For Immediate Release
15 November 2018
Contact: Jodi Joseph
Director of Communications
Kidspace opens Still I Rise
Featuring artists Gustave Blache III, E2 – Kleinveld & Julien, Genevieve Gaignard, Tim Okamura, and Deborah Roberts
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise
Maya Angelou’s 1978 verse, Still I Rise
NORTH ADAMS, MASSACHUSETTS — On June 15, 2019, MASS MoCA’s Kidspace gallery and art-making studio opens Still I Rise, with new works by Gustave Blache III, E2 – Kleinveld & Julien, Genevieve Gaignard, Tim Okamura, and Deborah Roberts. The exhibition explores female power, social privilege, and the representation of women in art history. Artworks and new commissions include Blache’s oil painting of the famed New Orleans chef, Leah Chase; E2 – Kleinveld & Julien’s perception-changing photographs reinterpreting classic portraiture; Gaignard’s photography and a site-specific installation that re-imagines a teenage girl’s bedroom; Okamura’s large-scale paintings depicting strong women and an interactive installation; and Roberts’ found-material collages of young girls. Still I Rise offers vivid counterpoints to the ways that women have been represented throughout history and inserting gender and race in unexpected ways and surprising contexts.
The free opening celebration takes place on Saturday, June 15, from 11am to 1pm. Meet the artists, make some art, and enjoy some refreshments. Admission to Kidspace is always free; the ArtBar is open on weekends and during school breaks.
About the artists
Gustave Blache III (b. San Bernardino, CA) is a figurative painter from New Orleans, Louisiana, who is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. He has gained international recognition for his artwork which ranges in format from life-sized portraits to intimate pocket-sized paintings. Blache is especially interested in documenting everyday laborers and highlighting the intimate nature of work itself. He is best known for his series of paintings on celebrated chef Leah Chase, who is known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine.” This series was originally exhibited in 2012 at the New Orleans Museum of Art and featured images of Chase at the famous Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Still I Rise will feature a small portrait of the 96 year-old chef.
Blache received his M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has exhibited at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Park Avenue Armory, and the New Orleans African American Museum. Blache’s work is found in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Genevieve Gaignard (b. Orange, Massachusetts) is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work focuses on photographic self-portraiture, sculpture, and installation to explore race, femininity, and class. The daughter of a black father and white mother, Gaignard has been navigating the space of biracial identity as long as she can remember. Was she white enough to be white? Black enough to be black? Through her work, she interrogates notions of “passing,” positioning her own body as the chief site of exploration. She uses lowbrow pop sensibilities to craft dynamic visual narratives that blend humor with pop culture in order to reveal the way that we represent ourselves and each other. For Still I Rise, Gaignard will design a site-specific installation referencing adolescent experiences of body imagery in a world of extreme and complex beauty standards. Several of her self-portrait photographs will also be on view.
Gaignard received her B.F.A. in Photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and her M.F.A. in Photography at Yale University. She has exhibited throughout the United States in venues including the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, the Houston Center for Photography, and The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Deborah Roberts (b. Austin, Texas) is an Austin, Texas-based artist who creates paper collage portraits often depicting young girls of color. She is interested in the way these young girls are symbols of both vulnerability and naïve strength. Even in the face of societal pressures and projected images, they remain unfixed in their identities as they find their way amidst the complicated narrative of African American identity. “Otherness” is central to Roberts’ work. She has a keen awareness of the way that ideals of race and beauty are portrayed in popular media and how these images have contributed towards the dismantling and marginalization of African American identity. The exhibition will feature Roberts’ collages combining found and manipulated images with hand-drawn and painted details to create multi-layered work, rife with double meanings and symbols.
Roberts received her M.F.A. from Syracuse University. She has exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York, NY; the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts galleries in San Francisco, CA; the Center for African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin; the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, GA; The Drawing Center Viewing Program in New York, NY; and Luis De Jesus in Los Angeles, CA. She is a recipient of the Ginsburg-Klaus Award Fellowship, Presidential Point of Light Award, Syracuse University Graduate Fellow Award, and Best in Show M.F.A. at Syracuse University in 2014.
Tim Okamura (b. Edmonton, Canada) is a Brooklyn-based artist who paints realistic portraits of African American women that represent their resilience and strength. Through his method of painting — one that combines a realist approach to the figure by way of collage, spray paint, and mixed media — Okamura investigates identity, urban environment, metaphor, and cultural iconography. Urban life and hip-hop are both subjects and major influences in his work; he combines and samples art history with classical techniques of oil painting and spray-painted graffiti. He creates a visual language that acknowledges a traditional form of storytelling through portraiture, while also infusing contemporary motifs. For Still I Rise, Okamura for the first time will show two portraits of women as warriors, new work delving into his Japanese background and interest in samurai. Working with two New York City-based graffiti artists, he will also design an interactive space for the Kidspace gallery, where visitors will be invited to add their symbols or “tags” to portraits expressing ideas around leadership as represented in the body language and surroundings of the figures.
Okamura earned a B.F.A. with Distinction at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Canada before moving to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts in 1991. After graduating with an M.F.A. in Illustration as Visual Journalism, Okamura moved to Brooklyn, NY, where he continues to live and work. Okamura — a recipient of the 2004 Fellowship in Painting from the New York Foundation for the Arts — has exhibited extensively in galleries throughout the world, including the U.S., Canada, Italy, Japan, Ecuador, and Turkey, and has been selected nine times to appear in the prestigious BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. In 2015, Okamura received a letter of commendation from the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. He was honored in 2016 to have a piece hanging in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Okamura’s art is in the permanent collections of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College; the Alberta Foundation for the Arts; the Toronto Congress Center; the Hotel Arts in Calgary, Canada; and Standard Chartered Bank in London, England. Celebrity collectors include Uma Thurman, musicians John Mellencamp and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (The Roots), and director Ben Younger, as well as actors Bryan Greenberg, Vanessa Marcil, Annabella Sciorra, and Ethan Hawke.
