Nicola Vassell, former director of Deitch Projects and Pace Gallery, presents “Black Eye”, a show of 21st century black art as a pop up gallery on a quiet cobblestoned backstreet. The beautiful, Jamaican born Vassell first came to New York as a model, and graced many high profile ad campaigns and glossy magazines. Since then, she has become an admired fixture in the New York art world, curating, editing artists books, and working closely with artists like Kehinde Wiley, Raqib Shaw and Francesco Clemente. After leaving Pace, Nicola founded ConceptNV as an “art ideation laboratory.” “Black Eye,” her initial project combines old school Soho art integrity with a cutting edge clarity. This show will bring renewed energy to art as political discourse, as well as a much needed creative jolt for the downtown community.
The twenty six artists include established icons like David Hammons and Gary Simmons, along with work by Steve McQueen, Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu, Kehinde Wiley, Rashid Johnson and young emerging artists.. The wide ranging survey includes paintings, sculpture, photos and collage. Lynette Yiadom Boakey’s “Firecrest”, a portrait with an unswerving gaze is the first American exhibition for the English painter, and is on loan from London’s Franks-Suss collection.
The two story, formerly industrial space presents installations and projections in the basement, allowing the viewer a more personal introduction to the artists featured in the first floor exhibition. Three video portraits by filmmaker Danilo Parra focus on Mutu, Jacolby Satterwhite and Hank Willis Thomas.
Using the Obama era as a touchstone, “Black Eye” examines contemporary notions of blackness with a decidedly new millennial perspective. Like Thelma Golden’s groundbreaking 1995 show “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity” this survey explores gender, transculturalism and politics.
Opening night was a jammed event, with a crowd representing New York at it’s most cutting edge. Vassell says, “A black eye is our true tool – the thing a lot of us rely heavily on for this art world to even exist. But at the same time, a black eye is the documentation of having been bruised.”
Holding true to Kerry James Marshall’s mixed media piece, “Buy Black,” a limited run edition of “#BlackOriginal” t shirts, designed by Heron Preston, is available as a sartorial embodiment of art, politics and fashion.
Words: Ilka Scobie
Photo: Wangechi Mutu Eat Cake, 2012 video (black and white) Courtesy of the artist and Barbara Gladstone Gallery
Curated by Nicola Vassell/ 57 Walker Street NY through May 24