Diasporagasm at SBC SoLA Gallery
By Genie Davis
Through November 19th
Filled with light, color, and form, Diasporagasm at SBC SoLA Gallery through November 19th presents the vibrant work of artists Bright Ackwerh, Kwame Akoto, Lavialle Campbell, Florine Demosthene, June Edmonds, Cole James, Jeffrey Meris, Jodi Minnis, Nii Kotei Nikoi, Keisha Oliver, Duane Paul, Gio Swaby, Jamaal Tolbert, and Wanlov The Kubolor. The exhibition, which is sponsored by LA Department of Cultural Affairs and curated by Beyoncenista – otherwise known as artist and curator April Bey – is held in two locations. The larger exhibition is at SoLA in South Los Angeles, a second is on display at Michael Stearn’s Studio 347 in San Pedro.
The vivid, fully alive exhibition combines the work of artists from Los Angeles, the Caribbean, West Africa, Haiti, and Ghana, and has its inspiration in this year’s Academy Award-winning Moonlight. Here are the works of 15 artists who address gender, race, and art itself through individual experiences, geographies, and personal histories. The title refers to authority based on those experiences.
Each artist’s work here is as different as their backgrounds. Sculptural, painted, and video works are personal and dynamic, bold and exciting and engage the viewer and challenge preconceptions.
There are a series of incredibly striking works on oil and canvas by June Edmonds, whose primary palette dazzles as does her textural, almost floral, forms. Edmonds has related that her work is inspired by meditation, and has evolved to be detailed and elaborate in regard to her relationship to color. Her rich works explore space and seem to blossom. There is an intrinsic sense of motion to “Dancing on the 110,” “I Hope You’re Happy,” and “That Part.” Even more dazzling is her large-scale acrylic on un-stretched canvas, “Story of the Ohio: For Margaret.” These works are like visual bursts of energy, kaleidoscopic, like cosmic flowers. These are circular forms that spin wildly, yet maintain perfect symmetry and control.
In the center of the main gallery space, a group of sculptural works by Afro-Caribbean artist Duane Paul are created with mixed media such as canvas, wood, resin, and hydrocal cement in “Heavy Coat, Worn,” as well as in a series of numbered “Abstract Arrangement”-titled pieces. If Edmonds’ work is about meditative resilience, joy, and spiritual strength, Paul’s takes a darker tone, with twisted, reaching shapes that the artist describes as thematically dealing with desire, sexuality, loss, decay, and impermanence. Using childhood memories and adult reflection, Paul builds up and tears down sculpturally and symbolically, making his process a part of his thematic references. There is a reaching and yearning in these works, as well as a strong, rhythmic flow to their shapes.
Lavialle Campbell’s dense quilted cotton works, “Isolation” and “One Dream #3” have a haunting resonance, as the artist turns material once denigrated as “women’s work” into a dignified art form that defies categorization, using her stitching as another artist might use a brush. Beautiful mixed media pieces by California-based artist Cole James, including “Private Dancer” which utilizes tar, rubber, acrylic, and textile on satin, are powerful works about perception, identity, and light. The artist notes that the materials he uses employ a tactile quality that he considers revealing of “the unescapable truths of identity….I think about my own experiences as an African American and compare them to the perceptions of identity within the mainstream.” Mixed media works by Florine Demosthene, raised in both Haiti and New York, offer almost otherworldly images, both ethereal and substantive.
Other compelling works include video by Jamaal Hasef Tolbert, Jodi Minnis, and Wanlov the Kubolor – a Ghanaian-Romanian musician and film director whose music video here is an irreverent, highly sexual tour de force. Digital illustrations by Ghanaian satirical artist Bright Ackworth brilliantly take on current politics and social culture.
The overwhelming take-away from this group show is a sense of vital passion in each of the works, regardless of medium. It is an expressive and impressive depiction of self that goes beyond varied backgrounds and experience and is ultimately universal: beyond race, sex, and origin – here is the human experience.