Johnny AbrahamsStephen ChambersIbrahim El-SalahiSalah ElmurJordy KerwickLakwena Maciver

The Armory Show, New York

Booth # 226 | Galleries section

Vigo GalleryJavits Center
9 September – 13 September 2022

JOHNNY ABRAHAMS

B. 1979, Portland, Oregon

Living and working in London, UK

Deceptively simple, Abrahams’s paintings present a unique vocabulary of satisfying meditative, yet rhythmic shapes rendered in rich texture playing against the negative space of the raw canvas. The relationships between the symbols in Abrahams’s personal alphabet are dependent on nothing other than themselves. There is sense of musicality to the compositions which convey rhythm, phasing, and cadence with an unmistakable melodic character. In series they intend to set the viewer up with both theme and variant, creating a simultaneous sense of both comfort and dissonance, hinting at a never realised pattern.

Abrahams’s craves a sense of balance without symmetry. The composition of each painting serves as an intro to an overall pattern the viewer has only partial access to suggesting a melody and then deviating from it, setting up a resolution and then arriving at an unexpected note. The forms within the compositions and the variations between individual paintings are experienced in the way microtones are experienced by a musician using a twelve-tone scale. The shapes seem familiar yet slightly askew and it this is where the tension and drama are created, as they reference and avoid his self-imposed structures.

A link to Abrahams’s last solo exhibition ‘You, Me & Earth, 1661’ from earlier this year can be viewed here.

 

STEPHEN CHAMBERS

B. 1960, London, UK

Living and working in Berlin, Germany

“The figures in these paintings are images of real people, some more well-known than others, whom I have a particular interest in. They are not members of any unified group, with shared interests and neither do they hold any consistent line. I am far from certain that they would all like one another. Since some are dead, they could never meet. Those living, reside in differing corners of the world, so are unlikely to know one another. Many are renowned, others at the beginnings of their careers.

They are though all affirmative, humanitarian, singular thinkers. They each have their own ‘voice’ and are/were not afraid defend their world view. Maverick is unfortunately a term loaded with stigma. (Thomas Maverick, a cattle rancher who identified his cattle as ‘any cow without a brand mark’, thereby claiming all the strays). I tend to be interested in those people who intellectually belong nowhere, and don’t ‘toe the line’. These paintings, I coyly hesitate to call them portraits, though that is what they are, are my reverential conversations with these characters. By making paintings of them I get to know them better. Even if it’s a one-way discourse.”

British painter and printmaker Stephen Chambers lives and works in London and Berlin. Chambers has won many scholarships and awards, including The Mark Rothko Memorial Trust Award. Besides his usual practice, Chambers has also collaborated on three dance projects with the Royal Ballet. Chambers’ most recent major project was The Court of Redonda, a large portrait series shown first during the 2017 Venice Biennale, and subsequently at The Heong Gallery at Downing College, Cambridge and then again at Hastings Contemporary last year. Other solo exhibitions include The Big Country & Other Stories at the Pera Museum in Istanbul (2014) and The Big Country at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2012). In 2015 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Downing College, Cambridge University and in 2005 he was elected Royal Academician, Royal Academy of Arts, London. His work is held in many major national and international collections. He is a Trustee of both The Koestler Trust and The Bryan Robertson Trust.

In December of this year Chambers will have a solo exhibition of his portraits at Vigo Gallery, London.

 

SALAH ELMUR

B. 1966, Khartoum, Sudan.

Living and working in Cairo, Egypt.

Salah Elmur's work draws on his observations of life and memories of his childhood and youth for the scenes, situations and impressions that he depicts in his work. Elmur’s deadpan faces always hold within them a sense of narrative, of a story to be told. His colours are strong due to the bright light and colours of Sudan. The abstracted and distorted faces and bodies are inspired by a huge collection of failed images disregarded by his father’s photography studio, where the double exposures and mistakes that led to their retention are seen as treasures by the artist. Plants and animals share the frame with the human subjects, limbs are shortened, and proportions are distorted, altering the relationships between various objects and figures in the frame. All these elements are combined in a somewhat surrealistic swirl of memory, and the resulting paintings are tender, intimate vignettes of human relationships, the rituals and poetry of daily life and folklore.

On the 15 September Vigo Gallery will present ‘Water and Electricity’ which will be the artists second solo show with Vigo following the ‘Innocent Prisoner’ paintings shown in October 2021 at Somerset House for 1.54. Three works from this series are now in the collection of Centre Pompidou. Elmur has also had solo exhibitions at MACAAL, The Sharjah Art Museum and the Sharjah Art Foundation over the last few years.

 

IBRAHIM EL-SALAHI

B. 1930, Omdurman, Sudan

Living and working in Oxford, UK

On view at the Armory will be selected works from Ibrahim El-Salahi’s Tree series. These works reflect the artist’s fascination with the Haraza tree, indigenous to Sudan, which has peculiar and inspirational characteristics. The work inspired by this tree is an ongoing investigation of the tree/body metaphor — a link between heaven and earth, creator and created. They are controlled meditations with the emphasis on the spiritual and El-Salahi sees himself and the role of the artist as akin to the Haraza.

"I am very much obsessed with my work. I am a painter and have no other profession. I go to bed dreaming of figures, forms, and colours and wake up to translate my visions and dreams into works of art. My style changes, but I keep working on one particular theme inspired by a tree, an acacia locally called the Haraza that grows on the banks of the Nile. During the rainy season the tree is leafless, and it blossoms with freshly budding green leaves when the weather turns dry and the river flows at its lowest towards the sea. Through all, the tree remains steadfast, silently watching over the passage of seasons and time.” Of the Haraza’s blooming he says, “This is a definitive statement. Like saying ‘I am me! I am an individual! I do not follow what everyone is doing! When everyone is going to be green, let them be green. I am not!’ It’s individuality. I love that very much”

Ibrahim El-Salahi A Visionary Modernist, Tate catalogue, (2013)

Born in Sudan in 1930, Ibrahim El-Salahi is one of the most important living African artists and a key figure in the development of African and Arabic Modernism. El-Salahi grew up in Omdurman, Sudan and studied at the Slade School in London. On his return to Sudan in 1957, he established a new visual vocabulary, which arose from his own pioneering integration of Sudanese, Islamic, African, Arab and Western artistic traditions.

In 2013 Ibrahim El-Salahi became the first African artist to be given a full retrospective at Tate Modern. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; The National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; The British Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, UAE; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Newark Museum, Newark; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; The National Gallery, Berlin and many others.

2022 is an exciting year for the now Oxford based El-Salahi. The artist was selected to participate with 99 drawings in the current 2022 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams curated by Cecilia Alemani. Alongside our current exhibition at Masons Yard, London, Vigo curated 'Pain Relief' at Wellington Arch in the Quadriga Galleries which runs until November. His Pain Relief drawings have been the subject of a solo exhibition at The Norwegian Drawing Association - Tegnerforbundet which will travel in an expanded format to The Drawing Centre in New York next month. The Pain Relief canvases relating to these drawings were recently the subject of a solo exhibition at Hastings Contemporary (Formally the Jerwood Gallery). In a busy year the 92 year old legend will also participate in upcoming group exhibitions at the Chrysler Museum of Art (October), and the Fisk University Galleries (October

 

JODY KERWICK

B. 1982, Australia

Living and working Albi, France.

Jordy Kerwick investigates the materiality of painting through fantastical folkloric narratives populated by a cast of characters and motifs that inhabit a surreal world of Hansel and Grettalish Technicolor childhood dreams. Tigers, Unicorns, hybrid Bearwolves and feathered Snakes vie for Darwinian dominance in an environment of adventure and intrigue.

Living and working in the ancient city of Albi in southern France, Kerwick paints by day and works on paper into the evenings surrounded by the ebb and flow of domestic family life, inspired by his artist wife Rachel and two young boys Sonny and Milo. The most successful of these raw oil pastel, crayon and felt tip compositions become the starting point for his narrative paintings.

With their playful motifs these surreal, punkish and unapologetic works have a playful tension to them, occupying the ground between wonder, excitement and fear. In Kerwick’s world Tigers and Wolves stare at you deadpan with pop star nonchalance. These predators should or could be scary, but somehow feel like heroes and adventurers. Kerwick is interested in parallel worlds where the rules are different and our presupposed knowledge is questioned. His sons for example are represented in his paintings by double headed snakes and tigers – always Sonny on the right and Milo on the left. Less abstract, the blue legs and kneeling nudes often seen in his work reference Rachel.

Kerwick’s non-biographical influences are myriad and include comics, books, film, science, anthropology, music, and art history, referencing sources as diverse as Stubbs and Twombly. He loves Matisse for his bold use of colour, line and the flatness of his collages, Dubuffet for his rawness and Frankenthaler for her subtlety. Widely collected and supported by other artists he in turn actively collects and encourages others valuing friendship and family above most else.

Kerwick will be exhibiting a group of works in our Masons’s Yard Gallery next month. He will also have a solo show at The Arts Club, London and also with Modern Forms, as well as a large-scale sculpture installed in Regents’ Park for Frieze sculpture.

 

LAKWENA MACIVER

B. 1986, London, UK

Lakwena Maciver is internationally renowned for her joy- inducing palette, dynamic imagery and profound, succinct messages. Her public art commissions and installations include those at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Somerset House, The Bowery (NYC), Southbank Centre, Covent Garden, The Artist’s Garden at Temple, and commissions for MINI, Nike, UN Women as well as large scale architectural installations in Munich, Miami, Dubai and London.

Lakwena's Jump Paintings are abstract portraits of some of the most inspiring Basketball Players past and present.

‘I like the notion of the basketball court as a platform or a stage where the players become almost like superheroes… The heights that they soar to… it’s like they are flying, somehow able to rise above the limitations of this world. This is especially poignant for me given that basketball is indisputably dominated by African Americans, and their style of play has shaped the game.

I’m interested in what brings us closer together, so for me these paintings are about being aspirational, dreaming, and the connection between people, but also about the link between heaven and earth and ourselves as individuals in relation to a higher power.

The politicisation of the game is something I’m interested in exploring. The ‘slam dunk’ for instance, one of Basketball’s great crowd pleasers, could be seen as a physical manifestation of black power. So much so that it was banned in 1967 for 10 years, coincidentally after a year of Lew Alcindor’s domination of the game. I see there paintings as an opportunity to celebrate black power, joy, and self-expression.’

For this series, Lakwena took physical and biographical references as a starting point. Each is titled with the first name of the player and is the same height as the individual. They are painted on bespoke slim wooden panels and given a seductive, almost mirror-like gloss. This idea of reflection adds a personal interactive element to the viewing experience both conceptually and experientially.

The origins of these ‘Jump paintings’ stem from two full-size courts painted in 2020 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to honour Senator Flowers, whose impassioned 2019 speech against ‘Stand Your Ground’ legislation went viral and inspired Lakwena in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement the following year. Entitled ‘I’ll bring you flowers’, the defiantly joyful paintings used the universality of the basketball court as a canvas to speak of hope in the face of oppression and blessing through adversity.

The painting we are exhibiting is of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.; April 16, 1947) who iis an American former professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, and often named a top 3 player in NBA history,he was called the greatest basketball player of all time by Pat Riley, Isiah Thomas, and Julius Erving.

During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA Team member, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. He was a member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two more as an assistant coach and was twice voted NBA Finals MVP. He was named to three NBA anniversary teams (35th, 50th, and 75th).

Abdul-Jabbar was born Lew Alcindor and played at parochial high school Power Memorial in New York City, where he led their team to 71 consecutive wins. He was recruited by Jerry Norman, the assistant coach at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he played on three consecutive national championship teams. He was a record three-time MVP of the NCAA Tournament. Drafted with the first overall pick by the one-season-old Bucks franchise in the 1969 NBA draft, Alcindor spent six seasons in Milwaukee. After leading the Bucks to its first NBA championship at age 24 in 1971, he took the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Using his trademark skyhook shot, he established himself as one of the league's top scorers. In 1975, he was traded to the Lakers, with whom he played the final 14 seasons of his career in which they won five additional NBA championships. Abdul-Jabbar's contributions were a key component in the Showtime era of Lakers basketball. Over his 20-year NBA career, his teams succeeded in making the playoffs 18 times and got past the first round 14 times; his teams reached the NBA Finals on ten occasions.

At the time of his retirement at age 42 in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's all-time leader in points (38,387), games played (1,560), minutes (57,446), field goals made (15,837), field goal attempts (28,307), blocked shots (3,189), defensive rebounds (9,394), career wins (1,074), and personal fouls (4,657). He remains the all-time leader in points scored, field goals made, and career wins. He is ranked third all-time in both rebounds and blocked shots. ESPN named him the greatest center of all time in 2007,[ the greatest player in college basketball history in 2008,and the second best player in NBA history (behind Michael Jordan) in 2016. Abdul-Jabbar has also been an actor, a basketball coach, a best-selling author and martial artist, having trained in Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee and appeared in his film Game of Death (1972). In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Last October, Vigo presented ‘Aerial BB Paintings’ in the courtyard of Somerset house as an interactive installation referencing inspiring mantras from the countries and languages of Africa and the Diaspora. At the same time Lakwena’s immersive intervention Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground curated by Claire Mander transformed Temple Station's Roof Terrace. This 1,400 sq metre contemporary vision of Paradise was viewable from the sky.

Lakwena’s output has been prolific with her installations ranging from the re-opening of Covent Garden last summer to her fashion collaboration with Fiorucci (October 2021). Later this month Lakwena will open with a group of Jump Paintings at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam and will have a solo show at the Western Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in November.

 

For more information please contact info@vigogallery.com.

selected works

The Outliers: Portrait of Ali Farka Toure
2022
Orange Crow
2022
AS Line of Trees
2010

Untitled

Oil on canvas213 x 120 cm / 83 7/8 x 47 1/4 in

The Outliers: Portrait of Ali Farka Toure

2022 Oil on board62.5 x 52.5 x 6 cm / 24 5/8 x 20 5/8 x 2 3/8 in

Orange Crow

2022Acrylic on canvas113  x 73 cm / 44 1/2 x 28 3/4 in

AS Line of Trees

2010Coloured ink on watercolour paper81 x 81 cm / 31 7/8 x 31 7/8 in