The artist duo Elizabeth Kleinveld (b. New Orleans, LA) and Epaul Julien (b. New Orleans, LA) offer reinterpretations of “canonical” paintings, altered to include historically underrepresented people. Under their name E2 – Kleinveld & Julien (Elizabeth and Epaul), they take photographic versions of paintings from Western art history, beginning with the Flemish Primitives and spanning 600 years onward. Through reenactments that include diverse representations of race, gender, and sexual orientation, E2 – Kleinveld & Julien has remade works by such artists as van Eyck, Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and more. Still I Rise will include two historic paintings that have been redone to feature women and people of color: Marcus Gheeraerts’ Portrait of ElizabethI (c. 1592) and Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851).
Julien is a self-taught artist residing in New Orleans. His work (photography and mixed media) has been exhibited at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), the Louisiana State Museum, Ogden Museum of Art, the Darkroom, Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans, LA, DiverseWorks, in Houston, TX, Arps & Co. gallery in Amsterdam, De Galerie Den Haag in the Hague, and the MIA Milan Image Art Fair in Milan, Italy. His Katrina series has been catalogued in the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Katrina Exposed (2006).
Kleinveld is a self-taught artist residing in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her work has been exhibited in the United States Senate, New Orleans Museum of Art, the Colorado Fine Arts Center, Galerie de Prinsenkelder in Amsterdam and the Expansionist ART Empire in Leiden, Netherlands among others. In 2010, the University of New Orleans Press published the book Before (During) After: Louisiana Photographers’ Visual Reactions to Hurricane Katrina, a companion for the international traveling exhibition for which Kleinveld is the project’s director. E2 – Kleinveld & Julien has exhibited internationally in institutions such as the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England, Photoville in Brooklyn, NY, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in The Hague, Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, Italy, Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy, Galerie SIRIUS in Tokyo, Japan, New Orleans Museum of Art and Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, LA. Their work appears in numerous public and private collections, including the Benetton Collection in Treviso, Italy, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto in Trento, Italy, Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, LA, and The Marks Collection in Houston, TX.
Spring 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of MASS MoCA’s partnership with the North Adams schools. Through the Kidspace gallery and associated programming, the partnership provides 100% subsidized educational opportunities to a growing number of students and teachers in the region, currently reaching 10 partner schools.
A significant aspect of the partnership program is to involve the entire student body of each partner school in annual programs that focus on a specific theme particularly relevant to children, explored in the Kidspace exhibition. Partnership schools also attend Art Assembly schooltime performances. Additionally, students participate in artist residency programs with Kidspace exhibiting artists, which help students to expand their perspectives and learn to understand each other through listening and building upon shared experiences.
The goals of our artist residencies include providing students with an opportunity to explore their own individual creativity while also learning that their individuality can be expressed in a collaborative environment. This intersection of individual and group work will allow students the chance to not only get in touch with their own ideas but to understand the ideas of those around them, and how an individual functions in a larger group. These experiences help students better approach larger problems in a creative and thoughtful way.
Genevieve Gaignard will be participating in an artist residency on November 18-22, 2019. She will work with 4th graders to create self-portraits using found objects. Tim Okamura will be participating in an artist residency on November 4-8, 2019 (dates tentative). He will also work with 4th graders to introduce them to painting portraits. Both artists will be invited to give artist talks and to work with local college students.
Principal support for Still I Rise is provided by Samantha and Daniel Becker.
Core education funding is provided by the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.
Education at MASS MoCA is made possible in part by John B. DeRosa; The Feigenbaum Foundation; George and Valerie Kennedy; MountainOne; National Endowment for the Arts; Xtina and James R. Parks; the Ruth E. Proud Charitable Trust; John F. and Judith B. Remondi; The Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation; and Holly Swett.
Additional support is provided by anonymous (2); James Attwood and Leslie Williams; Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation from the following funds: The Cooper Meadow Fund, The Gateway Fund, and The William J. and Margery S. Barrett Fund; Guido’s Fresh Marketplace; Charles H. Hall Foundation; the Arthur I. and Susan Maier Fund, Inc.; Mass Cultural Council; and Bessie Pappas Charitable Foundation.
The Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation gives in memory of Sandy and Lynn Laitman.
Deborah Roberts, Folding the Black into the red, 2017
Mixed Media Collage on Paper
30” X 22”
Collection of Michael and Jeanne Klein
Kidspace is a child-centered art gallery and hands-on studio presenting exhibitions and educational experiences in collaboration with leading artists. The program focuses on contemporary social issues and expanding notions of art and art materials. Artists are selected for the educational and artistic merit of their work and their ability to connect to children (and adults). Exhibitions have featured renowned artists from around the world including Long-Bin Chen, Devorah Sperber, Portia Munson, Lisa Hoke, Willie Birch, Gajin Fujita, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Roger Shimomura, Ran Hwang, Nick Veasey, and Nick Cave.
About MASS MoCA
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making, displaying, and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. MASS MoCA nearly doubled its gallery space in spring 2017, with artist partnerships that include Laurie Anderson, the Louise Bourgeois Trust, Jenny Holzer, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and James Turrell.
Gallery admission is $20 for adults, $18 for veterans and seniors, $12 for students, $8 for children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. The Hall Art Foundation’s Anselm Kiefer exhibition is seasonal and currently on view. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA is open from 11am to 5pm, closed Tuesdays, through June 14. From June 15 through October 14, MASS MoCA’s galleries will be open seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm, and open late some nights.
Mixed media on paper
30 x 22 inches
Photo Credit: Philip Rogers