P·P·O·W is pleased to present works by Ann Agee, Elijah Burgher, Jimmy DeSana, Kyle Dunn, Chris “Daze” Ellis, Joe Houston, Dinh Q. Lê, Astrid Terrazas, Chiffon Thomas and David Wojnarowicz.
Ann Agee’s (b. 1959) practice is focused on replicating objects by hand to simulate mass production and engage ambiguous delineations between fine art, design, and craft; histories of cultural appropriation and exchange; and the range of women’s lived experiences. Inspired by late-17th and early-18th century Italian salt cellars and made during a residency in Florence at the studio of her late friend and mentor Betty Woodman, Agee’s ongoing series Madonna of the Girl Child is made from a variety of clays and glazes and formed with different techniques. These Madonnas abstractly engage motifs of the divine mother to create a new icon – a girl invested with divine potential. Agee earned her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in 1981 and her MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1986. She has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 2011; The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, 1997; and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1992; among others. Her works are included in the permanent collection of notable institutions including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; The RISD Art Museum, Providence, RI; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Henry Art Museum in Seattle, WA; The Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI; and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL.
A key figure in New York's downtown scene, Jimmy DeSana (1949-1990) indexed American suburbia and queer fetish subculture with a singular style typified by saturated colors and surreal mise-en-scène. His camp, experimental photographs from the iconic series Suburban, 1979-84, seamlessly blend the familiar and otherworldly. The photographic series Submission, 1977-78, for which William S Burroughs wrote an introduction to the accompanying publication, situates hallmarks of fetish culture in neutral domestic environments, unpacking our puritanical culture’s ambivalence towards sexuality and alterity. DeSana received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, Athens in 1972 before relocating to New York’s East Village in the early 1970s. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include The Sodomite Invasion: Experimentation, Politics and Sexuality in the work of Jimmy DeSana and Marlon T. Riggs, Griffin Art Projects, Vancouver, Canada, 2020 and Remainders, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY, 2016. His work is held in numerous prominent public collections, among them the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. A retrospective of DeSana’s work will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, in Fall 2022, accompanied by a catalogue co-published by the Brooklyn Museum and DelMonico Books.
Using painting, drawing, and printmaking, Elijah Burgher (b. 1978) works at the crossroads of representation and language, figuration, and abstraction, and the real and imagined. Drawing from mythology, ancient history, the occult, and ritual magick, Burgher cultivates a highly intimate code of sigils and emblems imbued with magical power to investigate personal and cultural dynamics of desire, love, subcultural formation, and the history of abstraction. However, at the core of this multifaceted practice, Burgher “aims to know whether an artwork, any artwork, can possess meaning—to truly embody it somehow.” In a continuation of his series, Queen of the Forest, first shown at P·P·O·W in 2021, Gnostic Mass invokes the pre-Christian dyad of the Mother Goddess and Son-Lover, Cybele and Attis, in a public resurrection ritual or mass. Performed by the Ordo Templi Orientis, described by Aliester Crowley as an Order of the Eastern Temple, the ritual aims at divorcing the self from the material world. The overall composition shows a closed ritual circle of touching figures with a space left open for the viewer to choose to enter the ritual, or not, reflecting subcultural standards for self-identification and belonging. Gnostic Mass is also based on a performance the artist did with writer and historian Ben Miller in celebration of queer club culture in Leipzig. Burgher received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. His work was featured in Scrivere Disegnando: When Language Seeks Its Other at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva, Switzerland, 2020; Drawn Together Again, FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY, 2019; For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn at the Drawing Center, New York, NY, 2018; the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, 2014; Burning Down the House, the Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, Republic of Korea, 2014; and The Temptation of AA Bronson, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Holland, 2013, among others. He has completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Fire Island Artist Residency. His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, Art in America, Art Review and Artforum, among others.
Imbuing his paintings with liquid eroticism and cinematic drama, Kyle Dunn (b. 1990) intertwines autobiographical and fictional narratives to express masculine emotional landscapes not often represented in visual culture. Capturing the simultaneous anxiety and nascent hope of our present moment, Dunn’s lush, luminous, and physiologically charged paintings render contorted figures in spatially deceptive environments to reveal the chronic cognitive dissonance between desired freedom and recognized obligation. Reflecting on his practice, Dunn notes, “There is a kind of humor and silliness to big emotions, at least when you are looking back and processing. Making paintings is a way for me to distill messy situations in my life down to something understandable.” Dunn lives and works in Queens, NY and received a BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. His work has been included in exhibitions at P·P·O·W, New York, NY; GRIMM, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Maria Bernheim, Zurich, Switzerland; Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York, NY; and Little Berlin, Philadelphia, PA, among others. Dunn presented a solo exhibition at Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zurich in June 2021. P·P·O·W presented Into Open Air, Dunn’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, in 2020 and will present his second solo exhibition in March 2023.
Chris Daze Ellis (b. 1962) began his prolific career in the 1970s painting New York City subway cars as part of the second generation of graffiti writers. Inspired at an early age by writers such as Blade, Lee Quinones, and PHASE 2, Daze gained notoriety as a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s and remains one of the few artists of his generation to make the successful transition from subways to the studio. In an ongoing series Daze chronicles a lifelong dedication to portraying the lifeforce of New York City and commemorating institutions and artists who made it what it was. In works such as Disco Express, 2022 Daze reveals the diversity and complexity of the city now but also of a city that no longer exists, paying homage to graffiti collaborators and friends who have passed, along with night clubs, which gave a place for a vibrant underground community to flourish. Consistently returning to the subways in his paintings, Daze underscores their importance to his artistic evolution. Daze notes, “the subways were a perfect venue for painting because when you make a painting in your studio, unless someone buys it right away, you tend to live with it for a long time and it becomes a part of you. But with subway painting, it was much more immediate in that you would go out and do something and then that would be it... It would take on a life of its own and it would travel throughout the city. Other people would see it, and if you were lucky you would see it again in motion and be able to document it in photographs... It had to do more with an individual message that just said, ‘Hey I’m here and I exist.’” Daze first painted on New York City subway cars in 1976, while attending The High School of Art and contributed to the group show Beyond Words at the Mudd Club in 1981. He has had numerous solo exhibitions at Fashion Moda, an influential alternative art space in the South Bronx; the Palais Liechtenstein, Feldkirch, Austria; Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice, France; Galleria del Palazzo, Florence, Italy; Fortune Cookie Projects, Singapore; The Museum of the City of New York, New York; and P·P·O·W, New York. His work can also be found in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of the City of New York; The Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and The Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, among others.
Masterfully rendered in oil on linen, Joe Houston’s (b. 1962) Torch paintings focus on the image of a sole hand striking a match within a dark void. Conceived as self-portraits, these paintings seek to capture a single flame as a process of articulating form and meaning within a dark, expansive field. The dramatic tension between object and ground, articulated within a nuanced skin of paint, implies the age-old struggle to imbue the ambiguous space of painting with literal and metaphorical illumination. Houston pursued undergraduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and earned his MFA from Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory & Practice. His honors include an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and residencies at Yaddo, New York; MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire; and the Bemis Foundation, Nebraska. His work is in numerous collections including the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Ohio; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts; RISD Museum, Rhode Island; and Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut. RUINS, Houston’s first solo exhibition since 1993, opened at P·P·O·W in May 2021.
Working in photography, film, and installation, Dinh Q. Lê (b. 1968) presents little-known narratives of war and migration from the perspective of Vietnam, America, and the global Vietnamese diaspora. Synthesizing his own memory and perception with popular depictions in entertainment and journalism from Western and Eastern cultures, Lê’s singular voice has reframed global histories of Southern Vietnam, challenging censorship, exploitation, and propaganda from all sides. Using photography as both a technology for image making and an apparatus for distributing ideological narratives, Lê, in recent works, expand the category of photography to reveal the failings of individual memory and collective perceptions. Lê’s evocative photographic artworks combine interior and exterior pictures of Cambodian sites and pair the seemingly unresolvable, competing narratives of a country’s past and present. Interlaced vertical and horizontal strips of documentary photographs juxtapose grandiose ancient Angkor temples with sparse interior rooms of the Tuol Sleng Museum and other memorial locations marred by the violence inflicted by the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979). Warm, golden-hued pictorial tapestries belie the painful legacy of the empty torture rooms. The weaving process of the artist’s photographic constructions physically intertwine narratives to reiterate the dichotomous nature of cultural memory. Dinh Q. Lê was born in 1968 in Ha Tien, a Vietnamese town near the Cambodia border. Soon after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978, the Lê family immigrated to the United States. After receiving a BFA from UC Santa Barbara, Lê began his first photo-weavings using a traditional technique he learned from his aunt. Lê participated in the 2013 Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; the 2009 Biennale Cuveê in Linz, Austria; the 2008 Singapore Biennale; and the 2006 Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, in Brisbane, Australia. His work has been exhibited at major institutions and international exhibitions including the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, PA; MoMA PS1, New York, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Tufts University Art Gallery, Boston, MA; and the Asia Society, New York, NY, among many others. In 2010, he was awarded the Prince Claus Award for his outstanding contribution to cultural exchange. Lê co-founded Sàn Art, an independent exhibition space with curatorial and artist residency programs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has been represented by P·P·O·W since 1998 and presented seven solo exhibitions with the gallery. He lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Taking the form of painting, illustrated ceramic vessels, and mixed media sculpture, Mexican American artist Astrid Terrazas’ (b. 1996) symbolic work re-writes worlds. Her visual language merges dreamscapes, Mexican ancestral folklore, lived experiences, family histories and unearthly transfigurations in her own personal range of recurring motifs that function as artifacts of protection and evoke universal metaphors of transformation. Working in an illustrative, highly detailed style and often adorning her canvases with talismans, charms, and threadwork, Terrazas’ multimedia paintings resemble a visual dream diary full of transient figures, archaic symbols, and illogical narratives. Terrazas describes painting as “a process of finding and burying”, using her coded visual lexicon to deepen the emotional and psychological experience. For Terrazas, painting is akin to incanting: a process of casting spells and weaving new healing narratives to transmute histories. Terrazas (b. 1996) received her BFA in Illustration from Pratt Institute in 2018. She has exhibited work at P·P·O·W, New York, NY; Y2K Group, New York, NY; Andrea Festa Fine Art, Rome, Italy; Real Pain, New York, NY; Marinaro, New York, NY; Fort Makers, New York, NY; Gern en Regalia, New York, NY; Front Gallery, Houston, TX; and 98 Orchard St, New York, NY; among others. Her work has recently been featured in articles in Art Maze Mag, The Art Newspaper and The Brooklyn Rail and will be included in the forthcoming exhibition 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone at the Aldrich Contemporary Museum of Art, Ridgefield, CT opening June 2022. Terrazas’ first solo exhibition in New York will open this spring at P·P·O·W.
