media-makers that reflects the diversity of New York. BRIC programs reach hundreds of thousands of people each year.
BRIC’s main venue, BRIC Arts | Media House, offers a public media center, a major contemporary art exhibition space, two performance spaces, a glass-walled TV studio and artist work spaces.
Some of BRIC’s most acclaimed programs include the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park, several path-breaking public access media initiatives, including the newly renamed BRIC TV, and a renowned contemporary art exhibition series. BRIC also offers education and other vital programs at BRIC House and throughout Brooklyn.
In addition to making cultural programming genuinely accessible, BRIC is dedicated to providing substantial support to artists and media makers in their efforts to develop work and reach new audiences.
BRIC is unusual in both presenting exceptional cultural experiences and nurturing individual expression. This dual commitment enables BRIC to most effectively reflect New York City’s innate cultural richness and diversity. Learn more at BRICartsmedia.org.
BRIC’s contemporary art programs benefit from generous public funding from the National Endowment for the Arts; Institute of Museum and Library Services; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; New York State Assemblymembers James F. Brennan, Joseph R. Lentol, Walter T. Mosley, Annette Robinson, and Jo Anne Simon; Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl; New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council, and New York City Council Members Inez D. Barron, Robert Cornegy, Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal, Mathieu Eugene, Vincent J. Gentile, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Darlene Mealy, Mark Treyger, and Jumaane Williams; and the office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Additional private support is provided by Astoria Bank, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Bay and Paul Foundations, Bloomingdale’s, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Forest City Ratner Companies, The Hearst Foundations, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Laurence W. Levine Foundation, The New York Community Trust, Oppenheim Family Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as well as numerous individual supporters.
Abby Clark, BRIC: 718.683.5621, aclark@BRICartsmedia.org