About the Exhibit - The Great Escape
Nina Chanel Abney’s exhibit, The Great Escape, is one view at both Jack Shainman Gallery locations in New York from November 12th — December 23rd, 2020.
The title of the exhibit explores the question of what a world would look like outside of the one we live in which is plagued by discrimination around race and sex (and more). Abney’s paintings explore a fantastical world in which this is the case.
“Is there space for Black autonomy in a world organized by white supremacy? If it were an actual place – a space absent of race relations, antagonistic or friendly – what would it look like? This series responds to these questions by reimagining Black people's relationship to nature, property, and each other.” - Nina Chanel Abney (source)
“Taking inspiration from the fugitive utopias of Black queer social life, these scenes refuse the enclosure of Blackness to topographies of the city and to ideals of heteronormativity. Instead, communal living in rural, wooded outdoors figures as a place for the performance of a Black autonomy that evades the ballistic force of the white gaze.” - Nina Chanel Abney (source)
If you’ve ever been to a museum and seen works from the 19th century of America, you’ll notice that these sweeping beautiful landscapes illustrate a ‘promise land’ for white Europeans who were in search of a better life. However, for many that life was built at the expense of the indigenous people living in America, as well as slave labor required to cultivate the land to be profitable.
“The art historical association of pastoral landscapes with whiteness is fraught; the deep history of expropriation, disenfranchisement, and value extraction that Black people have endured in relation to land requires us to interrogate white supremacist concepts of "belonging" as both property and propriety.” - Nina Chanel Abney (source)
In these scenes, Nina Chanel Abney flips the script and appropriates images of rural farm life to include Black figures instead.
“Taking this terroristic history of white appropriation into account, these paintings propose idyllic scenes of Blackness steeped in care, cultivation, and collective leisure as a figuration of refuge and radical reparation.”- Nina Chanel Abney (source)
“When I begin painting, I have a general idea of what I want the painting to be about, but I have no idea how it will end up looking. Over the last ten years, I think my work has always reflected what was going on at the moment I created it. There’s always been some sense of politics in the work.” - Nina Chanel Abney (source)
“I hope that I’ll gather an audience that can relate in some way, or somehow be inspired by what I’m doing. I don’t set out to attract a specific audience; I’m just trying to create a universal language that will bring everyone together to at least start a discussion around certain topics that are hard to talk about.” - Nina Chanel Abney (source)
About the Artist - Nina Chanel Abney
Abney was born in Chicago and currently lives and works in New York. Abney received her BFA with a dual major in studio art and computer science from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, and her MFA from Parsons School of Design.
“African American contemporary artist and painter who explores race, gender, pop culture, homophobia and politics in her work.” (source)
“Combining representation and abstraction, Nina Chanel Abney’s paintings capture the frenetic pace of contemporary culture.” - Jack Shainman Gallery (source)