Tag Archives: Katzen Arts Center

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON’s “Successions : Traversing U.S. Colonialism” reviewed in Hyperallergic

11 Dec

Art Reviews

The Liminal Space of Identity for Residents of US Territories

In Amber Robles-Gordon’s artwork, the borders between states matter less than the overlapping territories of self, the never-ending negotiation of identity.

by Kriston Capps

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Washington, DC — Seven “flags” hang in Amber Robles-Gordon’s show at the American University Museum: one for each of the five unincorporated United States territories in the Caribbean, one for the District of Columbia, and one to signify the artist’s place in between those locales.

Each of these quilted, banner-like pieces has two sides: one personal, one political. This makes 14 flags — and countless subdivisions, really, considering all the fault lines and fractures that compose the quilted surfaces. They aren’t literal territorial emblems, but like the actual flags they resemble, these banners make a constitutional statement, about one person, divisible, beautifully so.

Suspended from the third-floor atrium, the seven flags are a showstopper in Successions: Traversing US Colonialism. For this show, which was curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah and also includes mixed-media collages on canvas, Robles-Gordon set out to explore her own Caribbean roots. The artist couples traditional textiles with an approach to abstraction that draws on Washington’s rich painting legacy to reflect the dynamism of the African diaspora, and where she dwells within it.

Robles-Gordon, who is Afro-Latina, spent much of the pandemic between San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she was born, and the District of Columbia, where she lives and works. The ideas that culminated with this body of work are informed by research into state borders, social systems, and political hierarchies. Yet the show brims with improvisation, color, and self-discovery.

Robles-Gordon borrows from insignia of the US territories while building her own personal cosmology of symbols to assert her supra-national identity. For the front side of her Virgin Islands quilt, titled “USVI Political” (2021), she deploys the shield banner and eagle emblem of the territory’s flag. The artist juxtaposes arrows, laurels, and other figurative elements with abstract bands of color alongside collaged images of Virgin Islands license plates. A gold chain hangs over the whole thing — just a dash of Robert Rauschenberg. “USVI Spiritual, Moko Jumbie: Walk Tall and Heal Forward” (2021), the back side, is an entirely abstract pattern that references the carnival stilt-walker tradition that came to the Caribbean from West Africa. The flags for Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and D.C. are similarly structured.

Successions considers the feedback loops of immigration and identity. It’s a formally intersectional show, too, as Robles-Gordon draws on Afro-Caribbean traditions and iconography as well as African American art history in her approach to collage. The works of David Driskell and Alma Thomas suffuse her mark-making: “Puerto Rico Political” (2021) resembles a Puerto Rican flag superimposed over one of Thomas’s circle paintings. Robles-Gordon’s quilts point to the rich use of fabric and textile techniques by Black artists such as Rosie Lee Tompkins and Faith Ringgold and the artists of Gee’s Bend (and, more recently, Tomashi Jackson and Eric N. Mack). A wealth of dense patterning and color adorns Robles-Gordon’s works, which reward close looking.

D.C. galleries are increasingly making room for artists weighing questions of status and identity. Anil Revri’s mixed-media abstractions, also on view at the museum, take cues from sacred Hindu patterns and geometric abstract painting; across town, the Arlington Arts Center is hosting an exhibition by Pakistan-born artist Sobia Ahmad that features a haunting series of white flags, made from screen-printed woven rice bags and based on her family’s forced migration after the Partition of India and Pakistan.

The works in Successions are stamped with stars and bars and other symbols laden with the weight of ceremony and state. Yet Robles-Gordon’s collages also include references to botánicas, birth control, and bioluminescent bays, putting the personal on par with the political. In her work, the borders between states matter less than the overlapping territories of self, the never-ending negotiation of identity, shown in these works as a source of comfort and conflict alike.

Successions: Traversing US Colonialism continues at the American University Museum (4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington D.C.) through December 12. The exhibition was curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah.

Available Artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON’s “Successions : Traversing U. S. Colonialism” reviewed in Bmore Art

10 Dec


Amber Robles-Gordon’s Geographies of Care


Amber Robles-Gordon’s Geographies of Care

At the Katzen Arts Center, Robles-Gordon’s exhibition conveys a first-person account of the intimacies of movement

People, food, and horticulture are among the things that move. Amber Robles-Gordon’s use of the Ficus Elastica is part of the symbology that reverberates throughout her exhibition, Successions: Traversing US Colonialism, on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center in Washington, DC, through December 12, 2021. The Ficus Elastica—colloquially known as the rubber tree—has its roots in South Asia, though it was later nativized in the West Indies through the rubber trade. Dear reader, among your houseplants you are likely to find the genus of the rubber plant.

