"Material Realities" in LookOut! Art Gallery

January 18, 2016 (All day) - February 12, 2016 (All day)
LookOut! Art Gallery
362 Bogue Street
East Lansing, MI 48825
United States

In January 2016, RCAH is sponsoring the fifth annual artist in residence exhibition in the series “Perspectives on African-American Experience: Emerging Visions."

Artists Nakeya Brown and Andrew Wilson will be in residency in the RCAH from January 16 through January 23, 2016, and will exhibit Material Realities in the RCAH's LookOut! Art Gallery from January 18 through February 12, 2016.

All of the following events for Material Realities are free and open to the public:

  • Residency: January 16-23, 2016
  • Gallery talk and reception: January 18, 2016: 3:30-5 p.m., LookOut! Art Gallery; music by Charlie Burg, Mike Kain, Eric Smith, and Frances Master, and spoken word performance by Ade Olaniran
  • Presentation with Nakeya Brown -- "Looking for Likeness: Photographing Black Female Identity": January 19, 2016: 5:30-7 p.m., RCAH Theater
  • Exhibition: January 18-February 12, 2016

LookOut! is open Monday through Friday, 12 to 3 p.m. and by special request.

Material Realities

For the first time, we chose two artists for the 2016 Fifth Annual Perspectives on African-American Experience: Emerging Visions residency and exhibition program at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Both are young but mature; both are working on their MFAs – Nakeya Brown at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Andrew Wilson at the University of California, Berkeley. Nakeya has exhibited in New York City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Grand Rapids, and other cities, and Andrew has exhibited in the Bay Area, Brooklyn, and Albuquerque, among other locales.

Beyond these similarities, Nakeya and Andrew create works that are complementary in their commitments to the multiple material realities of objects. For each of them, objects are both factual and solid and also able to conjure whole worlds, socially, emotionally, historically, and spiritually.

Nakeya’s vivid photographs of composed still-life objects extend this traditional genre of Western art to hair care objects that are markers of African-American women’s experiences of community, intimacy, beauty, and personal identity.

Andrew’s crafted objects take numerous forms, including books, lanterns, necklaces, and photographs on cloth. The hand-wrought nature of these objects emphasizes their materiality, while their surfaces, inscriptions, and imagery tell stories about Black masculinity and sexuality in contemporary and historical terms.

We are given two takes, then, on the roles that objects play in constructing community and identity and in reflecting on these. Both artists invite us into worlds we may already know or are entering for the first time. We are grateful for their hospitality; with Nakeya and Andrew as your guides, please enter and experience, explore, converse about, and contemplate these worlds.

Nakeya Brown

There’s a place in contemporary American culture for African American truth telling. To tell it like it is or to tell it like it isn’t or to tell it like you dreamed it up.

 - Kara Walker, contemporary artist

As part of the process of reflecting on how far America has progressed along racial lines, my work offers an opportunity to examine the way African-Americans – specifically women – find a location in society in which our existence is affirming, powerful, and reflective. I am most concerned with using photography as a tool for representation and imagination. My practice centers itself on black female subjectivity, black beauty, and often uses hair as an apparatus to identify facets of womanhood. I utilize time-specific effects that have racialized, commodified, and cultural relevance in relationship to black women's bodies and lived experiences. The shower cap, the hot comb, vinyl records depicting images of iconic African-American songstresses, the perm kit, and hair dryers are just a few of the articles I photograph to entwine the materiality of the world with identity formation. Through my work, I hope to expand the bountiful actualities of African-American women by critiquing beauty ideals defined by Western standards.

Andrew Wilson

My work is partly autobiographical, partly historical, and partly storytelling. It is also based in a strong technical understanding of multiple media and how each one can tell different parts of one multidimensional story. I’ve learned to bend boundaries and push towards new terrain, while still quoting those who came before me.

I draw my inspiration from acts of Black men carving out space for ourselves in a culture that seeks to destroy us. My goal is to give queer Black men a platform that exists outside of the sashay and couture we are so commonly associated with. Conventional categorizing of Black men as criminals, thugs, uneducated, and sexually perverse scares me. I want to offer an idea that challenges these social norms. If you are patient and quiet enough, my work will take you on a journey to a space where art, artist, and viewer – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, class, and other compartmentalizing tropes – can drop our guard, be honest, have a dialogue, and become vulnerable again.