Photography by Ruben Natal-San Miguel
In this moment of political turmoil, artists have taken on the responsibility to continue fighting back against inequality through exhibition and protest. “You look at the boards of these some of these companies and you just wonder – [you] see there’s no inclusion happening here,” says collector and curator Racquel Chevremont, the partner of artist Mickalene Thomas and the co-curator of their exhibition The Aesthetics of Matter: a group show of four men and four women artists of color. Participating artists, all born after 1980, worked in an array of materials, employing methods such as collage and assemblage. The exhibition took place at the 2018 Volta art show in New York City, and stood out for its fresh take on contemporary artists striving for a different approach.
Mickalene Thomas is herself a deeply insightful artist who makes collage-like paintings. A shining star of the New York and international art scene since her debut, Thomas makes paintings of women lounging in interiors or landscapes bringing one into a world of sensuality and glamor. In a recent interview for Gallerylog.com Thomas noted, “It’s always about inclusion.” This philosophy shines in “The Aesthetics of Matter,” featuring works by artists Tomashi Jackson, Troy Michie, Devin N. Morris, Christie Neptune, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, David Shrobe, Didier William and Kennedy Yanko,
Those who have a limited appreciation for culture always underestimate the power of new art and the strength of propaganda and its effect on corrupt political and social situations. Thomas wants to bring new unheard voices into the conversation, “There’s a moment of truth for each of us, and so we just need to give people those platforms and consideration,” she says.
Chevremont points to companies who have an all-inclusive image yet still retain non-inclusive racist and sexist policies. Mickalene Thomas emphasizes the need for truth and expanding the conversation to include multiple viewpoints, “There’s truth in every angle of perception,” Thomas has said. The Aesthetics of Matter investigated accordingly, exploring truth through painting, photography, performance, sculpture, language and text. In a video interview in Paul Laster’s recent Garage Magazine piece, Thomas remarks, “It’s not about trying to change each other, it’s about trying to live with the differences that we all could bring to the table.” For her it’s a question of tolerance: finding it, inspiring it, and portraying it visually for the world to devour.
Below are the eight artists to watch: