A snapshot survey with a distinct point of view, “Cosmic Traffic Jam” presents painting-based work by 20 artists of color. Co-curated with two artists, Alex Jackson and Umar Rashid, both of whom have work in the show, on one hand it represents a wide cross-section of contemporary practices. The results are eclectic in style, medium and message. On the other hand, a strong symbolic narrative stance does permeate the whole selection. Each artist approaches the act of painting itself as what the curators call “a potent language of examination, resistance and change.”
What they mean by this, and what is especially apparent when experiencing the exhibition in person, is that these painters are painters because of how painting functions in history and what part figurative/portrait painting in particular plays in either perpetuating or upending social constructs such as race, class and gender. But also, and perhaps even more so, they share a belief that there is something powerful in the creative choice to work in such a singular, physical, analog medium, to thereby not only generate sturdy, actual objects that assert the bodily presence of the artist, grounded in this time and place, but do so in a way that places their images in the flow of art history.
Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle is acclaimed for her unique way of rendering black bodies that are both undeniable yet on the verge of disappearance. Umar Rashid reclaims conventions of pre-colonial image-making to depict allegorical versions of modern social dynamics. Brittney Leeanne Williams borrows from surrealism and color theory to create disjointed yet emotional scenes, while John Bankston borrows from tropes of children’s books to explore the vagaries of evolving identity. David Leggett offers deceptively simple color- and text-based gestures to take the piss out of unconscious pop culture tropes.
These and many more riches of individual and collective expression make for a spontaneous and sophisticated take on this energized moment in contemporary art — as well as the more fraught, complex and sometimes paradoxical issues that inspired the exhibition. “Painting,” write the curators, “offers a detour through and/or around language, where the picture may thwart our normative conception of knowing and understanding.”
“Cosmic Traffic Jam” includes works by Laylah Ali, John Bankston, Jarvis Boyland, Ashley Doggett, Mark Thomas Gibson, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Alex Jackson, Tomashi Jackson, Clotilde Jiménez, Yashua Klos, David Leggett, Steve Locke, Lamar Peterson, Umar Rashid, Kenny Rivero, Jordan Seaberry, Gerald Sheffield, Devan Shimoyama, Alexandria Smith and Brittney Leeanne Williams.
Zevitas Marcus, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; (424) 298-8088, zevitasmarcus.com. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; through Aug. 25.