TNM Studios Jan 2023 Newsletter
I haven’t forgotten about y’all…just needed some time to myself.
I had to repair a work of mine that required me to stay so present for the last two months of 2022 that I could barely write much of anything. What occurred wasn’t a writer’s block but a demand for complete presence + looking forward. I’ve generally used this newsletter to share what has occurred + what is to come but will change that up just a bit this time.
I started writing this to you all from Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan when it was 2023 + also still News Year’s Eve in the states. I have been holed up for the past week processing the year, resting, eating good food, staying away from my laptop + walking around this amazing city. I first visited Tokyo with a group of friends in Nov 2017 and it was a longtime dream come true. Now, after a planned trip in 2020 was thwarted by the pandemic, I am finally back + settled in for a solid 12 days to recover from the noise of the year, while receiving the inherent care that the city offers in its structure. It is a quiet city, lots of people but quiet + low sound. I can see and think clearer here more than anywhere else I’ve traveled. Within 48hrs of being here I felt very much like a weight had fallen off.
I will not be back in the studio until Jan 15th. I have never taken time away like this before. It is crucial + will be a yearly happening.
When thinking about the last newsletter of the year I thought long + hard about the approach I wanted to take here. 2022 was the best professional year of my life and also the hardest personal year of my life in many ways. My health was the center for the year. I wanted to get ahead of the amount of work that I had on deck so I worked out rigorously, lost weight, gained muscle + set my internal health right by focusing on myself in a way that I have not done before since being an athlete in high school. At the top of the year, I ended a long-term romantic relationship + recovered privately over the year from a broken heart and decided to take the year away from all romantic love to push that love into my friends + peers. It has been such a lovely dedication of that energy + I am so much better for that time spent alone. Last year made me want to feel everything: all of the shifts and develop a new measure of self across my life. Spiritually I stuck to my ita unlike no year that I had before + that yielded real personal awareness + growth. I also had two therapists who provided support in multiple ways: one provided the standard upkeep of the emotional + mental, then the other challenged me to dig deeper to uproot myths through a myth-work path (a Jungian model for those interested). What started as five sessions is in the 30s now and I have a new found courage to break form of self. This has yielded more room to experience new things all around.
I also want to share something here in hopes that some can relate + find helpful. I had a bit of a health scare that lasted for most of the year + it was recently cleared a few weeks ago. In 2022 because of my age (41 years old) + my family’s health history (which unfortunately is much worse than my own) I had to have all the big adult screenings. You name it I had it done – endoscopy, colonoscopy, blood work… thankfully all clear. Back scans yielded a chronic back issue that many people who sit + edit for long periods of time have, which I alleviated with dedicated strength training + am now pain free. Then there was my first proper mammogram which returned some concerning news which shaped the way I decided to spend my time + focus last year outside of my work. Things were thankfully cleared by my doctor + found to be benign. I am sharing this now because I want to encourage anyone who is of the age of 40+ to please get your first mammogram in line. That first scan can save your life + will guarantee a set point to base all future changes off of. Many places offer these for free. Early detection is key so please put it on the to do list for this new year, trust me, you will be better for it.
Now for the studio…
My first ever studio assistant Rodney Murray was a gift + his last day at the studio was Dec 22nd. I want to take time here to acknowledge him + the fact that I would not have made it through this year of juggling admin + exhibitions without his support. Rodney was my main support for The Trace of An Implied Presence which closed Dec 11th after a four-month run. There were many times where Rodney had to step up + be my voice in difficult moments working with the institution (more on this later). This project was hands down the hardest thing I had taken on + the only work that I had to take time away from because of the utter lack of care + internal chaos within the institution. I worked through offenses that one could not imagine to put forth a dynamic exhibition of dance centering Black dancers + conceptual frameworks. Working with someone like Rodney who has a background in dance was a great experience + working with someone who is also based in Philadelphia was crucial. I am beyond thankful for his presence in this project + for working with me last year. Rodney is sharp, kind, + also a great dancer + theorist.