The ficus form appears in Robles-Gordon’s collage series Place of Breath and Birth and the six quilts that comprise Successions, the second body of work and the exhibition’s namesake. “Elemental: Tierra, Aire, Agua, Fuego” (2020), a mixed-media collage from Place of Breath and Birth, uses the ficus to gesture toward culture, genealogy, and place. Here the ficus form spreads from a pregnant middle point, growing outward in four directions, above and below, left and right. Bands of yellow, light blue, teal, and iridescent black paint and paper mimic movement. Most striking is the middle space: the central band of color and ink brings to mind a sonic wave, an echo of the artist’s interest in spirit and culture, the divine feminine, and place—her place, the titular place of breath and birth within the Afro/Latinx diaspora.

Through lines that curve and increase in thickness, “Elemental” vibrates off the wall, exploding the collaged territories’ discrete demarcations through gestures of emergence and slippage. It is here that Robles-Gordon’s practice of collage and assemblage evokes Black life as it exceeds the boundaries of the nation-state and of the medium.

Robles-Gordon made Place of Breath and Birth during a self-defined art residency and while living and traveling between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC—a period of time disrupted by Hurricane Isaias and the COVID-19 pandemic. In Successions, we encounter her motifs and movements within a broader practice. Robles-Gordon is a DC-based artist whose family lineage is in the Black diaspora with ties to Puerto Rico and the greater Caribbean. These diaspora ties are reflected in creative and cultural traditions she draws from, including the Washington Color School, Alma Thomas, the Gee’s Bend Quilters of Alabama, and botanical elements within Afro-Latinx religions.

Amber Robles-Gordon, y mi bandera vuela mas alto que la tuya, 2020, mixed-media collage on canvas, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist
Amber Robles-Gordon, The eternal altar for the women forsaken and souls relinquished. Yet the choice must always remain hers/ El altar eterno de las mujeres abandonadas y las almas renunciadas. Sin embargo, la elección siempre debe ser de ella., 2020. mixed-media collage on canvas, 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist

While one side of the quilts represents the territories through symbols like flags, eagles, and other emblems of the state, the reverse intones a spiritual element, the cultural heart of these geopolitical spaces.

The artist’s exhibition conveys a first-person account of the intimacies of movement—and the past’s effect on the present through empire, colonialism, and transatlantic slavery, of which territory is a major mechanism. Place of Breath and Birth and Successions both invite us to think about the territory and what Caribbeanist scholar Sylvia Wynter has named “mistaking the map.” In the article “On How We Mistook the Map for the Territory,” Wynter describes the mistaken map as a series of factors of difference in academic discipline, and in social contexts, that conscribe a particular meaning of “human” to the current social order. The consequences of this mistaken map are that what it means to be “human” is conscripted through logics of belonging that reflect a worldview that excludes, proliferates violence, and is upheld by the state. In Robles-Gordon’s hands, mistaking the map means we must contend with the entanglements of colonialism and empire—and the spiritual resonance of it all—in the wake of violence. 

Place of Breath and Birth bears the mark of one of the United States empire’s territories, Puerto Rico, referencing the artist’s personal relationship to its people, land, and culture. Successions take a more hemispheric approach. This series comprises double-sided quilts standing in for five territories of the U.S. empire—Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands—and the District of Columbia, a federal district. While one side of the quilts represents the territories through symbols like flags, eagles, and other emblems of the state, the reverse intones a spiritual element, the cultural heart of these geopolitical spaces. This second orientation to the quilts, which are suspended from the gallery ceiling like flags in a federal building’s rotunda, upends a logic of conquest by inviting viewers to encounter them through another path.

The sixth quilt, the first completed in the series, titled “When All is Well (Front)” stands out with its color palette of red, green, and sunburst orange against a black background. With paint and fabric stitched together, the quilt holds symbology of flora, fauna, and deconstructed text that contrasts with a pattern of white geometric lines and marks. From the quilt’s outer reaches comes a cascading element of green and brown lines and curves and triangular patchwork, and a pink-and-yellow bloom disrupts the earthen tones. A circular area with symmetrical marks, resembling eyes, is composed alongside what might be a talisman hanging in sunburst orange. “When All is Well/The Hawk (Back)” continues motifs of flora and fauna, alongside a black background where line and mark bring together symbols reflecting latent and less obvious cultural and social inflections of being. 

How necessary that the District of Columbia—the political seat of the US empire and a geopolitical place vying for its own statehood—would factor into Successions. “DC Political, Welcome to the District of Colonialism” and its reverse, “DC Spiritual, Native American,” evoke the duplicity of empire and subjugation, culture and acknowledgment.

