Tag Archives: Houston

Guest host, Dr. Melayne Price, chats with ‘The Dirty South’ exhibit’s curator, Valerie Cassel Oliver, as well as Houston artists Nathaniel Donnett and Mel Chin

13 Dec


I SEE U, Episode 27: Storytelling Art of The Dirty South

Guest host, Dr. Melayne Price, chats with ‘The Dirty South’ exhibit’s curator, Valerie Cassel Oliver, as well as Houston artists Nathaniel Donnett and Mel Chin about what happens when contemporary art merges with the roots of Southern hip-hop culture.MELANYE PRICE | POSTED ONDECEMBER 9, 2021, 8:28 PM

To be black and southern is to contend with the embedded legacy of racial terror and grapple with the unique and enduring culture created in its shadow. The term “dirty south” can invoke many images connected to southern agrarian life, but hip-hop artists have transformed it into a banner of pride. Dirty South now represents a short cut for understanding the perspectives of creatives who were raised or procured their work in the South – through music, art, fashion, and other forms of cultural products that possessed a specific, Southern lens. This work has been captured in an exhibit called, “Dirty South,” currently on display at the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston until February. On this episode of I SEE U, join us as guest host, Dr. Melayne Price, chats with the exhibit’s curator, Valerie Cassel Oliver, as well as Houston artists Nathaniel Donnett and Mel Chin whose works are included in the show. Find out what happens when contemporary art merges with the roots of Southern hip-hop culture in The Dirty South.

Available Artwork by NATHANIEL DONNETT

Art & Culture Magazine Houston features artist NATHANIEL DONNETT

7 Dec

We are thrilled to share news that Houston, TX based artist Nathaniel Donnett has been featured in this month’s Art & Culture Magazine Houston in regards to his current solo exhibition ‘In One Form or Another; Verse One’ on view at Houston’s Art League through January 20th.  This exhibition is funded by grants from the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.


“HOUSTON—For Nathaniel Donnett, whose work finds expression in a wide range of modes, the studio has a way of expanding beyond the walls of his art-making space into the larger world. For In One Form or Another; Verse One, his exhibition at Houston’s Art League on view through Jan. 20, Donnett is tying his own work to a long history of vibrant protest movements created by African Americans, while slyly referencing geometric abstraction.”  ~ Arts & Culture Magazine


In other exciting news The Ulrich Museum in Witchita, Kansas has acquired an original work by Donnett for their collection titled ‘Leonora Draper’.  The piece, pictured above, incorporates human and synthetic hair, and graphite on paper!

You can find images of available work by Nathaniel Donnett on our website, and please contact the gallery for any additional details or inquiries!


NATHANIEL DONNETT in “Silos” at Columbia College

11 Jan
DEPS - Department of Exhibitions, Performance & Student SpacesColumbia College Chicago
 Yaw Aygeman, den na ma ye (what have I done), 2016 , video installation


November 17, 2016 – February 18, 2017

Reception and artist talk: November 17, 4-8 P.M.
4-5 p.m., Annika Marie in conversation with Shane K. Gooding
5-8 p.m., Opening reception

Lecture: Jeffreen M. Hayes Ph.D.
February 9, 6p.m. 623 S. Wabash Ave, room 203

As a microcosm of our society, the art world maintains a system of marginalization based on racial and cultural difference. Artists identified as “other” function in silos, just as they do in society. This exhibition presents eleven artists who examine these silos, otherness, and the cultural and social ramifications of marginalization based on one’s identity, whether self-defined or inscribed. Bearing witness, as these artists do, not only identifies the pressing issues of our time but also challenges the norm of marginalization, absence, and exclusion. Through the work of Yaw Agyeman, Wesley Clark, Nathaniel DonnettShané K. Gooding, Esau McGhee, Johana Moscoso, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Ellington Robinson, Stacy-Lynn Waddell, Rhonda Wheatley and Wilmer Wilson IV Silos gives voice to the silence(d).

Curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D

For more information: Mark Porter, mporter@colum.edu/312-369-6643

Gallery Hours

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9am – 5pm, Thursday 9am – 7pm,
Saturday 12pm – 5pm

VONN SUMNER’s “Neo Byzantine (Square)” featured in Houston Chronicle

15 Sep

Fall art fair fever

September 8, 2016 Updated: September 8, 2016 2:25pm

Forecast for the last weekend of September: a hurricane-force whirlwind for collectors, now that both of Houston’s 6-year-old art fairs are running concurrently, and a third – from France – has entered the fray.

Vonn Sumner's "Neo Byzantine Square" will be at the Morton Fine Art booth at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair. Photo: Courtesy Of The Artist And Morton Fine Art / Photo Credit: Robert Wedemeyer

Photo: Courtesy Of The Artist And Morton Fine Art
Vonn Sumner’s “Neo Byzantine Square” will be at the Morton Fine Art booth at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair.

Morton Fine Art in Texas Contemporary

23 Aug


Texas Contemporary DSC00764_copy_1140_475_c1

Fair Dates/Hours/Location

September 29 – October 2, 2016 – George R. Brown Convention Center – 1001 Avenida De Las Americas Houston, Texas 77010


Thursday September 29, 2016

6:00pm to 10:00pm

6:00pm – 8:00pm | Early Access: Exclusively for those who have paid to receive a Patron VIP Pass

8:00pm – 10:00pm| The Preview opens to VIP Pass and Fair Pass holders



Friday, September 30
11:00am to 7:00pm
Saturday, October 1
11:00am to 7:00pm
Sunday, October 2
12:00pm to 6:00pm

Featured Artists

Maya Freelon Asante, Osi Audu,Victor Ekpuk, Nate Lewis, Julia Fernandez-Pol, Vonn Sumner & Charles Williams

NATHANIEL DONNETT featured in Art in America

2 Jun

Click HERE to view available artwork by NATHANIEL DONNETT.



art in america logo


Production still from Trenton Doyle Hancock, Stephen Mills, and Graham Reynolds’s ballet Cult of Color: Call to Color, 2008. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York, and Ballet Austin. Photo Tony Spielberg.

1. Katie Robinson Edwards’s excellent Midcentury Modern Art in Texas (University of Texas Press, 2014) is but the most recent example and should be required reading for anyone interested in how vibrant art communities arise outside of art centers.
2.“Robert Hodge: Destroy and Rebuild,” organized by senior curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, was at CAMH, Oct. 3, 2014–Jan. 4, 2015.
3.Robleto had a show in 2001 before I arrived. Hancock’s drawing retrospective, organized by Valerie Cassel Oliver, just finished a four-city tour. Flood is currently preparing his second large-scale museum exhibition—his first in Houston—at CAMH for April 2016.

I arrived in Texas in 2009 to direct the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston after a lifetime on the East Coast, and the first lesson I learned was that Houston loves eccentrics. It is, in fact, something of a tradition and likely why I have been able to thrive as a museum director here.

I’ve found Houston to be a progressive and intellectual city—a bright blue dot in a massive field of red. We have had an arts-friendly, out-lesbian mayor for the last six years. There are more artists’ talks, lectures, performances, film screenings, and concerts than one could ever attend. This makes it easy to forget the regressive elements of the political machine working against equality and sanity in the state. But despite the truly heinous political realities—especially around guns and reproductive rights—there is broad bipartisan support for the arts. Even the conservative community brags about the city’s openness to controversial art.

I was unaware when I moved here that Texans consider the state its own country, and that I would need to study its history—most of my fellows had already learned it in junior high school. Several books on the history of Texas art would be required reading as well.1 It’s no surprise, then, that the cultural landscape here is full of world-class attractions. Yet Houston is a cat city, rather than a dog city, meaning that its charms can make themselves scarce and do not come to you just because you express a passing curiosity. The city requires a tour guide and a car. I hope this essay will serve as an introduction to a city that I find to be richer in artistic stimulation every year.

The double meaning of “rich” is intended, for the response T-shirt to the ubiquitous “KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD” is “KEEP HOUSTON RICH.” For someone whose job description includes convincing wealthy Texans that supporting museums is a worthy and enjoyable philanthropic endeavor, a rich Houston is very welcome indeed. Most cities have a diversified funding base. Houston money all comes back to the oil and gas industry—directly or indirectly. Most general economic downturns are barely felt here due to the consistent cash flow of the petroleum business, as people keep driving their cars even when economically stressed. Cultural leaders in the city all have the price per barrel of oil in our morning news feeds, since it is the biggest single factor affecting the success of requests for support of important projects. Even during the 2016 sinkhole, there is money being made, but few capital campaigns will be launched until the market conditions change again.