Press was interested in my work in a way this year that I still cannot wrap my head around. So much so that I am a bit tired of myself in that regard. But I do want to share some recent news…
Recently I was named a Breakout Star of 2022 by the New York Times alongside Quinta Brunson and a few other actors, dancers + artists. MASK/CONCEAL/CARRY at 52 Walker was named as one of the Best Art of 2022 by NY Times as well. My work Fig. VIII. W 22mm, 2022 from MASK/CONCEAL/CARRY was featured as one of the Defining Artworks of 2022 by ARTnews. New York Magazine named MASK/CONCEAL/CARRY as one of the Best New York Art Shows of 2022. Most recently the group exhibition on view now at El Museo del Barrio, Juan Francisco Elso: Por América, got a necessary + through feature as Critic’ Pick in the NY Times . This exhibition was the most important for me last year as I am a deep admirer of Olga Viso’s curatorial practice. Being curated by her was a dream + paying tribute to Elso + my orisha Ogun through my work was an honor.
You all can check out a proper breakdown of the press from the year here – links for days. Immense gratitude to all who took the time to write about my work + to speak with me.
Now, I want to share a few of my top art moments + moments that were poignant to me that I saw through watching + supporting those outside of my practice. Some friends, some fellow artists + many folks I’ve never met but have found inspiration from the past year.
Nikyatu Jusu delivering her feature film Nanny + receiving massive support + critical praise after winning the 2022 Sundance Grand Jury Prize was a moment to witness from afar. Jusu is someone that I have been in a room with a few times and she has always had a steady + calm warrior spirit. I have seen a few of her past works + was thrilled to see this film be awarded at that level. She has worked for a long time, quietly and steadily. Horror is a tough genre to tackle + I will be watching Nanny (in the daytime or with all the lights on).
Kenny Rivero’s solo presentation at Morán Morán, Mexico City was a stunner. Rivero is an artist that I have long admired. His painting style + mostly the way spirit shows up in his compositions is a revelation. This exhibition was made even more beautiful within the architecture of the exhibition space.
Nikita Gale is my artist of the year. When you see an artist’s work at the scale that I saw Nikita’s this year it must be paid attention to with a deeper reading. I saw a lot of Nikita’s work + each time I was taken by it. Gale’s solo at 52 Walker was my favorite out of the first year of the gallery’s solos; IN A DREAM YOU CLIMB THE STAIRS at Chisenhale Gallery delivered concrete curtains; their presentation at the BMW sector, which featured custom electric guitars made of car materials at Frieze London, blew me away; + the marble cassette tapes I saw while at Art Basel Miami were stunning. Their work consistently was a challenge for the mind in the best way possible +, as a sound lover, the way they wield it alongside silence in the objects + installations they make is like no other doing it.
Nicole Miller’s Michael in White, 2022 at Art Basel Miami was one of the best artworks I have ever seen. I am writing about this at length at the moment. STUNNING + difficult work with a presence so strong it demands its own room to view the work. I was shaken by the gravity of this sculpture. I also admire the pacing of Miller’s practice which I see so clearly in the work that she presents.
Kevin Beasley’s exhibition A body, revealed at the Hill Art Foundation was a great presentation. The top moment was the Guston book intervention. Such a strong statement. Overall, I enjoyed finding Kevin's work in the space, which felt so right for the haunting element that some of the sculptures possess.
Rhea Dillon’s work at Gladstone Gallery + her solo with Soft Opening’s Frieze London booth was a highlight of the year for me. I recently wrote about Dillon’s artwork for ArtForum’s The Artists’ Artists end of 2022 series. I think the work is so deeply elegant + the conceptual rigor that she brings to her work is admirable. Her writing + poetry are also something to be reckoned with.
Jean Michel Basquiat’s King Pleasure exhibition presented by his family was dense + an epic undertaking. So many moments to consider around the subjectivity of his work. Such a generous exhibition.
Baltimore Museum of Art – The Darrel Ellis Exhibition, A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, their permanent collection…I could go on but BMA is just one of the best museums doing it. Rigorous and beautiful exhibitions. Curator Jessica Bell Brown is a force. I plan to spend more time there this year.
Kunstmuseum Basel – Louis Bourgeois x Jenny Holzer. Was a STUNNING duet between two artists + makes the case for the artist as curator. One of the best exhibitions of the year for me.
Harmony Holiday’s MAAFA – one of the best books of the year. I spent ample time with all of Holiday’s texts + had the honor of engaging with her for a reading + text commission for The Trace of An Implied Presence.