On “DC Political,” Robles-Gordon deconstructs the seal and the flag that marks the territory, pulling at the seams of the spangled banner’s stars and stripes and the district’s spatial dimensions. An insignia where Lady Justice hangs a wreath at the George Washington monument sits off-kilter and atop a depiction of indigenous presence—in a place where the Piscataway, Pamunkey, Nentego (Nanichoke), Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan, and Powhatan cultures thrived. These depictions are housed in the outlined topography of DC as a landscape. The other view, “Native American,” produces a hieroglyphic of symbol, line, and color that suggest the heart/soul of a presence that thrived, championed expansive visions of existence, and yet is constantly erased. This view acts as a portal, building a world that can be imagined outside of subjugation and conquest, one that can imagine the multivocal breadth of care as a collective practice against such dehumanization and erasure. 

DC Spiritual, Native American (Back), 2021, mixed media on quilt, 86 x 90 inches
Amber Robles-Gordon, DC Political, Welcome to the District of Colonialism (Front), 2021, mixed media on quilt, 90 x 86 inches

As a navigation of the roots and routes of Puerto Rico’s colonial past and present, the mixed-media collage invites viewers not simply to witness horror, but to build and acknowledge care as a revolutionary practice.

Empire makes inroads through racialized gender. The fact that textile art has always been gendered (due to its connotations with craft, domestic space, the labor of women, and the feminine) is well-trodden territory. National imaginaries and territory, meanwhile, are constructions of masculinist notions of conquest and control; the infantilization of the native/colonial subject often stands in as a proxy for gendered labor. Taking bits and pieces of colored fabric and material and assembling them into an amalgamated whole, Robles-Gordon’s technique harkens back to gendered labor and care. 

Take, for example, “The eternal altar for the women forsaken and souls relinquished. Yet the choice must always remain hers.” (2020), from Place of Breath and Birth. This work draws on the histories of experimental birth control trials and forced sterilization of poor Puerto Rican women between the 1930s and 1970s, and the notion of bodily autonomy alongside the process of reclamation. Forced sterilization, a dehumanizing form of state systematic violence, was exercised to curtail poverty and unemployment, and it intersects with early forms of gynecological testing on enslaved people. 

In Robles-Gordon’s collage, blood red brings into focus the embodied ways that racialized and gendered labor produce the violence of empire. We might also see connections to women and queer rebellion, in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the retooling of naming Blackness on census data in Puerto Rico through the efforts of groups such as Colectivo Ilé and Revista Étnica. As a navigation of the roots and routes of Puerto Rico’s colonial past and present, the mixed-media collage invites viewers not simply to witness horror, but to build and acknowledge care as a revolutionary practice that transforms how people interact with one another and how they interact with place.

In her book In the Wake, Christina Sharpe writes of care work as a labor in which Black diaspora people insist on life-giving practices alongside the singularity of slavery, to hold space for Black life. Care is woven through Robles-Gordon’s work: These mixed-media collages are potent worlds where touch is a critical factor in their making. The detail in which black bits and pieces give way to the constellations of color and line, fragmented yet collective, ruptures a too-easy analysis of collage as a process of making that dissects and creates categories of materials like an index. Quilts are sensory, touch-based work; they invite exploration of the haptic and of intimacies with space. 

I return to the presence of the Ficus Elastica as a symbol throughout Place of Breath and Birth and Successions. While the formal qualities of the ficus are more readily present in Place of Breath, it is a motif of importance in Robles-Gordon’s work. It becomes a way to get behind and underneath the spatial politics of the territory, and toward a politics of care, where people on the land forge their own experiences, make culture, and fortify community in spite of empire.

Amber Robles-Gordon, American Samoa Spiritual (Back), 2021, mixed media on quilt, 104 x 90 inches
Amber Robles-Gordon, American Samoa Political (Front), 2021, mixed media on quilt, 104 x 90 inches

Images courtesy of American University/Katzen Arts Center. Art images courtesy of the artist. Exhibition installation photos by Greg Staley

Available Artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON’s “Successions : Traversing U.S. Colonialism” reviewed in The Washington Post

3 Dec



In the galleries: Artist’s works criss-cross the paths of U.S. colonialism

An installation view of Amber Robles-Gordon’s “Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism.” (Greg Staley/Katzen Arts Center, American University)

By Mark Jenkins

12/3/21 at 6:00 a.m. EST

Residents of D.C. are used to seeing the place as an almost-state, much like Maryland or Wyoming, yet not quite. Amber Robles-Gordon, a longtime Washingtonian who was born in Puerto Rico, has a different take. Her American University Museum show, “Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism,” groups D.C. with her birthplace and four other inhabited territories: Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. She represents these disenfranchised territories on two-sided quilted banners, one face for “political” and the other for “spiritual.”

