DwellingJune 16–July 29, 2023
Dwelling is an exhibition of works by Marcus Jahmal, Cheyenne Julien, Ho Jae Kim, Kenrick McFarlane, Kyung-Me, and Woody De Othello that addresses our complicated relationship to ideas of home. Considering the central place that figurative painting has gained in contemporary art practices the show explores ever-evolving approaches to self-representation. The artists gathered here engage with abstraction, naturalism, and photorealistic precision in order to accentuate the psychological and socio-spatial tension of their built environment, especially domestic interiors. While at times perspectives of home can sustain and nurture our bodies, they can also suggest the entrapment of people’s subjectivities. Following this threat, the artists in this exhibition explore psychologically taut environments that imply both a sense of physical embranglement, and a glimpse at complex emotional states through thick washes of color, symmetry, and dramatic shifts in perspective. Gestural abstraction, expressionist color, and a sense of comic formalism are used to portray emotional, physical, and psychological impact. They share a sense of indirect unease as the figures depicted do not seem able to address the viewer directly.
San Francisco-based artist Woody De Othello is known for his reimagining of domestic spaces where perspective seems to melt away and twist into surreal new forms. In vivid, saccharine color the artist abstracts oversized figures and objects through ceramic sculptures and paint. For Dwelling, De Othello has created a free-standing tableau of these anthropomorphized objects and imagery which act as a center stage for the exhibition’s metaphorics of interiority.
Kenrick McFarlane’s portraits of ghostly figures rendered in thick washes of color evoke tensions of the public and private self, and bring into question concepts of vulgarity and beauty. Formally posed figures are partially erased and blurred appearing as though they almost seep into the canvas. Based in Los Angeles, McFarlane’s practice negotiates the gaps and contradictions between interior and exterior selves through lucid, expressive, and dream-like canvases that draw on a range of histories from German Expressionism to trap.
Also working with expressionist color is the Brooklyn-based artist Marcus Jahmal. A self-taught artist, his domestic scenes rich with metaphors are often drawn from his life growing up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood surrounded by a West Indies community. Jahmal’s scenes skew a sense of linear perspective, depicting interior scenes of individuals at home. Spaces lose their depth, slowly caving inwards as the floors rise and walls lean in, creating an air thick with psychological tension.
Other works express this sense of entrapment in a more naturalistic style, such as the works of Brooklyn-based artist Ho Jae Kim. Kim’s works on view depict often solo figures that seem frozen. In Day 3: The Janitor (2020) a uniformed man is seen sweeping from behind. The figure’s seemingly mundane task is elevated to theatrical heights as he is perfectly centered under an ornate arch and bathed in lurid stage-like lighting which juxtaposes the janitor’s anonymity and nearly invisible labor.
Kyung-Me’s three works on view from the series Papillon de Nuit (2019) share this mood of suspension and psychologically tautness. The Brooklyn-based artist operates within a rigid sense of order, creating meticulously detailed interior settings that have a near perfect symmetry of mirrors, columns, curtains, and spotlights. At first, each scene appears empty. Looking more closely, the viewer can find reference to the depicted space’s occupant in each: a hand draped over the arm of a chair, or an abandoned shoe. The works give the sense of something darker lurking in the shadows, almost as if these ornate modern homes have overtaken their inhabitants.
In rich reds and purples, the work Morning Cigarette by Cheyenne Julien depicts a single woman seated at a table, Julien’s grandmother whom she would visit in Spanish Harlem as a child. She is rendered in with exaggerated features, smoking while lost in thought. The work resonates with a profound hushed atmosphere, the woman’s weary expression pushing against the comic depiction in thick primary color.