Commitment to access to the arts is a beautiful thing to see in the city. When artist and musician Robert Hodge released a hip-hop single with Phillip Pyle II in 2014—the Black Guys’ “The Menil Song” is about Hodge’s discovery as a black teen of the always-free, heavily air-conditioned galleries at the Menil—it became an underground hit, giving me a prideful thrill. Hodge—who had a killer show at CAMH of his paintings that mix hip-hop phrases, slavery-era illustrations, and images from popular culture and European art history2 —acknowledges that, for many in his community, museum-going is not part of life. But when he and his friends learned about Houston’s free museums, they felt welcome and were happy to see their cultural histories represented on the walls.

Relocating to Houston in 1941—when the city could rightly be termed provincial—John and Dominique de Menil changed the terrain of cultural philanthropy, and to this day Houston’s philanthropists hold the Menil model dear and emulate it in their own patronage. The Menils were involved in the founding period of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (1948), constructed the Rothko Chapel (1971), and helped the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, grow exponentially, before building the world-renowned Menil Collection, which opened in 1987.

Add to these four institutions the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum, with its robust curatorial vision, and the city is well served by its museums, which have divided the contemporary art turf. We museum directors consistently cooperate to ensure that most major areas of investigation in contemporary art are on view in Houston within a year of their appearance in big art centers like New York, Los Angeles, London, or Berlin.

As a gateway city to South and Central America, and with the Museum of Fine Arts devoting significant resources to its Latin American program, Houston gets current art from the south quickly. Under the leadership of curator Mari Carmen Ramírez, the MFAH’s Latin American department has created a solid system for exhibiting and sometimes buying Latin American works, and almost all the best collections in Houston have made significant acquisitions. In 2015, the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, held in the fall, mounted a survey of Mexico City galleries, leading many Houston collectors to prioritize Mexico City art fairs Zona Maco and Material Art Fair over New York’s Armory this year. María Inés Sicardi started representing the great Latin American modernists, such as Carlos Cruz-Diez and Luis Tomasello, and politically engaged conceptualists, such as Liliana Porter and Miguel Angel Ríos, well before there was any market for their works in North America. Sicardi has also fostered the intricate, poetic practices of Mexico City’s Gabriel de la Mora and Melanie Smith, both of whom have pieces in Houston collections.

Performance is huge here, and there are many festivals, such as the feisty Lone Star Explosion and the classic Dance Salad. Lone Star’s last iteration remains infamous for the extremity of many of its presentations, which had one major foundation representative asking me if we should climb into the performance area and force the performer to stop choking himself.

I see many performances all over the city, but I’m particularly proud of a couple we’ve presented at CAMH. In September 2014, Nathaniel Donnett responded to being racially profiled. Pulled over by the police some months before, he felt his life was in peril from the way the officer was aggressively questioning him, until the officer saw his two-year-old daughter in the backseat. For the performance, he imagined himself as another victim of police violence and staged his funeral service, with other artists delivering eulogies. This year, Autumn Knight, the only Houston artist in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s 2014 national survey, “State of the Art,” staged her work WALL, consisting of sound, rituals, and actions that explore the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the Galveston Seawall. At CAMH, black women sat in a row between the artist and the audience to represent the power of resilience in the face of trauma.

Music and art mix well and often in Houston. The blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins has a memorial bus stop not far from Project Row Houses, the long-running art organization and installation space in the historically black Third Ward neighborhood. Mark Flood began making art while still in the punk band Culturecide. Mayo Thompson, whose drawings were on view at Greene Naftali in New York in fall 2015, founded the conceptual psychedelic band Red Krayola here in 1966 with drummer Frederick Barthelme. Today, Indian Jewelry, a band in the psychedelic tradition, dominates the music scene. In the 1990s, DJ Screw (Robert Earl Davis Jr.) invented a deejaying technique in Houston in which sound is radically slowed down. DJ Screw’s phrase “chopped and screwed” is used in Houston in diverse contexts—from recipes to poems and paintings—showing that his brilliant invention (the Houston version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies) can be employed across disciplines. DJ Screw died young (in 2000), but rapper Bun B has claimed his mantle. In outsider music, Jandek, the mysterious cult singer, will occasionally appear in underground showcases or the lobby of the Menil Collection.

