Frieze New York Viewing Room
5–14 May 2021
Victoria Miro is delighted to participate in Frieze Viewing Room with a single-screen presentation of Isaac Julien’s acclaimed Lessons of the Hour and new and important works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Jules de Balincourt, Hernan Bas, María Berrío, Yayoi Kusama, Doron Langberg, Wangechi Mutu and Do Ho Suh.
Featuring film, painting, photography and sculpture, the gallery’s presentation is an expansive consideration of Frieze’s invitation to respond to the mission of the Vision & Justice Project. The Vision & Justice Project takes as its conceptual inspiration the prescient thinking of Frederick Douglass, in particular his speech Pictures and Progress, also known as Lecture on Pictures, in which Douglass addressed the transformative power of pictures to create a new vision for the nation. The Vision & Justice Project wrestles with urgent questions around the ways in which narratives created by culture have both limited and liberated a definition of national belonging in America today. It argues that an examination of image making is vital for society’s collective consciousness and self-comprehension.
The presentation celebrates that the majority of gallery artists who work in America are of global origins, enriching the cultural landscape and what it might mean to ‘be’ American.
For its viewing room, the gallery is presenting works by artists who are first-generation Americans, or are based in, or who have spent a significant amount of time in, the US. At a time when immigration has been politicised to unprecedented levels, it celebrates that the majority of gallery artists who work in America are of global origins, enriching the cultural landscape and what it might mean to ‘be’ American.
It includes a single-screen presentation of Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour (excerpt above), a poetic meditation on the life and times of Frederick Douglass, which, reflecting on issues of social justice that shaped Douglass’ life’s work, is informed by some of Douglass’ most important speeches, including Lecture on Pictures. Also on view are new and recent paintings by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Jules de Balincourt, Hernan Bas, María Berrío and Doron Langberg, drawing by Do Ho Suh, sculpture by Wangechi Mutu, and works by Yayoi Kusama including a soft sculpture created during the artist’s extended period of living and working in New York from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.
In a special viewing room as part of the Vision & Justice Tribute at Frieze New York, honouring the exemplary work of the Project and its founder Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, the gallery will present a photographic artwork from Julien’s Lessons of the Hour.
Works from this presentation are also available to view in our gallery on Vortic.
Single screen installation
35mm film and 4k digital, colour, 5.1 surround sound
Illustrated: J.P. Ball Studio, 1867 Douglass (Lessons of the Hour), 2019
Framed photograph on gloss inkjet paper mounted on aluminium
57 x 76 cm
22 1/2 x 29 7/8 in
Isaac Julien, Lessons of the Hour, 2019More info
‘One reason for making the work is reviewing
what America is today, where it comes from.’
— Isaac Julien
Isaac Julien, CBE RA (born 1960) is a critically acclaimed British artist and filmmaker. In 2018, Julien joined the faculty at UC Santa Cruz where he is the distinguished professor of the arts and leads the IJ Lab together with Arts Professor Mark Nash.
Julien’s Lessons of the Hour is a poetic meditation on the life and times of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), a visionary African American writer, abolitionist and a freed slave, who was also the most photographed man of the nineteenth century. Reflecting on issues of social justice that shaped Douglass’ life’s work, it is informed by some of Douglass’ most important speeches, such as Lessons of the Hour (in which he addressed the shocking phenomenon of lynching in the post-Civil War American South), What to the Slave Is the 4th of July? and Lecture on Pictures, a text that connects picture-making and photography to his vision of how technology could influence human relations. For Douglass, photography was envisaged as a way of achieving autonomy over the way in which African Americans could be represented. It signalled not only truth but also empowerment. Julien’s work gives expression to the zeitgeist of Douglass’ era, his legacy and the ways in which his story may be viewed through a contemporary lens. It is a forceful suggestion that the lessons of the abolitionist’s hour have yet to be learned. Speaking to the Guardian in 2019, Julien said ‘There is a certain timeliness to the piece. One reason for making the work is reviewing what America is today, where it comes from.’
Recent and current international solo exhibitions by the artist include a ten-screen installation of Lessons of the Hour at the McAvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco (2020–2021), and Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, CentroCentro (Panorama Madrid), Madrid, Spain, on view until 29 August 2021.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
‘I want the work to feel like a glimpse into the type of home I would have grown up in and/or visited as a child.’
— Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. One of the most distinctive voices of her generation, Akunyili Crosby draws on art historical, political and personal references to make luminous, densely layered figurative compositions whose intricate surfaces combine disparate materials and aesthetic traditions. Her work conjures the complexity of contemporary experience and offers a powerful perspective on the African diaspora.
As We See You: Dreams of Jand, 2017, depicts an invented interior of a Nigerian home. While the artist has said that ‘I want the work to feel like a glimpse into the type of home I would have grown up in and/or visited as a child’, the word ‘Jand’ in the title is a Nigerian slang word for ‘abroad’. The work includes numerous images of Nigerian musicians inspired by Michael Jackson, alongside domestic objects reflecting everyday life. For the artist, genres such as interior and still life – in particular the table top laden with familial and other possessions – play host to a range of visual cues about specific cultural, historical and geographical circumstances and their, equally specific, interaction.
Current international institutional exhibitions include This is Not Africa – Unlearn What You Have Learned at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (until 24 October 2021), a collaborative project between ARoS Kunstmuseum and SCCA Tamale in Ghana.
Jules de Balincourt
‘There’s a fine line between utopian and dystopian narratives. My paintings leave you at a crossroads – things could go either way.’
— Jules de Balincourt
Jules de Balincourt was born in Paris, France, in 1972 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. His is an intuitive approach to image-making, where the world we inhabit is filtered through the artist’s own psychological landscape. Always rich in colour and technique, de Balincourt’s work is a bountiful confluence of reality and fantasy, where references to society, politics, or popular culture are never less than equalled by free association and painterly invention.
Often, as in the two works on view, de Balincourt’s paintings hinge on utopian/dystopian narratives, structures of power or opposing forces. At the same time, they carve a space of reflection and contemplation against a tide of contemporary media. Dreamlike distortions and disconcerting shifts in scale create a sense of eeriness and imbalance. Yet, while a perhaps unsettling atmosphere pervades, undeniable too is a sense of optimism, a persistence of spirit, or a suggestion of how things might be different.
Jules de Balincourt: After the Gold Rush opened in March at CAC Málaga, Spain. The show comprises forty paintings in different formats created between 2010 and the present day and is on view until 30 May 2021.
‘On the shore of the fabled Loch we find a mystical monster, but not the one we’d dreamed of…’
— Hernan Bas
The son of Cuban parents, Hernan Bas was born in Miami, Florida, in 1978 and lives and works in Miami. He is celebrated for works that, permeated by an aura of eroticism and decadence, and loaded with codes and double-meanings, point to the intricacies of self-identity, while celebrating moments of transformation – the ordinary becoming extraordinary.
Bas’ work is intrinsically linked to an exploration of history and stems from the artist’s interest in figuring historical and mythological narratives within the imagery and iconography of popular culture, fashion, queer culture, mysticism and the occult. Speaking about this new painting, You might know him as Nessie (Loch Ness), 2021, the artist comments, ‘On the shore of the fabled Loch we find a mystical monster, but not the one we’d dreamed of. Since the first sightings of the Loch Ness Monster there has been a long history of hoaxes. Our protagonists follows in this tradition. An adapted version of the cliche strap-on shark fin is his tool of mischief. The sun sets, as the famed castle stands watch over the scene in the distance. Only you (the viewer) and a lone seagull are provided the true identity of Nessie…’
Current major solo exhibitions by the artist include Choose Your Own Adventure, on view at Space K, Seoul, Korea, until 27 May 2021.
‘My own identity is so deeply intertwined with that of my child that I felt I had to couple his portrait with a self-portrait to have a fuller picture of either one of us.’
— María Berrío
Based in Brooklyn, María Berrío was born and grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. Her works, which are meticulously crafted from layers of Japanese paper, reflect on cross-cultural connections and global migration seen through the prism of her own history.
