Kambui Olujimi: Solastalgia
Curator-Mentor: Hank Willis Thomas
April 7 – May 13, 2016
Opening Reception Thursday, April 7, 6-8pm
CUE is proud to present a solo exhibition of new works by artist and Brooklyn native Kambui Olujimi, curated by Hank Willis Thomas. The exhibition, entitled Solastalgia, includes large-scale sculptures, serigraphs and paintings. The works in the show reside at the intersection of numerous issues of current concern to the artist: the state of his city and the nation including gentrification, police killings (both by the police and the killing of police), as well as the challenges of commemoration and loss.
The term solastalgia was coined by Australian philosopher, Glenn Albrecht in 2003. Essentially it is the feeling of homesickness when one is still home. “Solastalgia is when your endemic sense of place is being violated,” Albrecht describes. Though the term originally references the psychological displacement of farmers due to climate change, Olujimi employs it as a lens to examine the psychoterratica of the five boroughs as a result of a different kind of environmental change.
Oscillating between the private and public, Olujimi grapples with the loss of his mentor and guardian angel, Catherine Arline, amidst the cacophony of actions and emotions that has marred the city’s law enforcement over the past year. Arline was a civil servant for the city and state of New York for over 40 years and continued to serve her community of Bedford-Stuyvesant after her retirement as the president and member of various councils and associations locally and throughout the city. Much of her later work attempted to bridge the divide between police and communities they serve. Over the past year and half the world watched as a string of unfathomable events unfolded in New York City; the non-indictment decision in the Eric Garner killing, the shooting of Officers Liu and Ramos and the public display of disdain by law enforcement for the Mayor during the funerals of two their own, and the unprecedented police work stoppage. In addition to these and other recent events, the works of Solastalgia grow out of interviews Olujimi has conducted with current and retired member the NYPD, community leaders, Arline herself, and his own struggle to convey what words cannot.
Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Kambui Olujimi received his BFA from Parsons School of Design, NY and MFA from Columbia University, NY. He has had solo exhibitions at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, MA; apexart, NY and Art in General, NY. His works have premiered nationally at Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY and The Museum of Modern Art, NY. Internationally he has exhibited at The Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, Thailand; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland and Para Site, Hong Kong. Olujimi has been awarded residencies from Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, ME; apexart, NY; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NY; Civitella Ranieri, Italy and Fountainhead, FL, among others. He has received grants and fellowships from A Blade of Grass, The Jerome Foundation, and Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Numerous periodicals, newspapers and journals have written about Olujimi’s work, including The New Yorker, Art Forum, Art in America, The Brooklyn Rail, The New York Times and Modern Painters.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 32 page color catalogue, with texts by Hank Willis Thomas, Jessica Lynne, and Katherine Cohn. Available free of charge to gallery visitors.
Kambui Olujimi in conversation with Jessica Lynne and Katherine Cohn. Moderated by Hank Willis Thomas.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016.
Download PRESS RELEASE
View VIDEO DOCUMENTATION
Catalogue essay: Bearing Witness by Jessica Lynne
HANK WILLIS THOMAS
Kambui Olujimi is one of the most creative and stubbornly earnest artists I know. His insistence that the human spirit and humanity in general must not succumb to doubt or hopelessness is absolute, but he does not shy from the struggles and injustices of life. Growing up in Bed-Stuy, “Do or Die,” Brooklyn, Olujimi witnessed firsthand the negative effects of crack cocaine and the “war on drugs.” Yet, through his relationships with various members of the community, including drug dealers, police officers, faith followers, and addicts, he also experienced light during an era known typically for urban blight. Amid the chaos, there was an undercurrent of care signaling a local solidarity that often transcended societal and civic boundaries. However, in the past decade the landscape of urban neighborhoods like Olujimi’s has undergone rapid change. In response, in New York and other cities, increased awareness and refusal of the effects of gentrification, police violence, and negligence have resulted in uprisings and the re-thinking of collective identities.
In Solastalgia, Olujimi maneuvers amidst a maelstrom of complex and often problematic issues surrounding local law enforcement and the citizens they serve, private developers and public interests, and the intricacies of home and grief. Paying homage to his late neighbor and mentor, Catherine Arline, he maintains, “I barely begin to unpack her time here.” Ms. Arline was an active community member and civil servant for the city and state of New York for forty years. This exhibition addresses Olujimi’s turbulent emotions as he embarks on a spiritual and psychological journey through experiences of home, violence, grief, and dislocation. In a career spanning nearly two decades, Olujimi has become known for his poetic social commentary and his explorations of transcendence through materiality and media. Solastalgia is a meditation on home and remembrance in a city rapidly building over its people and their stories.
Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad and is in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Cleveland Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. His collaborative projects have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival and installed permanently at the Oakland International Airport, The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, The Oakland Museum of California, and the University of California, San Francisco. He is also a recipient of the New Media grant from Tribeca Film Institute and New Media Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography for his transmedia project, Question Bridge: Black Males. He was recently appointed to the Public Design Commission for the city of New York. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Goodman Gallery in South Africa.
Solastalgia and Personalizing Displacement at CUE Art Foundation
Whitehot Magazine, by Jan Garden Castro