Even though Houston has all this exciting stuff going on, almost any denizen of the city’s art scene can recite the names of artists who have left—Earl Staley, Dash Snow, Will Boone, Jeff Elrod, Mark Lombardi, and Donna Huanca—but they will follow up with the reminder that “you don’t need to do that now.” Since my arrival, I have seen a steady upturn in artists who build lives here. Many seem to find that there is enough influx from the international art world to launch a career while maintaining a fairly high quality of life.

For non-natives, I have heard Houston described as a “flypaper city.” You come to take advantage of one of the scores of culture-industry jobs or residency programs. Then, years pass while you avoid opportunities in other cities because it would involve a drastic decline in your standard of living. In 2014, artist and curator Steven Evans, whose wall paintings of disco-song titles from the ’80s were among the stars of “Macho Man, Tell It to My Heart: Collected by Julie Ault” (2013–14) at Artists Space in New York, was lured to Houston from the Pace Foundation in San Antonio to assume the directorship of FotoFest, the international photo-based biennial. Some long-established Houston artists, such as the lyrical abstract painter David Aylsworth and conceptual sculptor Joseph Havel, came for short stays that extended for decades. Staley moved back, and other artists with international careers choose to keep Houston as their second home (Angelbert Metoyer, Amsterdam; Tameka Norris, Berlin).

Havel is also director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s Glassell School of Art and its well-respected Core Program, which offers residencies for art and art criticism and has allowed many great artists, curators, and writers to spend substantial time in Houston. Critics like Andy Campbell, already an art historian, came from Austin for Core and soon after started publishing insightful art writing internationally. He also made it his business to know the artists here well, and he deejays expertly under the name Dandy Campbell. The Galveston Artist Residency, started by artist Eric Schnell in 2008 after Hurricane Ike ravaged Houston’s beach resort, provides more interaction with the broader art world.

Three internationally known artists who maintain their homes and studios here, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Dario Robleto, and Mark Flood, don’t seem to have much in common. One thing that links them is their eccentricity, their determination to encounter the art world on exactly their own terms. (All three have had or are going to have shows at CAMH.3 ) Robleto’s studio is famously off-limits, even to his friends, family members, and dealers. He once described his ideal studio as a version of the Bat Cave, where he drives in and the rocks close behind him. Such a situation is all the better to make his alchemical magic, in which long-lost sounds are transformed into deliciously poetic objects.

Hancock’s studio on the northern edge of the city is more sociable. Going there means entering the artist’s delirious headspace, which is full of signature characters like the evil Vegan King, determined to rid the world of the joy provided by the Color Babies. His toy collection dominates the huge space and probably inspired his own toy designs. This seems fitting for an artist whose alter ego, Torpedo Boy, is a cartoon character he created as a child. For Cult of Color: Call to Color (2008), he worked with Ballet Austin to transform his dark vision into a narrative dance. Seeing the 2012 revival, I understood why the company took pains to advise parents that, despite the cute images on the poster, this show was not for easily scared kiddies, as the violence was disturbing.

Active on the global stage for fifteen years, Mark Flood typifies the individualistic Houston artist who stays in the city because it allows him total freedom. Flood does not remain in Houston to avoid the Machiavellian machinations of the art world; he is deeply engaged with how the art world functions. He recently completed a feature film, Art Fair Fever, in which a group of art students attend a fair to learn the ways of the contemporary art market, only to face a syndrome that involves foaming at the mouth and becoming obsessed with accumulating, rather than making, art. Known in the art world as singer Christeene, the actor Paul Soileau, from Austin’s Rude Mechstroupe, plays a collector in the movie whose art holdings need to be surgically removed from his ass.

Flood has indeed created his own art world in his hometown, regularly hosting visiting dealers, curators, and collectors in his Houston Heights studio; he frequently shows them works by young painters in the city. His support has allowed many emerging talents, like the abstractionists Lane Hagood, Jeremy DePrez, Bret Shirley, and Alika Herreshoff, to exhibit at significant galleries in New York and London while living here.

