Diedrick Brackens: blessed are the mosquitoes
Jack Shainman Gallery is thrilled to present diedrick brackens’ blessed are the mosquitoes at our 524 West 24th Street location. Brackens’ vibrant, intricately woven tapestries comprise the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery. In this new body of work, Brackens investigates historical gaps, interlacing the present with his singular magical realist world view.
Shocked at the Center for Disease Control’s recently released study, which projects that if current HIV diagnosis rates persist, 1 in 2 gay black men and 1 in 4 gay Latino men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, Brackens turns his focus to those most implicated by this warning. While the AIDS epidemic is frequently discussed as a thing of the past, Brackens considers the present moment as the lens through which we examine history – what we have learned, and what, or who, has been overlooked.
In homage to these statistics, half of Brackens’ figurative works are adorned with buttons and charms, representative of the virus on the surface of the body, as well the many pills utilized for prevention and treatment. In shape of a fever believer, a delicate blue lightning bolt strikes the bright, magenta figures below its sky. This imagery recalls a fevered vein, almost pulsing with too much life. Though marked with pocks, the adornments on the figures shimmer, reminding the viewer that through sickness remains beauty and vigor. These dots call to mind Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s moving 1987 photograph, Sonponnoi, printed one year before the artist’s untimely death due to AIDS-related complications. Sonponnoi, the Yoruba god of smallpox and other epidemics, is also a healer. Known to instill fear in mortals and gods alike due to his power, Sonponnoi is banished to the outskirts of society. While Sonponnoi is forced into a rural existence, Brackens’ subjects seem to relish in their pastoral landscape – a space all their own. Like Brackens’ portrayal, Fani-Kayode’s subject burns with vitality despite his marginalized position. Through this art historical connection, Brackens probes the possibilities of both medical and non-Western, spiritual paths towards healing.
Titled after Danez Smith’s epic elegy to martyred “boys brown/ as rye”, summer somewhere (for Danez) depicts a single monochromatic figure bathed in a swath of warm, yellow light. The figure floats, suspended in mid-air near a blooming tree; however, Brackens is clear that this is in no way meant to be conflated with a lynching. Rather, his subject freely rises towards a supreme energy, perhaps drawn by a celestial force from above. Brackens considers how the moon’s gravity has the power to pull oceans and wonders if this strength might be harnessed towards the circulation of blood. In the titular work, blessed are the mosquitoes, two seated figures lounge in communion in a vast field of green underneath a mystical sky and moon. A reference to the “bugchasing” subculture of men who actively seek to be infected by the HIV virus, Brackens’ scene intentionally lacks any sort of moralizing tone. Instead, his subjects are allowed the freedom of living life on their terms.
Brackens (b. 1989) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He received a BFA from University of North Texas, Denton, TX and an MFA in textiles from California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York, NY, Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS, the University of North Texas, Denton, TX, and Sewanee University Art Gallery, TN. Recent group exhibitions include the Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Mobile, AL; Made in LA 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Jewish Contemporary Art Museum, San Francisco, CA; and Dimensions Variable, Miami, FL. Brackens is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AR; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI. He is also the 2018 recipient of The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize and the 2019 recipient of the Marciano Artadia Award.
Concurrently on view is Mirror, an exhibition of new works by Odili Donald Odita at 513 West 20th Street.
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