Completed this year, the two works on view, one a portrait of her son, the other a self-portrait, continue the artist’s poetic consideration of kinship and familial bonds that, in turn, invite us to contemplate our own connections to people, place and time – how, where and in whom we see ourselves. Writing about To Love Somebody, Berrío comments, ‘For the past few months, I have found respite and solace in painting my son, especially when he is in a moment of reflection. At these times I see a glimmer of myself and my own childhood, while his mind seems to catch a brief glimpse of adulthood. While soothing, making these paintings often overwhelms me with an intense, all-consuming love at the same time. At one point, during such a rush of emotion, I realised that that emotion itself is intrinsically tied with my own identity.’ Of Self Portrait, the artist writes ‘While painting To Love Somebody I had to study my child and the aspects of his appearance and personality that mirror my own. Seeing the many derivations of myself that are manifested in my son, observing my own traits and habits reflected in him, pushed me to look towards myself in the process of painting him… My own identity is so deeply intertwined with that of my child that I felt I had to couple his portrait with a self-portrait to have a fuller picture of either one of us.’
The artist’s first survey show María Berrío: Esperando mientras la noche florece (Waiting for the Night to Bloom) is currently on view at The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach until 9 May 2021.
Acrylic on canvas
130.3 x 130.3 cm
51 1/4 x 51 1/4 in
Yayoi Kusama, I Want Your Tears to Flow with the Words I Wrote, 2021More info
Acrylic on canvas
130 x 130 x 6.5 cm
51 1/8 x 51 1/8 x 2 1/2 in
Yayoi Kusama, INFINITY-NETS [KAKO], 2015More info
33 x 76.2 x 45.7 cm
13 x 30 x 18 in
Yayoi Kusama, Hat, 1962More info
‘If I had stayed in Japan, I would never have grown as I have, either as an artist or as a human being. America is really the country that raised me, and I owe what I have become to her.’
— Yayoi Kusama
Born in Matsumoto City, Japan, in 1929, Yayoi Kusama lives and works in Tokyo. Throughout her career, she has developed a unique and diverse body of work that, highly personal in nature, connects profoundly with global audiences. She is one of the world’s most celebrated artists.
‘I landed in America on 18 November 1957,’ Kusama writes in her autobiography, Infinity Net. The artist, arriving first in Seattle then moving a year later to New York, remained in the US until the early 1970s. ‘If I had stayed in Japan, I would never have grown as I have, either as an artist or as a human being. America is really the country that raised me, and I owe what I have become to her,’ Kusama explains. The works on view, including a rarely seen Accumulation sculpture created in New York in 1962, reveal the origins of her cross-disciplinary practice – including art, performance and fashion – as well as the enduring motifs for which she is globally celebrated. Hat, 1962, among Kusama’s first three-dimensional works, belongs to a group of soft sculptures covered with sewn, stuffed and painted tuber-like phallic protrusions. With its delicate skeins of white INFINITY-NETS [KAKO], 2015, is an especially evocative example of Kusama’s iconic Infinity Net canvases. It offers a link to the genesis of these seminal works in paintings completed shortly after she first arrived in the United States. Forging a path between Abstract Expressionism – then the dominant style – and the nascent Minimalist movement, Kusama first showed her Infinity Nets in New York in the late 1950s, to great critical acclaim. Also on view is one of the most recent works from Kusama’s iconic My Eternal Soul series. These works, at once bold and intensely detailed, and conveying extraordinary vitality, are joyfully improvisatory, fluid and highly instinctual. They abound with imagery including eyes, faces in profile, and other more indeterminate forms, including the dots with which the artist is synonymous, to offer impressions of worlds both abstract and figurative, microscopic and macroscopic.
KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is currently on view at The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York, until 31 October 2021. Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective is at the Gropius Bau in Berlin until 15 August 2021 (temporarily closed due to Covid-19 guidelines). Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms opens this spring at Tate Modern in London. I Want Your Tears to Flow with the Words I Wrote, Yayoi Kusama’s thirteenth solo exhibition with Victoria Miro, opens on 4 June 2021.
‘Like so many of us during this time, I was unable to go home for over a year and felt very homesick. My longing for the people I love and to “be home”, an experience with many layers, made otherwise everyday moments feel full of meaning.’
— Doron Langberg
Based in New York City, Doron Langberg was born in 1985 in Yokneam Moshava, Israel. An increasingly prominent voice among a new generation of figurative painters, he has gained a reputation for works that, luminous in colour and often large in scale, hinge on a sense of intimacy.
