New Work by Wesley Clark
May 13th - July 8th, 2017
Opening Reception: June 3rd, 6 to 9 pm
Artist's Talk with Paul Polycarpou & Samuel Dunson: June 3rd, 5 pm
Tinney Contemporary is pleased to present The Prophet's Library, a solo show of work by Wesley Clark. It marks his exciting return to the gallery since he was first introduced in 2015 as a participant in Topography, a groundbreaking group show curated by Fisk University's Jamaal B. Sheats.
Wesley Clark's work focuses on the issues faced by African-Americans and the African diaspora. He explores race, politics, and history using various tactile materials. Clark describes The Prophet's Library as "a narratively driven collection of artifacts." His previous showing at Tinney Contemporary offered pieces made mostly from wood, but this new work experiments with resin sculpture, mixed media printmaking, and painting.
Each piece is heavily manipulated to appear as though it were a timeworn object, found and appropriated as art. As a true storyteller, Clark uses both subtle and overt symbolism to relay his message. He intends for his use of "real unicorn horns, large anatomical hearts, and unearthed sarcophagi" among other things, to galvanize the viewer to develop their own narrative. Like the materials comprising each work, the conversation they encourage is densely layered.
These works are deeply inspired by the writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the research of Dr. Joy Degruy, and civil rights advocate and author Michelle Alexander. Combining contemporary and historical social issues, they serve as a reminder of the past and an awakening to the present. Clark says The Prophet's Library exists "as a barometer for black America with the purpose of keeping certain thoughts, ideas, and goals in mind." The show at once alludes to history and makes predictions for the future.
Wesley Clark has exhibited works at institutions such as the Katzen Arts Center at American University, in Washington DC, Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery in Chicago, Illinois, and Prizm Art Fair in Miami, Florida during Miami Art Week. His works can be found in collections here in the US such as noted art collector, Peggy Cooper Cafritz. He is part of the artist collective, Delusions of Grandeur, a group of emerging artists focused on providing critique and commentary on social infrastructures within American society, while contributing to the prominence of the collective black voice and presence within contemporary art. Clark received his BFA from Syracuse University in 2001, and his MFA from The George Washington University in 2012. Today he lives and works in Hyattsville, Maryland.
"Frustration. Hope. Beauty. Pain. Constant trauma with few periods of respite. A Black man convicted and sentenced for choking his dog while another police officer is acquitted of all charges after killing an unarmed Black man in need of help. How do Black Americans find their equilibrium in a country that refuses to reconcile with past and present traditions of violence against their skin; assaults against their character; and the socialization of racism?
Built around a narrative construct of a curated private collection of objects, The Prophet’s Library unabashedly delves into dialogues concerning Black Americans in the only land they’ve known — yet a place hard to call home.
Identity and reparations are two prominent recurring themes. Reparations delineates reconciliation of what is owed to Black Americans to be a regular and prominent thought leading toward action in American society. Identity responds to my recognition of how intentionally the Black image has been co-opted & distorted; the devastating effects of those actions; and the need to counter those maneuvers. Each theme mingles with economics, government, value of life, and history, intertwined and layered throughout the individual works to create a subtle yet well established thread between the objects.
With an expansion into new materials, metal and resin, I’ve found a material contrast for the wood that suits my subject matter and aids in my narrations. Furthermore, these works directly engage my love for words and their power. When combined, these pieces make for a very literate show; where words take center stage alongside their visual co-stars. (A personal feat, as I’ve been chasing phrases attempting to capture them and convert them fully to imagery.) The phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” holds true, yet my focus here is how a word creates a thousand pictures. With this in mind, I’ve dialed in both elements and fine-tuned their frequencies to coexist, complement, and fuel one another to further reach my audience.
I aim for The Prophet’s Library to be an experience of exhalations for Black American viewers; and for them to feel comfortable, and comforted when viewing this work. For other viewers I offer a glimpse at the complexity and reality of being a Black American in this country, with the goal of being moved to consider their position in all of the subject matter presented." -Wesley Clark