Many of these emerging artists are affiliated with Cardoza Fine Art, in the Warehouse District, where Flood shows. The gallery, which has professionalized recently due to the intense art world interest in its stable, has started hitting the art fair circuit, debuting in 2015 at Texas Contemporary and Miami Project. Similarly, Hello Project, having opened as a wacky parasite space—a perfect white box one entered through the old-school Houston gallery McMurtrey—is currently looking for another location but continues to present artists like Hagood and Travis Boyer at art fairs. Keeping up with the dozen or so new, bare-bones spaces that have opened (Nicole Longnecker Gallery, Zoya Tommy Gallery, Scott Charmin Gallery, Box 13, andAker Imaging Gallery) along with established venues (like Anya Tish Gallery, Gspot Gallery, Deborah Colton Gallery, Gallery Sonja Roesch and Barbara Davis Gallery)—is a full-time job.

The three main blue-chip galleries in Houston—Texas Gallery,Hiram Butler Gallery, and McClain Gallery—are committed to discovering and promoting local art-makers as well. Garnering the lion’s share of attention are Rachel Hecker, David McGee, Carl Palazzolo, Francesca Fuchs, and Susie Rosmarin at Texas Gallery; Kent Dorn, Shane Tolbert, and the duo Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher at McClain; and at Butler, the young digital demon Drew Bacon and the long-haul abstractionist Terrell James. This group is as diverse as you can get in terms of method, aesthetics, age, ethnicity, and marketability.

 I recommend that out-of-town visitors start their journey at Moody Gallery. Betty Moody has devoted the last forty years of her life to the artists of this region and will explain their eccentric backstories. She tells irresistible tales of how artists like Terry Allen, James Drake, and Gael Stack (all with long careers) as well as nature-focused Page Kempner, quirky Mary McCleary, and elegant Randy Twaddle established themselves in the state. When she brings in a younger artist, like Debra Barrera or Michael Bise—both of whom have embraced a masterful drawing technique to very disquieting ends—everyone takes notice.

On Main Street in midtown one can find Isabella Court, the city’s central gallery complex, with Devin Borden Gallery, Art Palace,Samara Gallery and Inman Gallery. David Shelton (formerly on Isabella Court) and Art Palace relocated from San Antonio and Austin, respectively, for the greater playing field of confident, self-directed collectors in Houston, and will mix global players like Keith Mayerson in with the regional emerging artists. David Shelton found larger digs in the 4411 Montrose Building in January, and opened with a killer show by New Yorker Matthew Craven. Inman not only represents well-known painters like Aylsworth, but also the poetic photographer Amy Blakemore and political artist Jamal Cyrus, whose work has been shown at museums across the United States.

Devin Borden presents work by artists who have some Texas connection, even if it is just having family in the state or teaching here briefly. My personal favorites include Laura Lark’s paintings, performances and ink-on-Tyvek drawings that engage with women’s mediated fantasy lives, and the juicy paintings of Geoff Hippenstiel, known for their deliriously worked surfaces. Upcoming is a first commercial gallery exhibition by the duo Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin, who traveled around the country investigating queer regional histories and gay marriage, and found that Houston was such an inviting place they have stayed (though they keep a residence in Tulsa as well). Their “Cut Map” works are labor-intensive tributes to the gay histories of many unlikely locations around the country. The maps focused on Texas reveal the role Houston played for the entire Gulf Coast region as a gay center. Not only was Houston akin to New York or San Francisco in the scale of its AIDS crisis, but it also launched the test case overturning sodomy laws nationally (Lawrence v. Texas).

In Houston Heights, the leafiest area of a city not known for its natural beauty, there are funkier galleries. Gspot is run by a true Houston art eccentric named Wayne Gilbert, who is an artist himself. His own work takes the form of painted meditations on human individuality and mortality, made with pigments that he mixes with unclaimed human ashes from funeral homes. His roster of artists is similarly idiosyncratic. In April 2015, Thedra Cullar-Ledford presented a wildly humorous, angry, politically informative exhibition about her recent mastectomy, offering a feminist response to the male medical establishment telling her how one is supposed to feel regarding one’s cancerous breast tissue and one’s body after surgery. She had a giant piñata being beaten by women who have refused reconstructive surgery that exploded with stickers that read “FUCK CANCER.”

