Nina Chanel Abney
"Seized the Imagination"
New York, 513 West 20th Street
Combining representation and abstraction, her work captures the frenetic pace of contemporary culture, broaching subjects as diverse as race, celebrity, religion, politics, sex, and art history. The series of new paintings presented here explores the tumultuous relationships between exterior and interior, conventionality and acquiescence, anger and fear.
Seized the Imagination eschews linear storytelling in favor of disjointed narratives, creating an atmosphere that speaks to the helplessness many feel in the wake of today’s political climate. Abney’s distinctive, declarative color palette and pulsating forms come together in tightly compressed compositions to convey a sense of action on the brink of claustrophobia and potential collapse. The overarching mood is a “nothing matters” attitude in response to conditions that are seemingly inescapable and irreversible—global warming, xenophobia, gun violence, racism, sexism—that permeate news headlines across the country. Rather than depicting specific conflicts, Abney highlights the violence of the takeover and the simultaneous passivity in submitting to a force greater than oneself, no matter how ominous and dispiriting the reality.
In addition to dejection, technology is an omnipresent theme in the exhibition and Abney’s oeuvre more broadly. The feeling of information overload that emanates throughout is at times joyful, but also stresses media’s role as a tool to manipulate and deceive. Abney’s enigmatic canvases propose a new type of history painting, one grounded in the barrage of everyday events and their collision of anxieties, all funneled through the velocity of the internet.
On view through December 20th, 2017