after the quiet: on black figures and folds

Focus on the figures here. On the gallery’s north wall, find two kaleidoscopic photo-based portraits from Sam Cremer’s Collective Knowledge series. In each, Cremer capaciously layers multiple images to “capture moments in time,” and “show softness … and tranquility” often not ascribed to Black women. 

Three works from Adetola Abatan’s Patternist Series continue to meditate on the figure. In Cowrie Shells and a Bowler Hat, Abatan plays “with slow drawing techniques and collage.” Who is this figure? She describes: “She reminds me of someone taking her time, observing but not necessarily reacting.”

The foot figures predominantly across Xavier Kelley’s oeuvre, from his larger canvas Big Steppa to his “more geometric, refined, and technical,” sketches. An athlete/artist, Kelley says: “The foot is indicative of the Black experience in America. You see the jumper’s foot, and this could either be muscle tissue or blood. Then that’s either skin, or it’s glowing and you’re seeing through the foot. It’s vibrating on such a high frequency that’s what the yellow is.“

Blue bulbous figures anchor Light Shower and Blue? Man Walking, recent works by Ruth Zekariase that angle with perspective, distortion, and movement.

Find the folds here. As drapery, lines, angles, undulations, and layers, folds irradiate across these works, including on the gallery’s south wall. A hung canvas with gauze fabric amidst oil paint, Ruth Zekariase’s Yene Fekir, Are You Afraid? is “an ode to the Ethiopian woman.” Zekariase describes “I’m using reds and blues in light of what’s going on in Ethiopia with a lot of sexual violence and blood. A lot of my family members are in the midst of trying to find their way out.” Adjacent, find folded pleating in the subject’s collar in Otello, which represents an “Ethiopian Shakespeare,” and “ode to” her father’s “favorite play.”

Sampling images of an Obsidian Pharoah held in Seattle Art Museum’s collection is Xavier Kelley’s Head of a King. “It’s my remix of that,” Kelley says about this work marked by bright colors, angular lines, and his signature foot motif. Adjacent is Kelley’s Walkman, which thematically echoes 1980s and 1990s black culture, including black sitcoms. “Walkman represents,” Kelley says “in terms of popular culture, black culture, hot weather, the sports I play, the sports black people play, the sports people play in general. The sports people watch.” There’s an energetic, iterative sound to Kelley’s work and he has said: “My art’s not really graffiti, but it’s hip-hop, it’s painting.” 

There’s a mesmerizing slow movement within Adetola Abatan’s works that demand close attention. Her “slow drawing” technique, which billow and fold, make an ameba-like shape in Patternist #3, and flow from an object in Relic. 

Folds as layers of photography, nature, and memory immerse within two more works from Sam Cremer’s Collective Knowledge series. Cremer describes and asks: “A lot of the time we as black people are not allowed to partake in and enjoy nature. We were sentenced to cultivate it and to tear it down, to make profit for other people. What does that mean when we allow ourselves to be surrounded by nature and not feel like there’s anything else that we have to do?” It is as if her layers hold these questions with calmness and softness, as well as with memory. In depicting Black figures and folds, Cremer seeks to “show the experience of what memory feels like, particularly [for] black motherhood and black kinship.”

***

After the Quiet: On Black Figures and Folds features works by Adetola Abatan, Samantha Cremer, Xavier Kelley, and Ruth Zekariase, four Black artists who currently or previously lived in Seattle. The exhibition presents painting, collage, photographic print, mixed-media, and works on paper. The exhibition is curated by Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud. 

Linking these works are mediations on the Black figure — through portraiture, collages, and works centering feet, backs, and hands — and on folds — through angles, lines, undulations, layers, and drapery. The exhibition’s title immediately draws from Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture, and Joshua Chambers-Letson’s After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life. Also deeply influential is Thea Quiray Tagle’s 2020 curation of AFTER LIFE (we survive)

This exhibition opens almost two years after the “twin pandemics” of Covid-19 and 1619, and amidst ongoing pervasive racist regimes (such as banning Critical Race Theory texts), when it seems like attention to anti-racism, for some, was just a phase. Amidst this apathy, the exhibition asks: in 2022, how do folds and figures represent the everyday, quiet, and beyond in Black life? What is the role of folds, texture, and figures in immersing within, and imagining the quiet and everyday in Black life? How might we engage Black artists with care after the quiet?

After the Quiet: On Black Figures and Folds takes place at Mini Mart City Park — a place for the arts, education, environmental action, and community collaboration in the Duwamish Valley. exhibition opens on Saturday, January 22 and run until Saturday, February 19. Gallery times are Saturdays, 12-5pm. Artists receive 100% of sales. 

Find the information about each work on the gallery guide & price list.