Faith Ringgold: A Survey | Judith F. Baca: The Great Wall of Los Angeles | Karon Davis: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
925 N Orange Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Saturday, May 20 at 6:00 PM 8:00 PM
Ends Aug 12, 2023
Faith Ringgold: A Survey at Jeffrey Deitch is the celebrated artist’s first survey exhibition in Los Angeles. Realized in close collaboration with ACA Galleries, the overview features artwork from the 1960s to the present demonstrating her career-spanning commitment to social justice and equity through a variety of media including oil paintings, tankas, soft sculptures, story quilts and prints. The artworks in the exhibition weave together autobiographic details, fictional accounts and historic events into ambitious narratives that speak to universal truths of the human condition. Oil paintings from the 1960s begin Ringgold’s investigation into the complexities of gender and racial identities in America and set the stage for the next five decades of work. The political posters, soft sculptures, masks and tankas the artist produced in the 1970s continue her advocacy for political and societal change while challenging the historical divisions between fine art, graphic design and craft. The tankas’ use of written words within figurative paintings, framed by pieced fabric borders are the precursors to her well-known story-quilts created between 1980 and 2010. The exhibition includes two new silkscreen editions: Dancing on the George Washington Bridge 2 (2021) printed on silk with unique hand quilted borders, and Woman Looking in a Mirror 2 (2022), an edition based on the 1966 painting of the same title. This exhibition coincides with Ringgold’s first major traveling retrospective appearing first in New York at the New Museum of Contemporary Art (February 17-June 5, 2022); the DeYoung Museum, San Francisco (July 16–November 27, 2022); Musée Picasso, Paris (January 31 – July 2, 2023) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (November 18, 2023 – February 25, 2024). Faith Ringgold is an artist, activist, educator and author of numerous award-winning children’s books. Tar Beach, her first children’s book based on a quilt of the same title, has won over twenty awards including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991. Ringgold is the recipient of more than eighty awards and honors including the Simon Guggenheim Award for Painting (1987) and two National Endowment for the Arts Awards in sculpture (1978) and painting (1989). Most recently she was elected as a member into The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, MA (2017) and The American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY (2021). She received the Louis Auchincloss Prize from the Museum of the City of New York (2021) and will be the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Painting in May 2023. She has been presented with twenty-six Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. Ringgold’s artwork is in the permanent collections of numerous museums in the United States and abroad including Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Boston Museum of Fine Art, MA; Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD; High Museum, Atlanta, GA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery, Washington, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Studio Museum in Harlem, NY and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England. ACA Galleries has been the exclusive representative of Faith Ringgold since 1995. Image: Faith Ringgold, United States of Attica (1972) ____ Over the course of six blistering summers starting in the late 1970s, Judith F. Baca recruited a small team of artists and over four hundred at-risk youth to create the most significant public art monument of her native city, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. Stretching along the walls of the Tujunga Wash, the landmark mural is a half mile-long celebration of the multi-cultural history of California from the prehistoric era through the 1950s. The Great Wall of Los Angeles at Jeffrey Deitch brings the viewer behind the scenes of this iconic work of art through the maquettes, sketches and coloration studies that demonstrate the mural’s development process. The exhibition unveils the plans for the extension of The Great Wall by an additional half mile to represent seminal events from the 1960s to 2010s made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation received in 2020. With The Great Wall, Baca furthered her commitment to proclaim equity for all people and to integrate one’s ethics into their creative expression. She educated and directed her teams through research, sketching and painting the region’s social history from the perspective of women and marginalized communities. Often realized in impoverished neighborhoods, Baca’s projects revitalize the places that host them through the attention and excitement they generate. Her works stem from the awareness that the land has memory and the urge to express the interactive relationship of history, people and place. Like many of Baca’s celebrated projects, The Great Wall of Los Angeles highlights the dignity of hidden historical precedents, restores connections and stimulates new relationships into the future. For over forty years, Judy Baca has been innovating and spearheading the practice of working with local communities to create countless social justice, large-scale vibrant works of art. She founded the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). Today, while continuing to serve SPARC as artistic director, Baca is one of the most celebrated Chicana artists, a world-renowned muralist, social activist and UCLA Professor Emeritus. Baca’s collaborative, portable mural World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear was shown in an enveloping installation at MOCA in 2022. Later this year, Baca’s World Wall will travel to Mexico for an immersive exhibition experience at El Cervantino in Guanajuato, Latin America’s most prominent cultural festival, and her retrospective at The Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City. In March 2023, Baca was awarded the National Medal of Art Recognition by the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, for her monumental impact on public art in America and her collaborative work that “has turned forgotten histories into public memory—pioneering an art form that empowers communities to reclaim public space with dignity and pride.” The Great Wall of Los Angeles at Jeffrey Deitch is Judith F. Baca’s first major exhibition at a commercial gallery. ____ Bobby Seale, bound and gagged in a Chicago courtroom, is one of the most searing images in American history. There were no photographs of this shocking episode during the trial of the Chicago 8 in October 1969, only artists’ sketches. This has made the image even more resonant as we conflate the sketches and subsequent actors’ portrayals in our visual memory. The image of Bobby Seale, physically restrained but defiant, refusing to submit to the judge, has haunted the artist Karon Davis for many years. It became especially provocative during the past years’ incidents of police violence. A powerful sculptural tableau of a bound and gagged Bobby Seale in front of Judge Julius Hoffman and the Chicago jury will confront visitors to Karon Davis’s exhibition. Davis’s theme for this body of work is “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,” a reference to the government’s violent prosecution of the Black Panthers and its distortion of the public’s understanding of the Panthers’ contributions to their community. Davis sees the role of the artist as a keeper of contemporary history, reminding people of past events that still resonate in the present. Karon Davis also has a personal connection to the story of the trial of the Chicago 8. One of her father’s first acting gigs was voicing the role of Bobby Seale for a reading of the trial transcript. The recording was released as a vinyl record, which her father would talk about, but which she had never listened to. She eventually found the LP in an antique shop in Leimert Park, Los Angeles that sold old records in the back. She had begun a sculpture of Bobby Seale bound to a chair about five years ago but had put it aside to pursue other sculptural projects. The image stayed in her mind, and with the violence against black bodies that convulsed much of America in 2020, she decided that it was the right time to engage with his story. Davis tells this story in her unique sculptural language. She has developed a technique that deconstructs the tradition of plaster casting. She fuses life casts of friends and family with casts of her own body parts to create haunting, ghost-like figures. Sections of the bodies are deliberately missing so that the completion of the figure is left to the viewers’ imagination. The brokenness of the works is reflective of the situation in which the figures are broken inside. Davis strives to create an “in-between state,” which captures the soul. Davis is fascinated with ancient Egypt and connects her technique with mummification. She uses strips of plaster to wrap the body, piecing her subjects back together. She also thinks of her sculptural tableaux as mummifying the stories of Black history that she is driven to tell. The artist’s background in theater informs her approach to sculpture. Davis comes from a show biz family and grew up in rehearsal halls. She spent years studying dance and watching performances. Her original intention was to go to film school and make movies. She wanted to tell stories. Her sculptural courtroom is like a frozen scene from a play – a play that the viewer can enter and experience. She “casts” her subjects as a theater director would, in addition to her “casting” them in plaster. She found a model with a remarkable resemblance to Bobby Seale. The sculptures of the twelve jurors appear to be portraits of the actual participants but are cast from people in her inner circle: her sister, her Los Angeles gallerist, friends of her studio manager as well as parts of her own face. Davis predominately makes sculptures of Black figures. She explains that if she has not seen a specific image of Black history in art history, she tries to create it herself. In No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, the viewers are witness to one of the most unjust trials in American history. The work celebrates the defiance of Bobby Seale in the face of injustice. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished was first presented with much acclaim at Jeffrey Deitch New York in 2021. This exhibition is an opportunity to share this work with the Los Angeles art community. Davis, who lives and works in Los Angeles, is the co-founder of the Underground Museum. Karon Davis: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection, featuring three works acquired by the museum in 2019, is on view through April 9. Davis is represented by Walding Cran Gallery.
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