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Johansson Projects presents Earth Black Lipstick, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Barbados-based artist Sheena Rose. The exhibition runs from February 25 – April 1, 2023 with an artist reception on Friday, March 3, 5- 8pm.
Natasha Becker, Curator of African Art from the deYoung Museum, San Francisco writes:
Combining representation, abstraction, and bracing color, Sheena Rose captures the lost art of leisure. Her paintings depict Black bodies in slow motion: playing tennis or pool, lounging around having drinks or perhaps grooving to music. Proper leisure time is what nourishes the human spirit.
In America, sites of leisure for Black people have more often than not been inaccessible and racially charged. While Rose’s treatment of color and flatness of paint capture one’s attention, it is the content of her work that invites further thought: What does it mean for Black bodies to experience leisure when to be Black in America is to live through a continuous cycle of grind culture, protest, survival, and exhaustion?
Art history abounds with representations of people in states of leisure across space, time, and place. For instance, in modern Western society, scenes of people enjoying free time were a favorite subject of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters such as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, George Suerat, Auguste Renoir, and so on. Leisure activities -swimming, reading, walks in the park- were divided along race, class, and gender lines. It was really only the upper and bourgeois classes who had access to free time and leisure activities. None of these iconic examples from the history of Western art depict Black people in repose.
Rose’s relaxed figures challenge centuries of demands for Black labor and instead, finds empowerment through leisure. Her vivid scenes, meticulously rendered in paint, invite joyful, playful, envious, and optimistic ways of seeing Black bodies. Conceptually, she shows that her subjects can do more in art and life than signify struggle. Instead, the artist represents Black bodies in vignettes and non-linear narratives. Her subjects are in conversation or engaged in leisure. Their active recreation celebrates the joy of mental and physical prowess. Beauty, indoors and outside, gives pleasure and relaxation. Her paintings exist in the world and are distinguished and exceptional for the tender intimacy and emotional depths they impart.
Sheena Rose often cites Monserrat-based author Yvonne Weeks’ book of poetry “Nomad” as a source of inspiration for her work. Week’s poetry is described as speaking to the “worlds we conjure and the inner world of the eternal wanderer.” I think, however, that Sheena Rose lives within her own rich interior and vibrant exterior world which enables and empowers her to reflect on her past and imagine her future.
Earth Black Lipstick runs from February 25 – April 1, 2023 with an artist reception on Friday, March 3, 5- 8pm.
For all inquiries, contact Johansson Projects at 510-444-9140 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheena Rose (b. 1985, Bridgetown, Barbados) has exhibited in the United States at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina; Eric Firestone, NY, De Buck Gallery, NY; Connect Gallery, Chicago, and Johansson Projects in Oakland, and across the globe including the Havana Biennial, Cuba; ICF, Royal Academy of Arts, London, England; Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany; and the University of the West Indies, Barbados.
Her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, ArtNews, Travel & Leisure Magazine, Vogue, Hospitality Design, White Wall, Wetranfer, Black Futures, Fox Television Empire Season 6. Her art appeared on the cover of “The Star Side of Bird Hill” written by Naomi Jackson.
Public works include a two-story mural at the Inter-American Development Bank Headquarters in Washington DC and a mural for the exhibition “The Other Side of Now” at the Perez Art Museum Miami. She was also commissioned by the DSM Public Art Foundation to design seven bus shelters in the 6th Avenue Corridor, Iowa.
In 2022 The Prime Minister of Barbados bestowed Rose with the award for culture. In 2020, she won the Greensboro School of Art Distinguished Alumni award. In 2014, she earned the distinguished Fulbright Scholarship. She holds an MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
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