KIANJA STROBERT: GIANT
FEBRUARY 25TH – APRIL 9TH, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION FEBRUARY 25TH, 6 – 8 PM
Tilton Gallery is delighted to present Kianja Strobert’s Giant, opening Thursday, February 25th from 6 to 8 pm. The exhibition will run until April 9, 2016. This is Strobert’s second solo show with the gallery.
The works on view in Giant, made over the span of the past year, are a marked departure for the artist. Strobert’s practice of using unconventional materials to create complex and layered abstract compositions has expanded in size and variation; molded shapes emerge from the surface and break into the gallery space. Strobert draws inspiration from art historical references across time to meditate on themes of purity and sacrifice, nature and rebirth, transitional spaces and states of becoming.Paintings of unprecedented scale within Strobert’s oeuvre to date dominate the gallery space in tones of dark gray, built up with thick impasto layers of paint mixed with materials of varying texture such as pumice, paper mâché, and sand. This allows the delicate, colored elements of each work to appear as if they glow from within by contrast, while a measured use of gold metallic paint reflects outside light back at the viewer.
For Into a ball, Strobert looks to ancient Sumerian statuettes of worshippers, with their eyes raised to the sky in prayer. Abstracted and decontextualized from the original source, Into a ball retains the implication of the cosmos. A large circular shape has been cut out from the lower left of the canvas while a sculpted orb with a striking orange center is suspended within its negative space, allowing the viewer a glimpse into a black void beyond, recalling Lee Bontecou’s use of the black hole in exploring themes of cosmic mystery and oblivion.
Porch lights continues on the theme of the beyond by leaving an elongated circular shape open and entirely transparent, seen through a screen in the center of the composition, while the rest of the surface of the work, made from metal lathe, is filled in with paint and paper mâché. Sculptural elements of similar shape hover around the open center, drawing the viewer in with their color, while threatening to leap from the surface. These abstracted shapes are simultaneously unsettling and familiar, recalling ancient adornment as well as a more recent past.
Strobert’s series of mixed media works on paper offset the monumental presence of these large works in tone, while matching their intensity with explosive bursts of color. The use of centrifugal movement from the Futurist tradition ties these works to nature, while Strobert looks to Orphism to inform her use of color and her abstractions of floral shapes. The height of this abstraction is seen in Pink, where the radial symmetry of concentric squares gives the subtle implication of a flower structure. Pink evokes the feeling of hard-won pleasure; the reward at the end of a journey.
Torso introduces the sole human element to the show, as Strobert draws from her study of sewing at FIT and her familial tradition of garment making to create a fragment of a female form. The figure is split open – jagged edges of metal lathe filled in with paper mâché curve around its hollow center, as if a remnant of human sacrifice. Formed out of the same materials as lily petals elsewhere in the exhibition, Torso draws connections between sacrifice, transitional states of being, and symbols of purity.
Born in 1980, Kianja Strobert received her MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 2006 and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. Strobert has had two solo museum exhibitions, Of This Day in Time at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, curated by Naima Keith, in 2014 and Nothing to Do but Keep Going at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA, curated by Jeffrey Uslip, in 2012. Her work has been included in museum exhibitions such as Fore and 30 Seconds off an Inch at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York in 2012 and 2009 respectively, and Outside the Lines: Black in the Abstract, Part 1: Epistrophy at the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Texas, curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver in 2013. Strobert has had solo gallery exhibitions at Tilton Gallery and Zach Feuer Gallery, both in New York. She lives and works in Hudson, New York.