Magazine article Artforum International

Kori Newkirk: Studio Museum in Harlem

Magazine article Artforum International

Kori Newkirk: Studio Museum in Harlem

Article excerpt

"No one can make a better Kori Newkirk about Kori Newkirk than Kori Newkirk." So the artist says in an interview with Thelma Golden published in the catalogue of the Studio Museum Harlem's current survey of the artist's work since 1997. Following his participation in the 2001 Studio Museum exhibition "Freestyle," Newkirk was hailed as a key "post-black" artist. The term, while vaguely defined, was coined by Golden in reference to a stylistically diffuse grouping of artists who shared a desire to avoid alignment with stereotypical presumptions about black subjectivity.

In Newkirk's case, this drive has manifested itself in a materially diverse spectrum of work; the exhibition includes photographs, videos, assemblages, site-specific installations, neon sculptures, mixed-media paintings, and his signature curtains fabricated with strands of pony beads strung onto horizontal armatures. The artist hit on the idea of using pony beads in the late '90s, when Venus Williams was dominating the tennis world and upending the sport's fashion formalities by dangling the beads from her braids. His strategy in these works--to push signifiers associated with race into defiantly personal realms--is one that informs everything he would move on to after his first bead piece, Jubilee, 1999.

While Jubilee shows an abstract, pixelated field of fire made from candy-colored beads (which he has linked to the Los Angeles riots of 1992), the majority of Newkirk's curtains are representational, often depicting pastoral scenes of what resembles the American Northeast. Although born in the Bronx and now based in Los Angeles, the artist split time in his youth between New York and a rural, predominantly white northern part of the state. It is in works such as Suspect, 2001-2002, or NASA, 2007--both beaded curtains depicting woodsy landscapes--that he most adeptly fuses urban object with rural iconography. …

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