January 12 – March 11, 2023
Décors is American artist Rashawn Griffin’s (born 1980, Los Angeles) first solo exhibition in Belgium. Griffin has shown extensively at institutions and galleries throughout the United States and Europe since 2005, notably in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY. He was the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant Award in 2007.
Griffin is known for his large-scale installations, sculptures, and paintings which use domestic and everyday materials. The works in Décors have a self-referential aspect, with nods to past works. The colored clay pieces in this exhibition are “paintings” of previous works in which he “painted” with fabrics, for example. The works are small worlds or windows. They are paintings as much as they are sculptures as much as they are installations as much as they are stories—personal and all-embracing in the same way that the decoration of someone’s living room could be indicative of who they are. For him, a painting is a structure, and a wall is soft. Griffin’s work doesn’t fit comfortably into any art historical category and is difficult to define; he has synthesized aspects of both painting and sculpture into a unique approach to art making. With materials ranging from fabric and tassels to paint and cookies, his practice creates poetic relationships between objects, architecture, and painting. He builds fictions.
From the hand-pressed clay panels to a small gesture that would make a ball of clay, or the sculptural and painted amalgamations, there is a subtle and complex relationship this work has to the body. Plans for this exhibition began just before Griffin broke his leg. Since the age of 18, he has had vitiligo, and as a response to trauma like this, his pigment can shift seemingly overnight. This sense of dislocation with one’s own body, a body in space, and specifically the removal of the body as a figurative presence, has always been central to Griffin’s practice. Architectural structures, rooms made of clothing, drawings with internal ruminations, food, blankets, ephemera from performances, and the debris of a lived life have been utilized in his work. He implies the presence of a body, but rarely uses images of one. He assembles the materials used to represent or paint a body, and these objects are then incorporated into the painting, establishing a visual language.
One of the works in Décors titled “Portrait of William E. Jones” is of an artist and friend who mailed the items in his portrait to Griffin. Other works, like “Self Portrait with Still Life,” have no found or given objects but rather have paintings of photographs or recollections. When there are full bodied figures present in these works, they are like caricatures, exaggerated memories. The materials used to “represent” or “paint” a body are collected, given to, found, remembered, and gathered by Griffin. The smaller, more intimate scale of the individual works in this solo exhibition suggests bodies, or rather, portraits—sometimes of himself, sometimes of loved ones, sometimes of a conglomeration of nameless people.
Rashawn Griffin was born in Los Angeles, California and received a MFA from Yale University. Griffin was an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2006. Since then, his work has been exhibited widely, including the 2008 Whitney Biennial, a two-person exhibition at the Studio Museum with artist Senga Nengudi, “Freeway Balconies” at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, Germany, curated by Collier Schorr, and “THREADS: Textiles and Fiber in the works of African American Artists” at EK Projects in Beijing, China, curated by Lowery Stokes Sims. Griffin was the subject of the solo exhibition “A hole-in-the-wall country” at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas, as well as participating in the exhibition “Minimal Baroque” at Rønnebæksholm in Næstved, Denmark. Recently, his work was featured in “Lux et Veritas,” a historical survey exhibition of artists of color who graduated from Yale between 2000 and 2010 at the NSU Fort Lauderdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Florida. He also participated in “The Regional,” a biennial of Midwest-based artists at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City. He exhibited a solo project entitled “We no longer recognize the backs of our hands” at The Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas. His work is in the permanent collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO, and the Saatchi Gallery, as well as several important private collections. He lives and works in Kansas.