Goldsmiths CCA will host the first UK institutional exhibition by US artist Esteban Jefferson. Jefferson’s practice critiques legacies of colonialism and racism as encoded in museum displays and public artworks. He will create a new series of works for the exhibition revolving around the detritus from public displays of protest related to the death of George Floyd. Through repeated visits to sites of protest, from small interventions like graffiti on a bus stop sign to large-scale vandalism of well-known colonialist monuments, Jefferson tracks the lifespan of the protests that erupted in 2020.
Additional works in the show depict the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial statue that was positioned outside the American Museum of Natural History in New York until 2022. The statue features Roosevelt on horseback, flanked on each side by a Native American and Black man at his feet. The statue had been the focus of a sustained campaign of criticism for years and was finally removed, but not destroyed, in January 2022. The sculpture has since been relocated to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota (out of sight, out of mind).
In previous exhibitions, Jefferson’s work has further examined the representation of marginalized figures in museum settings, through paintings and sculptural objects. The series Petit Palais (2019-2021) revolved around two Venetian busts of Black subjects which sit behind the reception desk of the Petit Palais Fine Arts Museum of Paris. In the paintings, the museum itself is rendered as a ghostly sketched presence, while the two busts are intricately detailed, bringing them into the foreground of the picture plane while they remain backgrounded in reality through the curatorial choices of the museum. This choice in depiction creates a laser-like focus and elevation of the neglected works, who are not recorded in the museum’s wall texts or the catalogue as anything more than “Buste d’Africaine.”
Esteban Jefferson (b. 1989, New York) is an artist based in New York. Solo shows include 303 Gallery, New York (2023); Tanya Leighton, Los Angeles (2021); Tanya Leighton, Berlin (2020), and White Columns, New York (2019). Group shows include Fire Figure Fantasy, ICA, Miami; Open Call, The Shed, New York; ESTAMOS BIEN, La Trienal, Museo del Barrio; New York, Art on the Grid, Public Art Fund, New York.
303 Gallery, New York
Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin
St James’, New Cross
London SE14 6AD