New Orleans is Houston’s nearest big-city neighbor to the east, and it makes for a weird mirror image. Houston is future- focused, while New Orleans is all about preserving the past. The artists who choose to be based in Houston are plugged into art happenings globally but do not worry about cities like New York and Los Angeles on a daily basis. Over the last decade, Houston has often been compared to Los Angeles during the mythic period in the late ’60s when it began to manifest its own artistic identity, going through a period of not caring what New Yorkers thought about its homegrown genius art-makers. Houston’s pride and self-confidence, despite the free-fall in oil prices, are at a high point today, so perhaps we are an art scene ready to welcome curious outsiders into our wondrous realm—yet totally on our own Texas terms.

This article is part of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Art in America Arts Writing Fellowships, a joint project designed to foster art and culture writing in cities throughout the U.S.

NATHANIEL DONNETT founder of “Not That But This” Houston-based art and culture webzine

2 Apr
not that but this webzine logo
Not That But This is a Houston-based webzine, created out of necessity, by artists and various creatives, that seeks to showcase and celebrate contemporary art and culture created by people of color throughout the African diaspora.

Not That But This strives to be an expressive, critical, and experimental platform for the investigation, interpretation and freeform exploration of the contemporary art world, as well as the everyday aspects of modern life.

This artist collaborative provides a crazy, rigorous, outlandish, and dope collection of thought provoking positions on the arts and our world. It has been said, “That if you want something done you should do it yourself” and “any real change implies the breakup of the world, as one has always known it.” This is that something and that is this change.

Not That But This Art and Culture is made possible with the support from the Idea Fund, a re-granting program administered by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses and funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Nathaniel Donnett – founder
Jamal Cyrus– contributing founder
Kenya Evans- contributing founder
Autumn Knight– contributing founder
Robert A. Pruitt– contributing founder
M’Kina Tapscott– contributing founder
the idea fund logo

NATHANIEL DONNETT’s artwork acquired for permanent collection of Mattatuck Museum

8 Jan


NATHANIEL DONNETT, miniscule, mini-school, i meant two schools; keep watching, 51"x53", conte, graphite, color pencil, plastic on paper bags

NATHANIEL DONNETT, miniscule, mini-school, i meant two schools; keep watching, 51″x53″, conte, graphite, color pencil, plastic on paper bags


Congratulations to Houston based NATHANIEL DONNETT for the acquisition of his piece, miniscule, mini-school, i meant two schools; keep watching, for the permanent collection of the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The piece has been on display at the museum during NATHANIEL DONNETT’s current solo exhibition Alone in My Four Cornered Room which runs through early January 2014. The artwork measures 51″x53″ and is comprised of conte, graphite, color pencil, plastic on paper bags.


Nathaniel Donnett
Alone in My Four Cornered Room
October 23, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Scotoma web.jpg

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.

Mattatuck Museum
144 West Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
(203) 753-0381 ext. 130

Museum Hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sundays: 12 noon – 5:00 p.m.
OPEN LATE the first Thursday of the month until 7:30 p.m.


30 Dec

houston press logo

100 Creatives 2014: Nathaniel Donnett, Artist

Categories: 100 Creatives
Photo by Cipher
The Dark Imaginal by Nathaniel Donnett

It’s been a stellar year for visual artist Nathaniel Donnett. During 2014, he had his first ever solo show at a major museum with “Nothing to See Hear.” It was part of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, “Right Here, Right Now: Houston” ongoing series of exhibits and events. In support of “Nothing to See Hear,” Donnett received a 2014 Harpo Foundation grant, one of fewer than a dozen awards for the year. (By the way, the Harpo Foundation was founded by Edward Levine. Its name was inspired by Harpo Marx. It’s not related to Oprah Winfrey or her company, Harpo Productions.)He also had a solo show at the Mattatuck Museum, “Alone In My Four Cornered Room,” which closes in January 2015.

He was the subject of Rhythm & Black, a documentary by Rice University film students Paige Polk and Lydia Smith.