Robles-Gordon has often shown fabric pieces in which a variety of found materials dangle in free-form compositions. The “Successions” banners are more tightly arranged, although still in improvisational patchwork. The political face of the D.C. quilt depicts the city’s diamond shape, minus the chunk that was retroceded to Virginia, and two sets of stars, echoing both the U.S. and D.C. flags. The flip side features motifs that evoke the Indigenous people who were displaced when the area became the capital of a country whose possessions would stretch from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Similar contrasts between official and ancestral are expressed on the alternate sides of the other quilts.

The show also features “Place of Breath and Birth,” collages on canvas that incorporate photos, including one of Robles-Gordon. These pieces are horizontal, and thus feel more like landscapes, albeit ones that are kaleidoscopic rather than realistic. They’re titled in Spanish and English, reflecting the artist’s Afro-Latina heritage. The artfully arranged scraps are analogous to what her statement calls “the missing slivers of my cultural identity,” and remind the viewer that Robles-Gordon’s exploration of U.S. territories began as a quest to learn more about herself.

Anil Revri’s “Geometric Abstraction 9.” (Neil Greentree/Katzen Arts Center, American University)

Like Robles-Gordon, Anil Revri begins with the decorative arts, only to transcend them. The Indian-born D.C. artist’s “Into the Light,” also at the university’s museum, consists of hard-edge symmetrical abstractions that invoke multiple Eastern spiritual traditions. His lustrous mixed-media pictures are executed mostly in black, white and metallic tones, sometimes with red touches. They’re partly inspired by yantras, Hindu sacred patterns whose earlier known examples are more than 20,000 years old. Revri also takes cues from Western sources.

Most of the works in this show are in the “Geometric Abstraction” series and were made in 2019-2020. Their sturdy frameworks suggest architecture, but they’re executed on handmade paper whose ragged edges and rough textures hint at fabric; it’s as if the pictures are both temples and the prayer rugs within them. A few earlier pieces, notably 2011’s “Ram Darwaza II,” include softer, cloudlike forms. But all the artist’s renderings can be read as symbolic maps of an orderly universe.

Amber Robles-Gordon: Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism and Anil Revri: Into the Light Through Dec. 12 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Available Artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

Virtual Gallery Talk: Successions: Traversing US Colonialism September 14, 6-7PM ETDC mixed-media artist Amber Robles-Gordon talks Successions with curator Larry Ossei-Mensah at American University

10 Sep

Collage by Amber Robles-GordonA
American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center Fall exhibitions are on view through December 12. View our exhibitions, hours, and health and safety protocols.
Plan Your VisitInstallation view of "Successions"
Virtual Gallery Talk: Successions: Traversing US Colonialism
September 14, 6-7PM ETDC mixed-media artist Amber Robles-Gordon talks Successions with curator Larry Ossei-Mensah.

Successions is a conceptual juxtaposition that celebrates abstraction as an art form while leveraging it as a tool to interrogate past and current US policies within its federal district (Washington, DC) and territories (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands) that it controls. This event will be held virtually. Please register to receive the Zoom link via email.RegisterRead the Exhibition Catalog Online

Featuring essays by curator Larry Ossei-Mensah and Noel W Anderson.Ossei-Mensah headshot#AskACuratorDay
Featuring Successions curator Larry Ossei-Mensah

#AskACuratorDay is Wednesday, September 15! Larry will be on Twitter to answer your questions about Successions, his career as an independent curator, and more. Tweet your questions to @aumuseum_katzen and @youngglobal using hashtag #AskACuratorDay.Feminist Art History Conference
Online September 24-26

The conference builds on the legacy of feminist art-historical scholarship and pedagogy initiated by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard at American University. With the goal of fostering a broad dialogue on feminist art-historical practice, the event will feature papers spanning a range of chronological, geographic, and intersectional topics.RegisterPlease consider making a contribution by becoming a member. No gift is too small, and your support matters now more than ever before.Give NowImages (top-bottom):

Amber Robles-Gordon, y mi bandera vuela mas alto que la tuya, and my flag flies higher than yours, 2020. Mixed media collage on canvas, 18 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of Successions: Traversing US Colonialism. Courtesy of Greg Staley. 

Ossei-Mensah headshot, photo credit: Anthony Artis.
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AMBER ROBLES-GORDON’s “Successions” solo at American University featured in Culture Type, Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah

7 Sep

From California to Chicago, Tennessee to Maine, 15 of Summer’s Best Museum Exhibitions Remain on View This Fall

by VICTORIA L. VALENTINE on Sep 6, 2021 • 6:58 am

A BROAD SELECTION of exhibitions opened at art museums throughout the United States over the summer months. A great number of these shows remain on view, some through September, others further into the fall and beyond. Major traveling exhibitions of Bob Thompson, Joseph Yoakum, and Alma Thomas are underway. The first solo museum exhibitions of Caroline Kent and Simphiwe Ndzube are debuting in Chicago and Denver, while the first survey exhibitions of Jamal Cyrus and Jacolby Satterwhite are on view in Houston and Pittsburgh. Jennifer Packer and Cauline Smith have shows in Los Angels and Houston. In Nashville, a major retrospective of legendary sculptor William Edmondson is being staged, the first such presentation in two decades:

