Kahlil Robert Irving Roves Across Millenniums at MoMA

by AryanArtnews
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Kahlil Robert Irving Roves Across Millenniums at MoMA

It would be a mistake to call St. Louis artist Kahlil Robert Irving merely a potter. Nowhere is this more evident than in Owen’s current solo exhibition at MoMA’s ongoing “Project” series, where his signature tabletop sculptures are all but overshadowed by his busy, even chaotic, wallpaper collage installations. They draw inspiration from what the artist describes as “the eternal feedback loop of my experience,” especially online.

The image, as if projected from Irving’s browser history, spans the length of the gallery walls, on one wall, two stories high. This recreates a distilled experience for viewers — seemingly adapted from Owen’s own — Young, Intellectually Greedy and Black Online — posting Mike Brown and George Floyd.

In his fluency in contemporary digital life and one of the oldest art forms, Irving performs a code-switching that spans millennia, from memes to fire soil and back again with apparent ease. In the dirt of life he presents a vision of today’s Pompeii submerged in an explosion of too much information.

If Irwin’s sculptures resemble archaeological specimens extracted from ash and pumice, and are located deep in geology, a closer look reveals that the pieces record things up close. With their shimmering glaze and lustre, they compress and blend the history of clay art – bricks, utensils and other functional and decorative objects such as teapots and vases – as well as urban street debris including soda bottles, takeaway containers , rolled up newspapers, and the little tree-shaped air freshener hanging from the taxi’s rearview mirror, all made of imitation ceramics.

They also incorporate architectural forms that approximate miniature architectural forms, from cylindrical brick chimneys to chrome arches that mimic St. Louis’ famous Gateway Arch, a monumental westward expansion designed by Eero Saarinen. Self-portraits in the form of newspaper headlines and Owen’s own social media avatars can be glimpsed and partially read in the frozen form of his tabletop sculptures, which are displayed on plinths under glass cases. A floor-mounted tile work recreates the asphalt street itself, while also evoking a starry night sky through blobs of white throughout.

On my most recent visit to the MoMA exhibit in Irving, I spent an hour in the ground floor gallery, which the public can enter without a ticket. Presented in partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem, the exhibit is co-curated by its director, Thelma Golden, and its former associate curator, Legacy Russell, now executive director and chief curator of The Kitchen. Watching visitors enter is like seeing crowds waiting anywhere, most staring at their phones, but here the phone and its scrolls become a collectively curated experience, replicated on the wall for days or days. content of the month. Visitors mocked the meme (one convincingly thought there should be more statues dedicated to Outkast than the Commonwealth, as the Atlanta hip-hop duo lasted longer and won more Grammys), admittedly click-bait ad (“Top Cardiac Surgeons: It’s Like a Magic Eraser Fatigue”), and points to a worthwhile reference with screenshots (including a video interview with James Baldwin by artist Glenn Ligon) playlist of songs and videos. Scannable QR codes throughout.

Along the way are nods to art history and pop culture, to the many facets of black joy and the spectacle of the Black Death, to the organization of protests and to streaming, posting, shopping, and reading.

At the time of his MoMA debut, Irving’s work was exhibited at two other museums in New York, including the Whitney Museum’s “Let’s Know: Craft in Art, 1950-2019″ and the New Museum’s 2021 Triennial” Soft water, hard rock.” His work was also recently featured in Gagosian Gallery’s “Social Works II,” the sequel to last year’s blockbuster New York counterpart in London, both curated by Antwaun Sargent and combining Irving’s work with that of an older generation. Transatlantic dialogue artists include David Adjaye, Theaster Gates and Carrie Mae Weems.

Apart from Simone Leigh, no other artist has created more relevant and engaging clay works. As a multimedia artist, Owen deftly argues with a plethora of contemporary experiences—injustice, violence, inequality, and insatiable capitalism—to create new constellations to represent the value of information in libraries that might otherwise not be was recorded. Clay-based works remain at the heart of his creation, although the sculptures are more difficult to read: they span a vast expanse of history – clay tablets from Mesopotamia to Ming porcelain to the bricks that predominate in St. Louis architecture Piece.

In the MoMA installation, the backdrop of stars and sky and the images hanging on the wall immediately suggest the immensity of the natural world in the distance, instead, the windows we see Through increasing mediation and digitization.

However, it would be a mistake to associate Owen’s work with Afrofuturism. Instead of looking to an idealized future, his work documents the present and connects it to the past. Standing in the gallery wondering how Owen’s sculptures relate to the digital galaxies surrounding them, I thought of philosopher Walter Benjamin’s On the Concept of History and his famous reading of Paul Klee’s The New Angel. Benjamin sees Klee’s angel being blown into the future by the winds of “the storm we call progress” as the angel looks back in history with the wreckage of the past piled up at his feet.

In Klee’s single painting, we see the image of an angel, but I’ve always wondered what the piles of catastrophe would look like. Owen’s sculptures may offer such a vision, combining the scraps of everyday life, product packaging and headlines, compiled and compressed into clay like a captured image is compressed into a jpeg file.

Project: Khalil Robert Owen

Through May 1 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan; 212-708-9400; moma.org.

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