New paintings are drawn from a group of works made while, after a period of many months, the artist was recently able to visit Israel. Focusing on members of his family, including his brother Nisan (pictured here), friends, and the natural environment in the foothills of the Menashe mountains where he grew up, Langberg’s paintings foreground the power of connection to people and places, the restorative quality of the everyday and ties that, transcending geographical distance, gain additional significance during absence. That the works in the series were begun in Israel and completed in the US echoes the artist’s own life journey while speaking the complex arrangements of geography and history that shape us all.
Works by the artist are currently on view at the Schwules Museum, Berlin (until 30 August 2021). The artist will have his first solo exhibition with the gallery in September 2021.
‘It’s such an important time, such a tragic time and I feel the bodies of black people and black women and trans women who’ve been violated and dehumanised are the evidence of deep-seated injustice and unresolved tension.’
— Wangechi Mutu
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1972, Wangechi Mutu lives and works in New York and Nairobi. In her expansive and diverse practice, Mutu focuses on the female body, looking at sexuality, race, ecology, cultural trauma, politics, the rhythms and chaos of the world and the damaging or futile efforts to control it and the price this reaps on the bodies of women.
The presentation features two bronze Shavasana sculptures. The name Shavasana comes from the Sanskrit words Śava, meaning corpse, and Āsana, meaning posture or seat. While rooted in the practice of yoga, the limp, covered bodies of these Shavasana figures, with polished nails and brightly coloured stilettos, are suggestive of bloodshed or exploitation. Writing about these works, the artists states, ‘It’s such an important time, such a tragic time and I feel the bodies of black people and black women and trans women who’ve been violated and dehumanised are the evidence of deep-seated injustice and unresolved tension.’
Wangechi Mutu: I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?, a site-specific solo exhibition of new and recently created sculpture, collage, and film, will be on view at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from 7 May to 7 November 2021.
Do Ho Suh
‘I am always thinking about the movement of bodies through space… what that means for our sense of belonging and what happens when new walls and barriers are erected that challenge those parameters.’
— Do Ho Suh
Born in 1962 in South Korea, Do Ho Suh received a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and a MFA in sculpture from Yale University. He currently lives and works in London. The artist has long ruminated on the idea of home as both a physical structure and a lived experience, the boundaries of identity and the connection between the individual and the group across global cultures.
The work on view is a new drawing by the artist that echoes the compositional form of one of his most iconic three-dimensional fabric works, an installation of two life-sized models of buildings where Suh once lived: the larger, outer one a copy of the Rhode Island town house where he lived while studying at RISD in the early 1990s; the inner model, suspended inside this larger work, a copy of the traditional Korean building where the artist grew up.
This spring work by Suh will feature in the major group exhibition Portable Sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, featuring fifteen artists working from 1934 to the present day.
Vision & Justice Tribute Viewing Room
‘Douglass was interested in photography because of the role of autonomy it gave him over his own self-representation, as opposed to the ones that were being captured and stereotyped.’— Isaac Julien
For the Vision & Justice Tribute Viewing Room, honouring the exemplary work of the Project and its founder Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, the gallery is showing Isaac Julien’s photographic artwork Serenade (Lessons of the Hour), 2019. Frederick Douglass had a passion for photography and publicly lectured on the subject. He was a prominent proponent of the medium as a means by which Black people could control their likenesses beyond caricature. Speaking to the Guardian in 2019, Julien commented, ‘Douglass was interested in photography because of the role of autonomy it gave him over his own self-representation, as opposed to the ones that were being captured and stereotyped; Black men and women were being presented in derogatory imagery. He saw photography as a saviour of representing a regime of truth or person.’
Angela Davis and Isaac Julien in conversation, moderated by Vision & Justice Project founder Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
In this online conversation, recorded in November 2020 and moderated by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Angela Y. Davis, activist, educator and author, joins Isaac Julien to discuss the contemporary legacy of Frederick Douglass and art’s role in the ongoing struggle for economic, racial and gender justice.
A partnership with McEvoy Foundation for the Arts and Museum of the African Diaspora