ARNOLD JOSEPH KEMP, Possible Bibliography, 2015-20 (52 black and white archival inkjet prints Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag; unique closed edition. 6.83 x 10 inches each. | © Arnold Joseph Kemp. Fine Art Collection, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. Photo courtesy artist and Fourteen30 Contemporary, Portland

“Arnold Joseph Kemp: I would survive. I could survive. I should survive.” @ Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis | June 3–Nov. 12, 2021

A one gallery show, “I would survive. I could survive. I should survive,” consists of photography, two paintings, and a sculpture by Chicago artist Arnold Joseph Kemp. The presentation is anchored by “Possible Bibliography” (2015-20), a grid-style installation of 52 photographs. In each of the images, Kemp’s hands are holding a book from his personal library by Hilton Als, James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Okwui Enwezor, Glenn Ligon, Toni Morrison, Fred Moten, Adrian Piper, and Robert Farris Thompson, among many other authors. The work explores “how histories and canons impact and are impacted by the personal, the political, and the collective.”

Installation view of “Jamal Cyrus: The End of My Beginning,” Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, Texas (June 5-Sept. 26, 2021). | Courtesy Blaffer Art Museum

“Jamal Cyrus: The End of My Beginning” @ Blaffer Art Museum at University of Houston, Texas | June 5-Sept. 26, 2021

The first survey exhibition of Houston artist Jamal Cyrus spans 15 years, from 2005 to 2021. The recipient of the 2020 Driskell Prize, Cyrus considers how African American identity has evolved across time, borders, and Black political movements. More than 50 works are on view, spanning work on paper and denim, assemblage works, textiles, collage, installation, and performance. The exhibition is presented in partnership with “Levels & Layers: An Artist’s Reflections on Third Ward,” curated by Cyrus at the University Museum at Texas Southern University.

JOSEPH YOAKUM, “Rain Bow Bridge in in Bryce Canyon National Park near Henriville Utah,” stamped 1968. | Collection of the Roger Brown Study Collection

“Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw” @ Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois | June 12-Oct. 18, 2021

Born in Ash Grove, Mo., Joseph E. Yoakum (1891–1972), traveled internationally with several circuses and, during World War I, served in an all–African American noncombat unit in Europe. Living on Chicago’s South Side at age 71, he began drawing fascinating landscapes based in part on observations from his travels, but largely influenced by his imagination and spiritual vision. Over the next decade, he produced about 2,000 works. More than 100 of the pen, pencil, pastel, and watercolor on paper works are featured in “What I Saw.” The exhibition travels next to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and then on to the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.

Installation view of “Simphiwe Ndzube: Oracles of the Pink Universe,” Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colo., June 13-Oct. 10, 2021. Shown, from left, “The Bloom of the Corpse Flower,” 2020 (acrylic paint on canvas and mixed media, 94 1/2 x 79 inches) and “Bhekizwe Riding through the Garden of Earthly Delights,” 2020 (polyurethane resin, found spade, welded steel, found clothing and cloth, wood, acrylic paint, silicone, spray paint, foam coat, and acrylic eyes). | Courtesy Denver Art Museum

“Simphiwe Ndzube: Oracles of the Pink Universe” @ Denver Art Museum in Colorado | June 13-Oct. 10, 2021

The first U.S. solo museum exhibition of Simphiwe Ndzube features a new body of work—eight paintings, sculpture, and sculptural paintings. The exhibition “integrates themes related to power, conflict, and the search for freedom through a Pink Universe,” a fantasy world invented by the artist that draws on magical realism and post-apartheid history. South African-born Ndzube lives and works in Los Angeles.

JENNIFER PACKER, “Idle Hands,” 2021 (oil on canvas, 90 x 84 inches / 228.6 x 213.36 cm). | The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Purchase with funds provided by the Acquisition and Collection Committee. 2021. Image courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, Corvi-Mora, London

“Jennifer Packer: Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep” @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in Calif. | July 1, 2021-Feb. 21, 2022

Jennifer Packer makes poetic portraits and floral still lifes. Her first exhibition on the West Coast, “Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep” features new and recent drawings and paintings by the New York-based artist.

The exhibition follows “Jennifer Packer: The Eye is Not Satisfied with Seeing” at Serpentine Galleries in London, Packer’s first solo show outside the United States. This fall, the traveling exhibition opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Installation view of “Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful,” Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va. (July 9-Oct. 3, 2021). | Courtesy Chrysler Museum of Art

“Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful” @ Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va. | July 9 – Oct. 3, 2021

The first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1972), Alma Thomas is associated with her adopted hometown of Washington, D.C., and celebrated for her large-scale, vibrantly colored abstract paintings made in the latter years of her life. “Everything is Beautiful” looks at her career through a wider lens, exploring the full spectrum of her creativity—her paintings, as well as her love of fashion, gardening, teaching, performing arts, and more. Accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, the traveling exhibition also focuses on her roots in Columbus, Ga., where she was born.