Michael Armitage’s You Who Are Still Alive at Kunsthalle Basel curated by Elena Filipovic. I saw the show + was moved to tears. I had the chance to ask Michael how he deals with such difficult imagery in his work. This is an interest of mine – how to render intersubjective imagery that does not discard beauty in its difficulty.
Barbara Chase-Riboud’s first UK solo ‘Barbara Chase-Riboud: Infinite Folds’ curated by Yesomi Umolu ensured this amazing artist as one of the most important interdisciplinary artists of her generation.
Laura Henno – Ge Ouryao ! Pourquoi T’as Peur ! at Palais de Tokyo had such a strong install + the tone was so thorough in a way that made the engagement more profound.
Working with Leslie Duguid of Du-Good Press for my print at 52 Walker was a moment where I realized the spirit of collaboration and what it meant to work with + alongside a true master of form. Leslie is a genius + it was such an honor to be only the second person to handle + print my own work in her shop.
Viola Davis’ Elle Brasil cover photographed by MAR + VIN was the most breathtaking suite of images I have seen of Davis. As a dark-skinned woman, it was powerful to see an image that looked so beautifully correct.
Frida Kahlo’s shoes that are on view in Paris - I have not seen these in person but the image of these shoes shook me to my core. As someone living with a primary stealth + invisible disability such as autism, I felt these shoes made such a statement about what it means to hide, to blend + to still flex beauty. So much more to say but they brought tears to my eyes.
Rewind + Play the Thelonious Monk documentary shook me to my core. A cautionary tale told through the re-editing of cinema verité TV footage. The manipulation and the shear exploitation on view is unlike anything I’ve seen.
Simone White’s performance for her book or, on being the other woman at Poetry Project blew me away. White read from the text while trap music came in + out, drowning her lovely voice, all while she selected readers from the audience to read from an unpublished manuscript sequenced on the wall while a live transcriptionist typed her language + corrected error in real time. It was gorgeously controlled chaos.
Cecile McLorin Salvant at The Blue Note. Singing Broadway showtunes. UNREAL. The eye contact alone.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Fly In League With The Night exhibition at Tate Britain. The scale of the works and the gorgeous titles. The sequencing of the paintings stood out for me.
Witnessing my dearest friend Danielle Deadwyler signing autographs outside her hotel broke my mind. My best friend, closest longtime collaborator + muse is a star.
Dorothea Rockburne at her loft in Soho was a revelation. I had not had a conversation with an elder who seemed so thrilled that I had a breakthrough year for my work + also was very sure to remind me of the seasons that come with popularity across a long career.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On moved me on a flight back from London. One of the best films of the year. Akin to my love for baby Yoda. Such a deeply moving way to talk about grief + separation.
Steffani Jemison’s A rock. A river, A street novella. Jemison is one of my favorite artists + this book encouraged me as it is just as nuanced and complex as her work and makes a strong case for the book as object as painting as…
Announcements + Exhibitions + Events + and all else…
2023 will be full, that’s all I will share for now. I have a range of exhibitions on the calendar as well as writing projects + books that will be released that I have small parts in. Overall, I plan to slow down time a bit and will be in the studio more as I am finally back on time, schedule wise. More new work + the revisiting of past works unfinished.
The Trace of An Implied Presence has a publication as well as a limited-edition t-shirt (only 150 exist) that I made with Nike exclusively for this exhibition. The publication features long-form essays by writers personally selected by myself: poet/writer Harmony Holiday, scholar Jasmine E. Johnson, + scholar Samantha N. Sheppard offer a deeper reading of the research behind the exhibition. I also deliver an introductory essay giving more narrative to the creation of the work and various inspirations. This publication is FREE, a limited one-edition run + is only available from my studio.
Nike + I will also be working on a book launch event set to take place in Feb 2023 + be held at their NYC headquarters that will feature the writers included in the exhibition.
Looking forward to Chryssa & New York at Dia, NYC. I provided a text for the upcoming exhibition catalogue. Overall, all of Dia’s upcoming and current exhibitions are the best all around. Stunning work.
I will be in conversation with my Baba for a special program at El Museo del Barrio in support of the Juan Francisco Elso retrospective project this month – details coming soon.
That’s all I got. I want to thank you all for reading + am excited to share more this year. Last year was a reckoning + this year I have the rare chance to steady the practice + also push things further. I’m excited for what’s ahead.
Happy New Year!