Cheyenne Julien (b. 1994, Bronx, New York) lives and works in the Bronx, NY. She received her BFA in Painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2016. She has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Chapter NY, New York; Smart Objects, Los Angeles; Water McBeer, New York; and American Medium, New York. Julien’s work has also been included in group exhibitions at Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Galerie Hussenot, Paris; Hotel Europe, Zurich; Carl Freedman Gallery, Kent, GBR; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; the Schlossmuseum, Linz, AUR; The Jewish Museum, New York; Gladstone Gallery, New York; Public Art Fund, New York; the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; The Harvey Gantt Center, Charlotte, NC; Mitchell-Innes and Nash, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise/Unclebrother, Hancock, NY; Almine Rech Gallery, New York; Karma, New York; Loyal Gallery, Stockholm; and White Cube Bermondsey, London. Julien’s work is included in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; RISD Museum, Providence; University of New Hampshire Museum of Art, Durham, NH; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Ho Jae Kim (b. 1993, South Korea) is a New York-based artist who holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. His works have been acquired by the JP Morgan Chase collection, Morgan Stanley, as well as the X museum in Beijing, and has been featured in publications such as Whitehot Magazine, Artsy, Artnet News, Architectural Digest, Barton’s, and Forbes among others. He is also the founder of Civil Art, a nonprofit that works to amplify voices that advocate cultural awareness of Asian Pacific Islanders through social engagement programs that utilize art and literature. His recent exhibition, “Carousel” is his second solo show with Harper’s, following his debut solo in 2021. Kim has participated in group presentations at Nicodim Gallery, Make Room LA, Christie’s New York, Sotheby’s New York, and Nexx Asia Taipei. Later this year he will present work in group shows at Canal Projects, a nonprofit institute based in New York, and Hive Contemporary Beijing. He will also be presenting his first Los Angeles solo exhibition at Nicodim Gallery this fall.
Kenrick McFarlane (b. 1990, Chicago) received his BFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and studied in the MFA program at University of California, Los Angeles. McFarlane had his debut solo show, Face Off, at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and has since exhibited across the U.S. and South Africa. In 2012, McFarlane was selected by Kerry James Marshall to participate in the exhibition Eclectic Coherence, curated by Dawoud Bey, at Expo Chicago. McFarlane’s work was most recently exhibited as a part of Shattered Glass at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in Los Angeles.
Marcus Jahmal (b. 1990, New York) was raised in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, growing up in a family with roots in the American south. Marcus Jahmal has exhibited widely in the United States, Europe, and Asia. His inaugural monograph, Solid Ghosts, was published in 2018, and he has been the subject of a recent institutional solo exhibition at the Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, in Brest, France.
Kyung-Me (b. 1991, New York) received her MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2018. She has an upcoming solo show this October 2023 at Kiang Malingue, Hong Kong. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Sister, Bureau, New York, NY 2022, Coniunctio with Harry Gould Harvey IV, Bureau, New York, NY, 2019; Poor Thing with Sydney Shen, Hotel Art Pavilion, Brooklyn, 2018; Copy Kitty, Selena Gallery, Brooklyn, 2017; and Bad Korean, 17 Essex Gallery, New York, 2016. She is the author of Bad Korean, published by Spaceface Books (2016), and Copy Kitty (2020). She is professor and educator at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Pacific Northwest College of the Arts. Her drawings belong in the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art Baltimore Museum of Art and the Magasin III.
Woody De Othello (b. 1991, Miami) holds a MFA from the California College of Arts, San Francisco and a BFA from Florida Atlantic University. His work is in the permanent collections of Whitney Museum of American Art; Pérez Art Museum Miami; ICA, Miami; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Seattle Art Museum; LACMA, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; San José Museum of Art, CA; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI; and MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Art, Rome, Italy, and many more. Othello has exhibited widely in group exhibitions at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Hayward Gallery, London; The Met, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, Washington D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia; FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial; 33rd Ljubljana Biennial, Slovenia; and Center for Craft in Asheville, NC, among others. Large-scale public art commissions include San Francisco International Airport; de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and Cityline, Sunnyvale. He is represented by Jessica Silverman, San Francisco; Karma, New York; and Stephen Friedman, London. Othello lives and works in Oakland, CA.
Special thanks to the artists; Canal Projects Board of Managers and Advisory Board, especially April Bang, James Kim; The YS Kim Foundation; Filomela Aguirre-Ono; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Almine Rech; Beth Rudin DeWoody; Bureau, New York; Chapter NY; Collection of Alix Madigan and David Yorkin; Collection of David Madee; Collection of Debi and Steven Wisch; Friedman Benda, New York; Francesca Sonara, New York; Jessica Silverman, especially Sara Wessen Chang for her support; Karma; Kendall and John Talbott; Lorenzo McRae & Nancy Brown; Marc and Livia Straus Family Collection; Mike Kim; and Noah Roy, New York.
Installation views courtesy of Izzy Leung.