Installation view of “Toward Common Cause,” Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago (July 15-Dec. 19, 2021). Shown, Rick Lowe’s “Black Wall Street Journey.” | Courtesy Smart Museum of Art

“Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40” @ Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago | July 15–Dec. 19, 2021

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the McArthur Foundation Fellows Program, “Toward Common Cause” presents new and re-contextualized works by 29 visual artists and former fellows, including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Mark Bradford, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Whitfield Lovell, Rick Lowe, Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Willis, and Fred Wilson. Presented at multiple venues throughout Chicago, the Smart Museum is the main site with related programming including “Carrie Mae Weems: A Land of Broken Dreams” at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center and “Toward Common Cause at the Stony Island Arts Bank.”

CAULEEN SMITH, “Camera, Pen, or Gun?,” 2017 (recto/verso: satin, poly-satin, silk-rayon velvet, indigo-dyed silk rayon velvet, indigo-dyed silk satin, rayon- polyester ribbon, acrylic fabric paint, satin cord, poly-silk tassel, and sequins, 73 x 47 inches). | The Mohn Family Trust

“Cauleen Smith: We Already Have What We Need” @ Contemporary Art Museum Houston in Texas | July 15-Oct. 3, 2021

Over the course of her career, Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith “has harnessed acts of imagination and the power of revolutionary thinking to envision a better world.” Her latest exhibition features film, video, sculpture, textiles, installation, and drawing. The show’s title (“We Already Have What We Need”) is adapted from the video installation at the center of the presentation, which reminds us to take care of each other and the planet in order to sustain our existence. The theme carries throughout the works in the exhibition, emphasizing “acts of caring as antidotes to the injustices and inequities that shape our past and present.”

The exhibition coincides with “Give It or Leave It,” the traveling exhibition currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and “Cauleen Smith: Stars in My Pocket and the Rent is Due” at Charles White Elementary School. The site of the original campus of Otis Art Institute is now a satellite venue of LACMA.

BOB THOMPSON, “Stairway to the Stars,” circa 1962 (oil and photostat on Masonite, 40 × 60 inches / 101.6 × 152.4 cm). | Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York. © Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York

“Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine” @ Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine | July 20, 2021–Jan. 9, 2022

“This House Is Mine” is only the second museum retrospective of Bob Thompson (1937–1966) and the first dedicated to the artist in more than 20 years. Born in Louisville, Ky., his transatlantic career was highly productive during the short period he was active, from 1958-1966. Featuring paintings and works on paper drawn from more than 50 public and private collections, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.

From left, LAURA WHEELER WARING, “Woman Wearing Orange Scarf,” 1940 (oil on canvas, 17 x 12 inches); and MAY HOWARD JACKSON, “Portrait Bust of an African,” 1899 (bronze, 21 x 12.75 inches). | Courtesy Tacoma Art Museum

“The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection” @ Tacoma Art Museum in Washington | July 31-Nov. 28, 2021

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection has toured the world. Currently on view in Tacoma, Wash., the collection explores the African American experience through paintings, sculpture, photographs, rare books, letters, and manuscripts. The works date from 1595 to present. Unrivaled by other private collections, the holdings were assembled by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey over five decades.

Installation view of “Chicago Works: Caroline Kent,” MCA Chicago (Aug 3, 2021–Apr 3, 2022). | Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

“Chicago Works: Caroline Kent” @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago | Aug. 3, 2021-April 3, 2022

The first solo museum exhibition of Chicago artist Caroline Kent is a site-specific installation titled “Victoria/Veronica: Making Room.” Staged in an immersive domestic environment, the presentation features large-scale abstract paintings, sculptures, sound, and architectural interventions.

WILLIAM EDMONDSON (American, 1874-1951), “Bess and Joe,” circa 1930-40 (limestone, 17 ¼ × 20 ¼ × 10 ½ inches). | Gift of Salvatore Formosa Sr., Mrs. Pete Formosa Sr., and Mrs. Rose Formosa Bromley and Museum Purchase through the Stallworth Bequest

“The Sculpture of William Edmondson: Tombstones, Garden Ornaments, and Stonework” @ Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, Nashville, Tenn. | Aug. 12-Oct. 31, 2021

The first major museum exhibition of Tennessee-born William Edmondson (c. 1874-1951) in 20 years draws from public and private collections and features 20 works from Cheekwood, the largest repository of the artist’s work. After retiring from a series of manual labor jobs, Edmondson received a divine calling and began carving chunks of salvaged limestone and street curbs into modernist sculptures, gravestones, and garden ornaments. In 1937, he became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A new fully illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition.