And most recently, Donnett was awarded a 2015 Idea Fund / Andy Warhol Foundation grant to develop his blog, Not That This, into a website supporting the critical discourse related to African American artists and other groups whose work is largely overlooked, ignored, or misunderstood by the mainstream arts press. (Donnett previously won an Idea Fund / Andy Warhol Foundation grant in 2011.)

Photo by Nathaniel Donnett
The Hair Piece by Nathaniel Donnett

What he does: “Normally, I say I’m an artist. I don’t talk much about it but if I do, I say I’m an artist and I’m interested in observing people and how people interact. I personally like to critique and comment on those interactions, especially some of the more nuanced ones that people may not be paying attention to.”

Of the two actions – observing and commentating – Donnett says observing is the more important. “Observation is not only the intake of that information, whatever the information is, but it’s also the reflection on that information, the editing and determining how I want to present my take on it, how I want to reveal what I’ve got to say.”

Donnett says the act of observation isn’t an exact science. “I’m observing a person or people. I’m human. They’re human. What I think I’m seeing may not be the truth, it’s my perception of the truth and my perception is influenced by my experiences. But even if I end up commenting on something that I really didn’t see, that comment can still be relevant. It’s still real.”

Why he likes it: “I like the attention,” he laughs. “Actually I like having a voice. I like the communicative aspect of it. I like the process of observing and understanding and reflecting and communicating on something. I most enjoy when I’m in the process of creating. I’m inside this space or this zone. Being in tune with the idea is the most interesting part, it’s just me and my idea. When the work is done, it’s always a relief so I guess I could say that I like that part, too, but mostly I like finding a zone.”

What inspires him: “There’s the idea that there’s something in front of you, something beside you and something behind you. There’s a social context, an emotional context, form, instrumentation, layers and layers. When you look at a piece, you may see one thing but there’s a multitude of things going on, a multitude of layers of ideas and concepts that went into that one work.”

If not this, then what: “If I had to do something else, I would be a drummer. My ideal band would be a mix of jazz, funk and rap. When I was younger, I really liked music. I couldn’t really sing, but I liked music. I liked dancing, I liked drawing and I liked people. Those things have all resurfaced in my work but somebody else may look at a piece and not see those things.

If not here, then where: “So I have to realistic when I answer that question. There are five major art markets – LA, New York, Chicago, Texas and Miami. In LA and Texas, there’s lots of space. In New York, there’s not lots of space. So that’s one thing. The other thing is affordability. On the other side of that, I don’t have a big system of collectors here in Texas. I have it outside of Texas, but not here. So, realistically, I think I would go to California.

“On the fantasy side, I would want to go to Saturn. Sun Ra used to talk about going to Saturn; for me it would be Mars.”

What’s next: “I’ve got a group exhibition at the Arkansas Art Center. That will close out this year. After that I’ve got a few more group shows coming up, including a show called “Heart of Darkness.”


Nathaniel Donnett Performance Piece at Contemporary Art Museum Houston

28 Oct

Nathaniel Donnett’s performance of In Memory Of… at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was held in conjunction with his exhibition Nothing to See Hear. The performance explored the trauma, emotion, and social effects of police brutality and violence on the community at large. Among the performance collaborators who took part in Donnett’s piece were independent candidate for US Congress Maurice Duhon, spoken word and performance artist Angela Olivia Guillory, dancer Chinelo Ikejimba, rapper The Niyat, and DJ Flash Gordon Parks.

You can see a recording of the video here:

Nathaniel Donnett’s exhibition Nothing to See Hear looks at how spaces of thought and memory can be created by utilizing sound and light. Donnett has created an immersive environment that integrates light, sound, sculpture, and works on paper that give visibility to the contemporary portrayals of resistance, protest, loss and mourning. Donnett pays homage to the numerous men and women who have died while placing themselves on the front line for justice. His installation functions as a visual eulogy to their sacrifice as well as a conscious and thought provoking call toward social awareness.

Hear his own words about the exhibition below.

Donnett will have another performance piece entitled The Universe Revolves Around Rhythm; So Give The Drummer Some. The piece, which will feature The Fana Drummers, a multi-African drum ensemble, will explore the different usages of drums (as musical instruments, devices for language and communication, protests against oppression, etc).

For available works by Nathaniel Donnett, please go HERE.