All That I AM

All That I AM is an edition series organized by curator Larry Ossei-Mensah in collaboration with Art+Culture Projects that explores contemporary artists’ engagements with the complexities of cultural identity. The third installment of this series features Firelei Báez, Jordan Casteel, and David Shrobe, all of whom exude a technical skill that enables the viewer to derive a unique understanding of figuration amplified by rich textures, vibrant colors, and tension between the background and foreground of each piece. 

Firelei Báez transports us to the fantasy world that she has cultivated over the past decade. Báez’s practice is anchored by her interests in anthropology, science fiction, and black female subjectivity, which she uses to construct new diasporic narratives. The stories she offers in an adroitly intermingle the eccentricities of her subjects and articulates a distinctive approach to figuration as seen with the splendid bouquet that adorns the figure’s crown in To experience all the things that may happen there. The visual vibrancy of Harold has become Jordan Casteel’s print Harold employs the artist’s vibrant use of color and careful attention to composition. Brilliant yellow and orange, from an unknown light source, radiate warmth. The direct gaze of the two figures acknowledges the participation or viewpoint of the viewer who becomes enmeshed in the moment captured by the artist. David Shrobe’s piece Trance builds on his interest of excavating history and capsizing tradition related to portraiture in order to create a multi-layered exchange between the foreground and background of his paintings. Moreover, Shrobe actively seeks to push back on notions of linearity aligned with temporality and identity. There is an intimacy and familiarity of the figures in these works that are  layered within an explosive palette of colors, which span the spectrum from electrifying to neutral tones that evoke a tactility. Firelei Baez, Jordan Casteel, and David Shrobe all possess distinctive approaches to figuration, engagement with texture and color resulting in a truly visually arresting experience for the viewer. 

The first installment featured artists Derrick Adams, Sanford Biggers, Phoebe Boswell, and Kameelah Janan Rasheed. All four artists meticulously question edifice, language, narrative, and self-image. Their nuanced modus operandi pushes the boundaries of the status quo by challenging the viewer to confront a variety of issues that impact daily life, from the construction of identity via the media to the malleability of race-related vocabulary.

The second installment of this series features two dynamic female artists Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Deborah Roberts, both of whom skillfully utilize figuration as a tool to explore the complicated layers that encompass the African American experience and identity. As a result of their rigorous studio practices, Richmond-Edwards and Roberts portray their subjects with surgical care as they unapologetically engage the viewer’s gaze with regal self-assurance.

Photo Credit: Cary Whittier

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