As Below, So Above
September 9 – October 17, 2015
Tilton Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Yashua Klos in As Below, So Above, from September 9th through October 17th, 2015. This will be the artist’s second solo show with the gallery. The opening reception will take place on Wednesday, September 9th, from 6 to 8 pm.
David Hammons once said, “We should try to steal back from Picasso what he stole from us.”
Ornette Coleman once said, “I am just trying to find what makes us human.”
Yashua Klos’s work does both. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago he saw first hand the empty lots with piles of cinder blocks and rubble. Often the central image in his work is a head in a quasicubist array of urban leftovers. He collages together multiple scraps of paper that have been printed on with woodblock. These segments, often joined at angles, give the work this cubist effect. Attached flat against the wall or to a paper support, Klos’s images give the illusion of reaching out into the viewer’s space, becoming part of the architecture of the room around them. Recently, he has also made wood sculptures that bring these images into actual three dimensions.
“As Below, So Above” is the inverse of “As Above, So Below,” a quote from an ancient Egyptian text on alchemy. If alchemy is the science of converting base metals into precious metals, Klos’s alchemy is made evident through his process and materials: he transforms flat paper into something dimensional and monumental. The materials he references, 2 by 4s, cinderblocks and rocks, defy their functions as practical construction debris and often appear to defy gravity as well, becoming animated and possessed. The mundane become mystical.
Klos uses the term Shape Shifter to describe his forms. This term is used in many fields, from jazz, referring to the changing shapes of chords; to science, describing shifting topologies in the Planck scale; to literature where mythological gods morph from animal to human, and back. The sense of the mystical permeates his work: heads passing through walls, stargazers, the splintering of earth. Heaven and earth collide; stardust becomes urban mythos.
Powerfully figurative, visually complex, uncannily abstract, there is a special push and pull to Klos’s work. Elements fly off in all directions, like a star system exploding, while dense central images, gritty wood grain surfaces that define heads and faces, hold together tightly.
Formally dynamic, Klos’s subject is more personal and political. He speaks to what it means to be human and, specifically, black in our society. Klos views the black body in America as being in a state of deconstruction and constant pressure; it exists in flux, resisting and hiding, shape shifting as a survival strategy. One of Klos’s heroes is Emory Douglas, the Black Panther artist who made the great civil rights posters using woodblock printing.
The meeting point of the socio-political and structural shape shifting is defined in the artist’s statement below.
"Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, my friends and I taught each other to hide from and fight threats. There were times when confronted by police or by other young black men that we had to shift from being invisible to being strong, and back again. We understood that our ability to know when to employ either strategy was key to our survival. This new Shape Shifters series explores this dynamic. Confronted with a grid-like structure, these head forms negotiate resistance and adaptation.
While viewing the black body as a shape shifter in a socio-political sense, I explore this concept formally through collage. Collage allows me to break and layer shapes to make forms that appear multi-faceted and fragmented. Employing collage, therefore, allows me to represent the 'building' or 'construction' of the ontological as a form. I'm increasingly interested in exploring this shape shifting as a metaphysical state, where exterior form is the reoccuring by-product of a 'live' shifting interior."
Yashua Klos currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He has taught at Hunter College where he received his MFA and at Parsons The New School for Design. He was a resident of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2005 and was the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in Painting and Sculpture in 2014 and a NYFA Grant in 2015. Among other venues, his work has been included in exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina.
As Above, So Below is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Andrew Russeth.