September 14 – October 15, 2022
Artist’s Talk: Sept. 14, 5-6pm
Reception: Sept. 14, 6-8pm
Photo credits: Top two images by Deborah Dancy, bottom two by Karen J Revis
The Mueller Gallery at Caldwell University is pleased to present Double Consciousness: Deborah Dancy and Karen J Revis.
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity… two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”W. E. Burghardt Du Bois
Double-consciousness is a concept in social philosophy referring, originally, to a source of inward “twoness” putatively experienced by African-Americans because of their racialized oppression and devaluation in a white-dominated society. In the book 1971: A Year in the Life of Color, Darby English writes about the 1972 exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America at the Whitney saying that the exhibition featured “modernism as a language of equality — a way partly to get the conversation back to the subject of art, but also to make the point that painting itself cannot practice discrimination.” However, English goes on to state that “The Whitney’s exhibition should have sparked debate about what successful activism would mean. Instead, it prompted vigorous invective against both abstraction and the larger issue of robust interracial sociality which the au courant language of Black Power vigorously opposed but Contemporary Black Artists in America exemplified.” (English, Dec 20, 2016)
Fifty years later, this issue of what is appropriate subject matter for African American artists endures. While one can bring to mind contemporary African American non-objective artists – Mark Bradford, Martin Puryear, Sam Gilliam, Howardena Pindell, Alma Thomas – many artists that represent the world of contemporary African American Art remain figurative.
Abstract painter Agnes Martin famously relinquished pressure to centralize both her gender and sexuality in her work. She shared her wishes to remove the inherent “qualifiers” expected of minorities when conveying their vision, with the quote, “I’m not a woman, I’m a doorknob leading to a quiet existence.” A doorknob represents her hope for anonymity regarding external perceptions of her being. The presumption of representing an entire demographic while adhering to the constrictions of each qualifier influences the identity of each artist, ultimately resulting in this feeling of “twoness.”
For both Deborah Dancy and Karen Revis – two self-identifying contemporary African American women artists – the solution to this question of subject matter reveals itself through this idea of Double Consciousness. Both Dancy and Revis question the narrative of one singular reified self and allow multiple parts of their identity to coexist within their artistic practices. As if addressing this idea of Double Consciousness, of twoness, directly through their artistic practice, both Dancy and Revis produce work that on one hand has roots firmly in modernist abstraction and non-objective art and the other in political art that addresses their given identity as African-American women.
Deborah Dancy is a multi-media artist, whose paintings, drawings, digital photography, and small sculptures play with the shifting intersection between abstraction and representation.
She has received numerous awards including: A Guggenheim Fellowship, Yaddo Fellow, The American Antiquarian Society William Randolph Hearst Artist and Writers Creative Arts Fellowship, and the National Endowment of the Arts NEFA award.
Her work is in numerous collections including: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, 21C Museum, The Baltimore Museum ,The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Hunter Museum, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Boston Museum of Fine, The Montgomery Museum of Art, The Spencer Museum of Art, The Hunter Museum of Art, Vanderbilt University, Grinnell College, Oberlin College Museum of Art, Davidson Art Center, Wesleyan University, and The United States Embassy Harare, Zimbabwe.
She is represented by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts NYC, Robischon Gallery, Denver and Marcia Wood Gallery, Atlanta.
Karen J Revis is an artist based in New York City who is driven by process and materials. She is a printmaker using a variety of techniques including monotypes, lithographs, etchings, linoleum cuts, collagraphs and papermaking. Her Karen J Revis Studio portfolio comprises abstract works, vibrant with color and texture.
Revis’ monotypes have been used to create textiles designs. She has partnered with Brooklinen to create a beautiful line of bedding, A-Street Prints to create a stunning line of wallpaper and she created a limited edition of prints for Room and Board.
In 2017 she started Revisionary Prints, which was created to explore her experience growing up in an all black community in the 60!s and being black and existing in today’s political climate. “Two of Revis!” prints were selected by Colossal Media as the first in their Represent: Black Arts mural project, with murals in NYC and LA.
Revis is a member of The Black Women of Print (BWoP) and Black Artist and Designer Guild (BADG). She was a recipient of the Robert Blackburn Workshop SIP Fellowship in 2018. She has served as a board member of the Women’s Studio Workshop. Revis has attended residencies at The Morgan Paper Conservatory, Cleveland,OH; BACAS, Teggiano Italy; Pyramid Atlantic, Silver Spring MD.; The Women!s Studio Workshop, Rosendale NY and Henry Street Settlement, NY, NY. Her work is featured in The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium by Joanne Mattera (Watson- Guptill Publications). She studied Fine Art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and continues to collaborate and exhibit her work widely.