Karina Griffith, Abdi Osman, Racquel Rowe and Wayne Salmon
Curated by Rinaldo Walcott
April 21 - June 24, 2023
Opening reception: Thursday, April 20, 6-8pm
Too often Black art is understood solely through the lenses of identity, representation, and belonging—the works in Black(Cite) exceed these readings through citation, formalism, and abstraction. Exemplifying Black aesthetic traditions, the featured Canadian artists employ modes of working including poetic meditation on the sea, documentation of Black life, performance of Black living, and commentary on sexuality and gender, in dialogue with broader diasporic conversations.
Black art is always involved in some sort of conversation, and the conversation is about much more than the immediate, surface-level aesthetic that the artwork presents. No matter how affecting the aesthetic, the artwork is citing other conversations, too. The works in Black(Cite) evoke some of the conversations that Black artmaking precedes from. The artists in this exhibition work with full awareness of the histories from which they make their art. Their embeddedness in a Black art history is informed by a skillful and sly citation practice and aesthetics. In Black art history, the aesthetic is meant to do something well beyond beauty and its appreciation. The Black aesthetic is a provocation to think with and alongside art about various social formations that might take beauty—or even anti-beauty—as only one register of appreciation. The exhibition’s four artists, Karina Griffith (Germany/Canada), Racquel Rowe (Canada/Barbados), Abdi Osman (Canada), and Wayne Salmon (Canada), are less interested in beauty as a means to an end, and are more interested in an aesthetic practice that invites conversations provoked by the encounter with their art. Such encounters mean that their art cites more than might be immediately evident to any one viewer.
Wayne Salmon’s work draws from and is in conversation with a history of Black photography that seeks to capture the ordinary moments of Black life. And like its predecessors and contemporaries, this work is not a photography of anthropology. Instead, the textures and tones of the photographs tell us more about the person behind the camera—a person who exudes a love for Black skin and Black people. The attention to detail—colour, composition, proximity, intimacy—combines to provide viewers with photographs that project the sweet joy that comes from photographing the people you love. Salmon’s work cites a long list of Black photographers, from James Van der Zee, Roy DeCarava, and James Barnor to Carrie Mae Weems and a host of others whose photographs produce an interiority of Black life that refuses the flat, polished aesthetic of a beautiful work in favour of a work that is beautiful because of its intimacy.
Indeed, intimacy and its many permutations are central to the intervention that Karina Griffith and Racquel Rowe make in this exhibition. Rowe’s works are performance and something more—a kind of confrontation with history, the Black body, and the legacy of the sea for Black life. In three video performances, Rowe honours the sea, post-slavery history, and the Black body. The attention to the sea is a mediation on the powerful impact of the history of water on Black life. Rowe’s practice draws from a trove of Black women performance artists including Adrian Piper, Lorraine O’Grady, and photographers such as Lorna Simpson, whose work is always more than meets the gaze. While Rowe centers herself in the frame of the moving image to recall the terror, the beauty, the mystery, the magic, and the healing power of the sea, Griffith directs us to consider how the moving image can both erase and confine.
Griffith’s attention to authorship might be the most explicit reference to citation as a practice in this exhibition. In her oppositional reading of the film They Call It Love (1972), she troubles both the gaze and authorship. However, Griffith is not only interested in what goes missing, but how what goes missing is contained. For Griffith, the archive is not just a building and the requisite access to the material inside. Instead, she places herself in the narrative, subverting the management of the archive by doing so. This is no mere replacement inclusion politics; rather, it is a profound reorientation of authorship and citation for a work that is both contained by the archive and its gendered orientation.
