Jack Shainman: Nina Chanel Abney
"The Great Escape"
Is there space for Black autonomy in a world organized by white supremacy? If it were an actual place – a space absent of race relations, antagonistic or friendly – what would it look like? This series responds to these questions by reimagining Black people's relationship to nature, property, and each other. Taking inspiration from the fugitive utopias of Black queer social life, these scenes refuse the enclosure of Blackness to topographies of the city and to ideals of heteronormativity. Instead, communal living in rural, wooded outdoors figures as a place for the performance of a Black autonomy that evades the ballistic force of the white gaze.
The art historical association of pastoral landscapes with whiteness is fraught; the deep history of expropriation, disenfranchisement, and value extraction that Black people have endured in relation to land requires us to interrogate white supremacist concepts of "belonging" as both property and propriety. Taking this terroristic history of white appropriation into account, these paintings propose idyllic scenes of Blackness steeped in care, cultivation, and collective leisure as a figuration of refuge and radical reparation.
- Nina Chanel Abney, November 2020