Dionne Lee and Richard-Jonathan Nelson Explore the Black Body in the American Landscape
For Immediate Release: April 10, 2018
Opening Reception: May 5, 4-7pm
In the first ever Spotlight exhibition, Dionne Lee and Richard-Jonathan Nelson investigate the complex relationship between Blackness and nature. Considering histories of violence, the African diaspora, and the perceptions and realities of identity, Lee and Nelson explore the anxieties and trauma associated with the American landscape, and navigate us towards a deeper understanding of who is allowed to benefit from natural environments.
The Black body has become, through years of outward cultural control, synonymous with both toil and the land, but barred from communing with it. This has left many communities to be defined in the American imagination as urban, and as such, dynamically public in their existence. Lee and Nelson stake a claim to the solitude of nature and its potential as a tool for liberation, while acknowledging that at the same time, being alone and Black in the woods means, historically and quite literally, to be at risk for danger. Their work poses the question, “How does the Black body make a home among the soil, grasslands, and foliage of this country under a net of oppression?” Ultimately, through video, photography, and installation, this exhibition provides a new cartography for the safe travel of Black bodies through the terrain of modern wilderness.
About the Artists
Dionne Lee’s practice is based in photography, collage, and video, and engages ideas of agency and power in relation to the American landscape. A touchstone of her research is the history of black bodies on American soil. Specifically, in the labor directly engaged with the land during slavery, the repercussions of the false promise of land in the aftermath of Reconstruction, the synchronized passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Wilderness Act in 1964, up to the impact of urbanization and contemporary expectations of who willfully engages, thrives, and is safe within the foliage of America.
Born in New York City (1988) and based in Oakland, CA, Lee received her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2017. Her work has been exhibited at Aperture Foundation, the school of the International Center of Photography, and Rush Arts Gallery in New York City; Aggregate Space in Oakland; San Francisco Arts Commission, and Root Division in San Francisco. In 2011 Dionne was a Photography Fellow at The Camera Club of New York; in 2016 she was awarded the Barclay Simpson Award and was a Graduate Fellow at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
Richard-Jonathan Nelson is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses textiles, video, and digital manipulation to create alternative worlds of speculative identity. His work is multi-layered, chromatically intense and mixes images of the natural world with reference to hoodoo, queer culture, and Afro-Futurism. He uses his constructed worlds to examine the overlapping spheres of culturally perceived identity and the emotional memory of what it means to be a queer black man. Thereby creating a limbic space free from the weighted excepted western cultural reality, and able to examine the unspoken ways systems of power persist. Nelson received his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2017 with a focus on textiles. His work has been exhibited at Southern Exposure, Embark Gallery, and Root Division in San Francisco, and Aggregate Space and Ctrl + Shift in Oakland, among others. Nelson received the Byron Meyer Scholarship in 2015 and is a 2017 Graduate Fellow at Headlands Center for the Arts.
Press Previews by appointment.
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 5, 2018, 4-7pm.
Hours: 1–6pm every Thursday-Saturday from May 5 - June 2, 2018.
Angelica Jardini, Curatorial Director
Embark Gallery offers exhibition opportunities to current and recently graduated Masters of the Fine Arts students in the San Francisco Bay Area. We provide a space for an engaged community of artists, curators and scholars, and we aim to expand the audience for up and coming contemporary art. The juried exhibitions are held at our gallery in San Francisco at the historic Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.