Abdi Osman turns to the archive of queer artmaking and fabulation to insert Black queer and Trans life where it might be least expected. Using collage as a method, Osman inserts these lives in front of various entryways, evoking questions about who gets to enter or to leave, citing Islam along the way. What is certain about these images is that no one narrative can contain them. Osman cites numerous influences on the cutting and mixing process of their collage practice, from dancehall and drum and bass, to such artists as Romare Bearden. But the deep texts of the collaged photographs are nods to Black queer artists like Rotini Fani Kayode, Marlon Riggs, Isaac Julien, and Essex Hemphill. This is Black queer life unbounded, citing its own history.
Black(Cite) is merely the beginning of a conversation that might unfold to countless other conversations, unfolding yet again to others.
Presented in partnership with:
Wayne Salmon, Braids, Regent Park, 23 x 16 inch gum bichromate over cyanotype, 2005. Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Talk & Closing Reception
Racquel Rowe and Rea McNamara in Conversation
Saturday, June 24, 2-3pm
No registration required
Summer 2023 ARTbus Exhibition Tour
Saturday 3 June 2023, 11:30 am–5:00 pm
Join Oakville Galleries, Gallery TPW and the Art Gallery of Mississauga for the Summer ARTbus tour with 5 exciting exhibitions in the GTHA!
Beginning with BLACK(cite), a group exhibition curated by Rinaldo Walcott at Gallery TPW, the ARTbus will continue to the Art Gallery of Mississauga to tour the solo exhibition of Jorian Charlton, Between Us. Then it’s off to Oakville Galleries, where participants will celebrate the opening reception of solo exhibitions: Leisure, Having Ideas by Handling Materials at Oakville Galleries in Centennial Square and Timothy Yanick Hunter, Collapse and Incompletion and Julia Brown, American Vernacular at Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square. Artists Leisure and Hunter will be in attendance at Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens.
Pick-up and drop-off at Gallery TPW in Toronto. $10 minimum donation includes transportation to all galleries and afternoon refreshments.
Please click here for more information and registration.
Artist and Curator Talk
Saturday, April 22, 2-3pm
No registration required
Karina Griffith is an artist and researcher who uses moving image, performance and installations to question archives and conditions of spectatorship. Griffith’s films and installations have been shown at international galleries and festivals, including SINNE Gallery, the Helsinki International Arts Programme, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Arsenal Gallery Poznan, Kunstenfestivaldesarts Brussels, Galerie Mytris, Hebbel Am Ufer, alpha nova & galerie futura, Institut für Alles Mögliche, Ara Pacis Museum, SAW Gallery, Foundry Art Centre, Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts, among others. She has curated film and interdisciplinary programmes for the Goethe Institute, Berlinale Forum, Oberhausen Film Festival, alpha nova & galerie futura and VTape. Griffith joined the curatorial team of the Berlinale Forum Expanded in 2021. She lectures at the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of Art and is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto's Cinema Studies Institute, where her research on Black authorship in German cinema interacts with theories of affect and intersectionality.
Abdi Osman is a Somali-Canadian multidisciplinary artist and an assistant professor of practice at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Osman's work focuses on questions of Black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities.
Racquel Rowe is an interdisciplinary artist from the island of Barbados, currently residing in Canada. She has exhibited across Canada and holds an MFA from the University of Waterloo and a BA(Hons) in History and Studio Art from the University of Guelph. Her practice is continuously influenced by many aspects of history, matrilineal family structures, diasporic communities and her upbringing in Barbados. Her work takes the form of performance, video site-specific work and installation.
Wayne Salmon is a Toronto-based artist working in photography, film and installation. Born in Jamaica, Salmon immigrated to Canada in the early 1980’s. His work is concerned with Black sociality, with particular focus on issues and experiences related to history, migration, memory, Black music and literature. He
received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Toronto Metropolitan University.
Rinaldo Walcott is a writer, critic, and professor of Black diaspora expressive cultures. He is the Carl V. Granger Chair of Africana and American Studies and Chair of the Department of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo (SUNY). Rinaldo is the author of The Long Emancipation: Moving Toward Black Freedom (Duke, 2021) and On Property (Biblioasis, 2021).
Documentation by Darren Rigo