Lavaughan Jenkins: Love Liberates
1700 S Santa Fe Ave #101, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Saturday, July 13 at 4:00 PM 6:00 PM
Ends Aug 23, 2024
Vielmetter Los Angeles is pleased to announce Love Liberates, Lavaughan Jenkins’s second exhibition with the gallery, on view July 13 to August 24, 2024. An intrinsic understanding of the palpable materiality of paint and its manipulation underlies Jenkins’s approach to painting. Through exuberant impasto, an ingenious sense of color, and abstracted figuration, Jenkins creates a lush foundation of marks and brushstrokes by adding, scraping, and repeating luxuriant quantities of paint using brushes, palette knives, and his hands—working and reworking the surfaces while remaining open to fortuitous drips and spills. Forms and figures emerge, and frequently tumble over the edges of the canvas, and, in some cases, expand to occupy the space around the painting. Love Liberates features Jenkins’s signature images of women, figurative three-dimensional paintings, and a selection of recent “Love Portal” paintings. The three series of interrelated paintings explore identity, memory, and the dualities that exist between our public personae and our private interior lives. Jenkins articulates the complex relationships between the visceral pleasures of paint application and the disquieting layers of personal memories buried in our psyche. By weaving together figurative and abstract works that in totality examine the self and related recollections, he addresses collective generational trauma, especially the violences experienced by Black women. Poet Maya Angelou’s writing about love, connection, and trauma resonates for Jenkins, particularly in how we are all “only a mother apart” and how women have the power to change the world. As Angelou said in 2019: Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go. Jenkins has also been influenced by Francisco Goya’s and Philip Guston’s impactful use of paint to convey authenticity, emotion, moral outrage, and social injustices. In particular, Jenkins admires how Goya astutely observes the inner states of women in portraits that capture each character’s essence. Working in the figurative tradition of Kerry James Marshall—whose silhouetted black figures portray and honor both historical and contemporary people—and Mickalene Thomas—whose work embodies Black womanhood in maximalist portraits composed of thickly painted passages embellished with rhinestones—Jenkins focuses on the history of painting and artwork that addresses social justice to emphatically claim the fullness of our humanity. To achieve this, Jenkins has created a distinctive iconography. In the paintings featuring women, most frequently Black women, he highlights them as icons of resilience and beauty and complements them with lushly textured backgrounds of gridded ivory or other chromatic arrangements. For him, they are more than muses, they serve as powerful presentations of women usually absent from history. Depicted anonymously with gentle sweeps of paint effacing individual features, the women convey charisma, poise, and power through their stance and their apparel. Referencing specific people in Jenkins’s life or celebrity icons, the women—dressed in attire that showcases the influence of Black culture on fashion—are often accompanied by Jenkins’s talismanic figures of protection which sit in the lower corners of the canvas. These “protectors” or “watchers,” as Jenkins refers to them, guard the memories that each canvas holds. Existing as sculptures, the three-dimensional watchers Jenkins calls “Nigel” stand and witness the women and portals. Comprised of multiple layers of thick swirls and sweeps, appearing like the twirls of cake frosting or billows of whipped cream, where instead of sugary vanilla tones, the shades range from midnight-black, red-black, rusty umber with bright splotches of yellow or pink, cohering into a humanoid figure with both feet firmly planted and arms hanging at rest. The emotionality of the figures suggests how the watchers facilitate the recall of memories from our subconscious. Like Jenkins’s female figure paintings and the watchers, the “Love Portals” act as a record of moments and reminders of lost loves and past relationships. Vividly abstract, the shifting color spectrums and radiating vortexes within each work are carefully calibrated in resonance with each of the painting’s specific memories, which the titles then allude to. These abstracted memory portals represent a more interior, intimate side of one’s identity. Jenkins considers these paintings a physical manifestation towards awe, the sublime, and the grotesque, in contrast to a digitally saturated world. A meditation on memory and personal history, solitude and tenderness, introspection and expectation, the portals suggest joy and intimacy, but also despair and fear all at once. Jenkins’s intention to convey the fullness of human experience is echoed in the richness of the materials. The teeming, gorgeously abundant materiality of paint and color convey joy and love, and the intense physicality of the works impresses with the fervor of feeling as we consider watching and being watched, connecting with others to share or turning inward to our own most joyful and tragic memories, embracing the fullness of human experience in a deeply painful moment in history.
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