JACOLBY SATTERWHITE, “We Are In Hell When We Hurt Each Other,” 2020 (HD digital video). | © Jacolby Satterwhite, Courtesy the artist

“Jacolby Satterwhite: Spirits Roaming on the Earth” @ Miller Institute for Contemporary Art at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa. | Aug. 14-Dec. 5, 2021

The first major solo exhibition of Jacolby Satterwhite, “Spirits Roaming on the Earth” surveys 10 years of his conceptual practice, spanning video, sculpture, installations, dance tracks, and performance. A new monograph titled “How lovly is me being as I am” accompanies the exhibition.

DAVID HARTT, “The Histories (after Duncanson),” 2020 (tapestry: polyester, cotton, wool, polyester cotton, acrylic, cashmere, 113 1/16 × 174 inches / 287.2 × 442 cm). | Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Kerry James Marshall and Cheryl Lynn Bruce, 2021.13

“Hammer Projects: David Hartt” @ Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Calif. | Aug. 21, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022

David Hartt’s single gallery show is a multimedia installation “examining the relationships between culture, geography, and colonial histories in the Americas in the 19th century.” The installation employs sound and textiles, including a tapestry based on “Blue Hole on the Little Miami River” (1851), the painting by Robert S. Duncanson (1821–1872). A Canadian artist, Hartt lives and works in Philadelphia.

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON, “The eternal altar for the women forsaken and souls relinquished. Yet the choice must always remain hers. El altar eterno de las mujeres abandonadas y las almas renunciadas. Sin embargo, la elección siempre debe ser de ella.,” 2020 (mixed media collage on canvas, 18 x 24 inches). | © Amber Robles-Gordon, Courtesy the artist

“Successions: Traversing US Colonialism: Amber Robles-Gordon” @ American University Museum, Washington, D.C. | Aug. 28-Dec. 12, 2021

“Successions” presents abstract paintings, collages, and quilts produced by Washington-D.C.-based artist Amber Robles-Gordon in 2020 and 2021. Using the tools of abstraction, Robles-Gordon questions “who has access to resources, citizenship, and the right to sovereignty,” in the District of Columbia, where voting representation in Congress remain elusive, and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,. Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, the exhibition is accompanied by a new publication. CT

“The Sculpture of William Edmondson: Tombstones, Garden Ornaments, and Stonework” documents the retrospective hosted by Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. The new fully illustrated catalogs, “Bob Thompson: This House is Mine” and “Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful” accompany major traveling exhibitions. “Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw” documents the exhibition of the same name, another traveling show. “Oracles Of The Pink Universe: Simphiwe Ndzube” accompanies the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. “Jennifer Packer: The Eye Is Not Satisfied with Seeing” and “Jacolby Satterwhite: How lovly is me being as I am” are forthcoming in November. “Jamal Cyrus: The End of My Beginning” is forthcoming in January. “David Hartt: The Histories” is forthcoming in February. Earlier publications include “David Hartt: For Everyone a Garden” and “Stray Light,” a time capsule that assembles Hartt’s photographs of the Johnson Publishing Building in Chicago, shortly before it was sold. Also consider, The Kinsey Collection.

Successions: Traversing US Colonialism | Amber Robles-Gordon | American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center | Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah

21 Jul

August 28, 2021 – December 12, 2021

Amber Robles-Gordon presents Successions: Traversing US Colonialism, a solo exhibition on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center in fall 2021. Successions is a conceptual juxtaposition that celebrates abstraction as an art form while leveraging it as a tool to interrogate past and current US policies within its federal district (Washington, DC) and territories (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands) that it controls. By highlighting nuances related to US governance in its federal districts and territories, Robles-Gordon seeks to question who has access to resources, citizenship, and the right to sovereignty.

Robles-Gordon creates artwork imbued with a layered visual language replete with cultural signifiers and abstract gestures. Successions is a celebration of abstraction as an artistic expression. Robles-Gordon utilizes iconic artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, and members of the Washington Color School as vivid reference points for her own dynamic use of color, form, and material within the works she created for the exhibition. These explorations will provide insights into a number of inquiries that undergird the construction of the exhibition. Successions creates a pathway towards discursive criticism around issues impacting marginalized communities oppressed by the United States’ hegemonic domestic and foreign policies. The exhibition features a new body of colorful abstract paintings, collages, and quilts created in 2020 and 2021 between San Juan, Puerto Rico (Robles-Gordon’s birthplace) and Washington, DC (where she currently lives).