Chiffon Thomas (b. 1991) has developed an interdisciplinary practice incorporating embroidery, collage, drawing, and sculpture. Embracing the liminal space between figuration and abstraction, Thomas’ “impossible bodies” forcefully eschew easy classification in order to serve as vessels for personal memories and collective narratives. Reminiscent of the diverse, mixed media practices exhibited by David Hammons, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, and Faith Ringgold, Thomas’ own application of materiality is a unique language for translating both shared and personal experiences. Identifying as a non-binary queer person of color, Thomas contends with the crafted body in their work, examining wider issues of gender, race and sexuality. In Grounded I and II Chiffon Thomas displays his emblematic resourcefulness, utilizing materials such as concrete, rocks, nails, rebar wire, Styrofoam, and embroidery. These powerful figurative assemblages examine the difficulties faced by defining one’s identity in contemporary society. Through Thomas’s contorted figures and fractured compositions that float seamlessly between historical and contemporary styles and references, Thomas presents a process of becoming: a transition from dysmorphia to metamorphosis. Thomas states, “through fracturing faces, I try to represent how individuals compartmentalize trauma and sometimes create multiple identities in order to heal. Sometimes this is how dissociative identity disorders develop. It’s also emblematic for when people of color have to color-switch. You often have to split into multiple identities and veil who you most comfortably are.” Raised with a strong religious upbringing, Thomas’ work often grapples with conflicting beliefs, values, and desires, primarily using tactile methods of sculpture as an expressive, visual language that interprets personal feelings of nostalgia, longing to belong, and affirmations of self-identity. Thomas holds an MFA from Yale University and a BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. They have completed residencies with the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME and the Fountainhead Residency, Miami, FL. Their work is in the permanent collections of the Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL and the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH. Thomas' work was featured in the recently released publication Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists. Their work was recently shown at Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY in the group exhibition In Practice: You may go, but this will bring you back.
David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) channeled a vast accumulation of raw images, sounds, memories and lived experiences into a powerful voice that was an undeniable presence in the New York City art scene of the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Death in a Cornfield and Death in a Forest, both 1990, are among Wojnarowicz’s final works. Created in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois while Tongues of Flame was on view at the University Galleries of Illinois State, these images show Patrick McDonnell wearing a paper mache skeleton costume with a monstrous head, a large penis, big spikey hands and a goggle-eyed crazy face attached at the ribs. This informal performance was an effort to scare a hypothetical passerby, shaking them loose from the complacency Wojnarowicz often termed the “pre-invented world”. Wojnarowicz has been included in solo and group exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; The American Center, Paris, France; The Busan Museum of Modern Art, Busan, Korea; Centro Galego de Art Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain; The Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK; and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany. His work is in permanent collections of major museums nationally and internationally and his life and work have been the subject of significant scholarly studies. Wojnarowicz has had retrospectives at the galleries of the Illinois State University, 1990, and at the New Museum, curated by Dan Cameron, 1999. A third retrospective, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night, co-curated by David Kiehl and David Breslin, opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in July 2018. The widely acclaimed exhibition traveled to the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid in May 2019, and the Musee d/Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg City in November 2019. A concurrent exhibition of Wojnarowicz’s films and photographs opened at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin in 2019. Wojnarowicz: Fuck You Faggot Fucker, a comprehensive feature-length documentary directed by Chris McKim, premiered in November 2020 and was named one of 2021’s best documentaries by Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Esquire, and IndieWire, among others. Dear Jean Pierre: The David Wojnarowicz Correspondence with Jean Pierre Delage, 1979-1982 is on view at P·P·O·W until April 23, 2022.