Yossi Milo Gallery present grace comes violently, a solo exhibition of new work by Shikeith. Working across the mediums of photography, sculpture, installation, and video, the artist advances his meditations on the color blue to articulate interior worlds, the uncanny, and the ecstatic. This exhibition marks the artist's debut solo exhibition in New York City and his first show at the gallery.
With an investigative approach, Shikeith explores what he refers to as "the psychic blueness" of Black manhood with a visual rhetoric of material, color, and image. Guiding his method is the concept of hauntology, a lens through which time is seen as recurring, with past events and entities coming back to 'haunt' the future. Such an understanding of time allows the artist to rework memories of the past, thereby transforming their impact on the present.
Beloved Blues (2022) consists of a glass crib surrounded by blue and black ceramic orbs suspended mid-air. Haint blue, the specific shade of blue found amongst the ceramic orbs, originates from the Gullah Geechee people, who use it to ward off unwanted spirits from their homes. Here, Shikeith invokes the protective properties of the color while simultaneously inviting in the memory of his late grandmother, a nurturing figure who once imparted a memorable bit of folkloric knowledge: when an orb appears in a photograph, it indicates the presence of a spirit.
Shikeith envisions the quest for grace as an often violent process of disentangling and evolving, calling upon the experiences of queer Black men, who have had to make and remake their own rituals of spiritual nourishment. Included among the photographs in the show is Spirit In The Dark (2021), a black and white diptych portraying a subject dousing themself with liquid that falls from a blown-glass vessel in the shape of a human head. Each panel offers a different perspective of the same process as it unfolds, imbuing the act with a sense of movement and temporality. With two static images, the artist captures an instant that is in every sense dynamic – the transfer of water from one human vessel to another, the cleansing of a body bathed in darkness.
Persevering in the uncanny, Visiting Hours (2022) presents the image of a reclining figure, behind whom lies a second figure wrapped in a white bed sheet. Sheathed in white, the cloaked figure appears to come from another realm. The image was captured on expired film, evoking a soft, sensual quality while also referencing the artist's ongoing interest in resurrecting relics of the past. Thinking of queer time—the idea that queer people operate outside of linear timelines—Shikeith calls upon the histories of aged materials as well as otherworldly spirits to revitalize a soul that dwells in the present.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Shikeith's first monograph, Notes towards Becoming a Spill, will be published by Aperture. A preview of the publication will be available at the gallery throughout the show.
Note on the Artist:
Shikeith was born in 1989 in Philadelphia, PA, and currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. Shikeith earned a BA in Integrative Arts from the Pennsylvania State University and an MFA from the Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT. His work is in the permanent collections of 21c Museum, Louisville, KY; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; and Wrocław Contemporary Museum, Poland. Exhibitions include This was his body/ His body finally his (2017), MAK Gallery, London, UK; The Language Must Not Sweat (2019), Locust Projects, Miami, FL; Feeling The Spirit In The Dark (2020), The Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, Pittsburgh, PA. In 2021, he presented notes towards becoming a spill, a site-specific performance, at the Performa Biennial in New York, NY. He is the recipient of the 2022 Pittsburgh Foundation's Exposure Artist Award in co-fellowship with The Carnegie Museum of Art, 2020 Art Matters Foundation Grant, 2020 Leslie Lohman Museum Artist Fellowship, and 2019 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant.
Opening Saturday, May 14