NATHANIEL DONNETT’s solo exhibition opens Oct 23rd at the Mattatuck Museum

17 Oct

Mattatuck Donnett Exhibition Invite Front web

Mattatuck Donnett Exhibition Invite Back web

Alone in My Four Cornered Room – A Solo Exhibition of Artwork by NATHANIEL DONNETT

October 23, 2014- January 4, 2015

Mattatuck Museum, 144 West Main Street, Waterbury, CT


Context & Reflection: The Art of Nathaniel Donnett

In this exhibition, Alone in My Four Cornered Room, Nathaniel Donnett navigates the crossroads between the self and perception by others. His drawings, paintings, and sculpture suggest the transitional and unstable nature of perception. Donnett’s work is richly conceptualized and steeped in a deeply reflective, witty, and theoretically grounded history of race and difference in the United States. His work references the landmark scholarship of historian and activist, W.E.B. Dubois, and attends closely to the concept of double consciousness – DuBois’ understanding of the complex and nuanced ways in which African Americans in the United States must negotiate and reconcile their identity as both American and Black – both part of and pushed away from the heart of national identity. Donnett, like DuBois, is wrestling with the “peculiar sensation” in which one has “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

The title of the show, “Alone in My Four Cornered Room,” references a lyric from the 1991 classic hip-hop song, “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me,” by trio The Geto Boys. The song, like Donnett’s works explore isolation, paranoia, and identity in which perception of self and self-knowledge do not always match. In this way, Donnett takes up a strategy that has fortified hip-hop: referencing back to others in order to assemble links and connections. Both The Geto Boy and Donnett are exploring self-doubt, safety, and psychological well-being in the face of “double consciousness.” The works in this show represent Donnett’s investments in examining the entangled relationships between society, the art world, and identity. By exploring experiences of isolation, loneliness, and social stigma, and self -determination, Donnett restores and reclaims the humanity of African Americans living complex emotional lives.

Donnett’s layered works defy singular description, rather they are purposefully resistant to either/or interpretations or linear narratives. Donnett’s work is presenting us with both/and narratives in which as viewer we have a small window in which to glimpse the vertinginous experience of being both erased and highly visible – to be forced to know oneself based on the fears others might have of you. Donnett refers to this entangled interaction between the self and society as projections, noting that many of the notions we have about each other are based on narrow narratives or misinformation. Donnett’s work suggests that none of us are safe from internalizing misperceptions of others – even the misperceptions of our own identities and selves – and he explores how very challenging, complicated, and tangled such experiences can be. His carefully crafted work plays with the distance between self-knowledge and self-perception, while investigating the spaces where art, music, identity, history, the Black imagination, culture, the self, and standards of beauty may be explored – and even challenged. Donnett’s use of such diverse materials gestures toward the improvisation he highlights as part of African American culture.


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