Claire Oliver Gallery opens 'A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking'

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Claire Oliver Gallery opens 'A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking'
Stephanie Santana, Reclamation, 2021.

NEW YORK, NY.- Claire Oliver Gallery is presenting the New York debut exhibition A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking featuring 21 works by nine contemporary Black women printmakers. Curated by two artists, founder of Black Women of Print, Tanekeya Word and founding member Delita Martin, the exhibition explores the depth and breadth of printmaking through the lens of Black women and their myriad narratives.

“Like our foremothers, Black women printmakers have used the tools in our hands to create visual languages that tell the stories of our past, present, future and the in-between spaces within fractal time,” states Tanekeya Word, co-curator, visual artist and printmaker. “Each printmaker shares matriarchal perspectives on Black interiority.”

The exhibition includes work by Tanekeya Word, Delita Martin, Ann Johnson, LaToya M. Hobbs, Lisa Hunt, Karen J. Revis, Chloe Alexander, Sam Vernon and Stephanie Santana.

Tanekeya Word, founder of Black Women of Print and co-curator of this exhibition likens the experimental printmaking techniques depicted within the exhibition as “The Soul Food of the print world.” Hailing from the Mississippi Delta region, Word combines her knowledge and training in the Western art historical canon of linocut printmaking with hand embroidery, quilting and weaving – practices long considered women’s craft techniques as a form of artistic intervention that in turn elevate each print into a unique work of art.

Co-curator of the exhibition and founder of Blackbox Press, Delita Martin, uses the power of imagery in her printmaking practice to draw attention to the marginalization of Black women that has historically diminished and distorted their roles with the community and family structures. This misrepresentation has undermined their influence and devalued their contributions. Martin’s current work deals with reconstructing the identity of Black women. Her layering process uses common signs and symbols to create a visual language that draws its viewers in to experience the strength of the women in her work. There is a story in each image that shifts the perspective of these marginalized women. Lush colors and gestural forms are infused with recurring symbols such as birds, masks, circles, and stools that represent spirit, transition, and leadership. Martin’s work is an immersive experience that explores her ancestry and African American roots, bringing forth women that symbolize female power, wisdom, and the infinite.

Ann Johnson uses objects as diverse as an ironing board or a feather fan to deepen and expand upon the narratives formed by printing haunting and thought-provoking images of Black and indigenous women directly onto the objects. The artist questions why we are still having the same conversations surrounding “women’s work,” and equality in a country as imaginative and forward thinking as ours. Born in London but raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming Johnson’s experimental printmaking was inspired by her great grandmother who was a Black Indian. Johnson’s African, Native and African American ancestry play a large role in her work. The works on view are printed on raw cotton and are from the “Auction Block Series” confronting the cross-generational trauma and pain of slavery, as well as the survival and existence of its ancestors.

A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking was organized by Black Women of Print to showcase the work of a spectrum of established and mid-career Black women artists with a focus on printmaking.

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