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robles-Gordon’s creative strategies were directly impacted as a result of sheltering in place in San Juan. The lack of access to materials and arduous circumstances she was confronted with in Puerto Rico and upon returning to Washington, DC catalyzed Robles-Gordon to improvise her approach to making works for the exhibition. Moreover, the experience heightened her awareness of how communities on the margin are adversely treated during moments of crisis.

Robles-Gordon’s also uses works featured in Successions to mine the stories, personal narratives, and aesthetics of the women of the Caribbean, particularly of African descent, in an effort to investigate the political, socio-economic, and environmental implications of placemaking, contemporary colonial policy, and notions of citizenship on these social groups. The debate over DC statehood, similar to Puerto Rico, has been a prevalent point of contention in the District but rarely featured in the national conversation. Robles-Gordon seeks to use her “backyard” as a metaphor that would expand our understanding of notions of freedom, liberty, and justice.

A fully illustrated catalog with essays by Ossei-Mensah and Noel Anderson and in-person and virtual programs will accompany the exhibition, enriching the viewer’s experience.


Amber Robles-Gordon is a mixed media visual artist of Puerto Rican and West Indian heritage. She is known for her commissioned temporary and permanent public art installations for numerous government agencies, institutions, universities, and art fairs.

Robles-Gordon has over twenty years of experience exhibiting and in art education, commissioned critiques, lectures, teaching, and exhibition coordination. She received a BS in business administration from Trinity University and an MFA in painting from Howard University, Washington, DC. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including Germany, Italy, Malaysia, England, and Spain. Robles-Gordon has participated in residencies in Costa Rica, Washington, DC, and at the American Academy in Rome, Italy. Her artwork has been reviewed and featured in numerous magazines, journals, newspapers, and online publications.

Most recently, she held an online solo exhibition at Galeria de Arte, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was featured by Tafeta Gallery in the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London, England, and during London Art Week. In 2022, she will create a traveling exhibition in collaboration with Cultural DC and El Cuadrado Gris Galeria in Puerto Rico.


Larry Ossei-Mensah uses contemporary art as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. A Ghanaian-American curator and cultural critic, Ossei-Mensah has organized exhibitions and programs at commercial and nonprofit spaces around the globe from New York City to Rome, featuring artists including Firelei Baez, Allison Janae Hamilton, Brendan Fernades, Ebony G. Patterson, Modou Dieng, Glenn Kaino, Joiri Minaya and Stanley Whitney. Moreover, Ossei-Mensah has actively documented cultural happenings featuring the most dynamic visual artists working today, including Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Federico Solmi, and Kehinde Wiley.

A native of The Bronx, Ossei-Mensah is also the co-founder of ARTNOIR, a 501(c)(3) and global collective of culturalists who design multimodal experiences aimed to engage this generation’s dynamic and diverse creative class. ARTNOIR endeavors to celebrate the artistry and creativity of Black and Brown artists around the world via virtual and in-person experiences. Ossei-Mensah was a contributor to the first-ever Ghanaian Pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennial with an essay on the work of visual artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Ossei-Mensah is the former Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at MOCAD in Detroit and currently serves as Curator-at-Large at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where he curated the New York Times heralded exhibition Let Free Ring and A Return: Liberation as Power respectively.       

Ossei-Mensah has been profiled in publications including the New York Times, Artsy, and Cultured Magazine, and was recently named to Artnet’s 2020 Innovator List. Follow him on Instagram at @larryosseimensah and Twitter at @youngglobal.

Available artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY’s print “Quiet Desperation” currently on view at Katzen Arts Center at American University.

7 Feb

ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY’s print “Quiet Desperation” currently on view at Katzen Arts Center at American University.

Grouping of artwork in Katzen Art Center’s exhibition “Good Form, Decorum, and in the Manner: Portraits from the Collections of the Washington Print Club Members” including ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY’s wood engraving, “Quiet Desperation”.

Photo credit: Katzen Arts Center

ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY’s wood engraving “Quiet Desperation”

Courtesy of the Artist and Morton Fine Art



“Good Form, Decorum, and in the Manner: Portraits from the Collections of the Washington Print Club Members” features works ranging from the early masters of printmaking to contemporary artists. These prints question what it means to capture a person’s likeness across time and cultures.⁠


About  Katzen Arts Center:

Housed in the dynamic and multidisciplinary Katzen Arts Center, the American University Museum builds its programming on the strengths of a great college and great university. We focus on international art because American University has a global commitment. We show political art because the university is committed to human rights, social justice, and political engagement. We support the artists in our community because the university takes an active and responsible role in the formation of our contemporary art and culture.

We present exhibitions that mirror American University’s aspiration to be the premier Washington-based, global university. Our programming puts the best art of our region in a national and international context. Our collections enable us to present the art history of Washington, while our Kunsthalle attitude brings the most provocative art of our time to our place.

Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

Tuesday – Sunday from 11am-4pm

Available artwork by ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY