About the exhibition
A nervous black triangle quietly extends its arm to snuggle up to a fellow black triangle.
Two red orbs that play as eyes trickle down into the cheeks and forehead of a smiling portrait. Red is smeared, smudged, scratched, and pressed, leaving the paper mutilated. In this moment of restraint and slowness, in this global hour of quarantining, confinement and isolation, I found myself most drawn to the pieces in NIAD’s archive that pointed to the sense of touch. From Carlos Fernandez’s green form; or the delicate piano hand reaching upward in curiosity (D1232), to the soft cheek cradled in Erica Martinez’s piece (P2257)— these artworks all recall touch.
Touch defines our outer perimeter, the border of ourselves. The random touch of a stranger brushing past in the grocery store, the unwanted touch on a crowded sweltering train with bodies bumping and stepping on one another, the familiar touch of open arms awaiting arms to embrace in a hug. I see many types of touch in these thirteen works: a touch filled with charged electricity, a soft bleed that tickles, an obsessive scratch on the paper’s surface.
Mireya Betance’s outlined cradle gave me pause. The figures peer into each others’ outlines; where their bodies meet they become one shape, one perimeter, one place. While Erica Martinez’s piece (D4470) evokes the sparked sensation when a perimeter is breeched. It’s the fired up push that rams One back over the fortress that’s been violated. Deatra Colbert’s “Pillow” (F0202) led me to my mother’s touch, to being a child and getting my “kitchen” combed out, the gentle braiding and knotting of my hair as I sat between my mother’s round heavy thighs. Halisi Noel-Johnson led me to church. In her piece (D0756), I feel the sway, the pulse, the touch of a beat. A beat that touches a gathering of people and so in a melodic sway, the church goers raise their hands to be touched back by the beyond.
The loss of touch leaves us large and bloated. Floating unattached and expansive. Like Alice in Wonderland, the architecture of our homes, our shelters-in-place, become crowded with our selves. The home cannot hold us and we expand and expand until our legs burst out the windows and our bruised head hits the roof. Our shoulders hit the ceiling fan and our butt wedges into the corners. There’s no anchor, no tap on the shoulder to rip us from the unreal, so we continue to expand.
These works address the perimeter. The outline of where I begin and end. The artworks etched out my relationship to what has and will surround me again, rather than the current white wall staring at me.
About the selector
Brittney Leeanne Williams is a Chicago-based artist, originally from Los Angeles. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami (Untitled Art Fair), and Venice, Italy (Venice Biennale), as well as in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. Williams attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008-09). She is a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant recipient. Williams was a 2017-2018 artist-in-residence at University of Chicago (CSRPC/Arts + Public Life) and has held residencies at Chicago Artists Coalition (HATCH Projects) and Hyde Park Art Center (The Center Program). This past Fall she was the artist-in-residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation and most recently received the Coney Family Fund Award.
The entire exhibition