Trampoline: Resilience & Black Body & Soul

Joy Machine #3, Kick Push, Ring The Alarm, Fly by Vanessa German
54″x94″x22″; mixed-media assemblage; 2019
Courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort and Pavel Zoubok Fine Art, New York.

Trampoline: Resilience & Black Body & Soul

at Fort Gansevoort in New York, New York, USA
7 November-21 December 2019
Opening Reception: 7 November, 6-8PM

Vanessa German’s collaborative exhibition with the gallery showcases her richly encrusted sculptures, which she refers to as power-figures, alongside a series of wall-mounted altars that each act as seers or protectors carrying with them the gift of their own human technology: joy, love and protection for the souls of Black Americans. The work is made as an act of love in response to the daily, incremental injustices and violence made against Black and Brown people, their bodies and their souls. Each figure confronts us with the questions, “How do we survive? How do we, as hybrid-people, keep breathing? How then do we surpass mere existence into creative champions, future makers, lovers even?”

In this newest body of work, German answers the call of the late, great Toni Morrison, who, in her 1993 Nobel lecture in Literature, invited all writers, and by extension all artists, to “make up a story…For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

It is that stitch, that mark, the very act of creation that lies at the heart of Vanessa German’s multi-disciplinary practice, one that combines mixed-media sculpture, installation, poetry, performance and activism. Across these media, German’s work stands as a radical and unapologetic act of self-care, self-preservation and self-ease, an attempt to unfold past traumas and loosen the grip of longstanding tensions tied to her own Queerness, her own Blackness, her own struggle to live in the fullness of her physical and spiritual self. Through loving tribute and ritual, German responds to the continued graves of Black, Brown and Indigenous Humans, creating a Utopian future of true liberty.

Can I Love You Without Capitalism? How? by Vanessa German
59″x67.5″x26″; mixed-media assemblage; 2019
Courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort and Pavel Zoubok Fine Art, New York.

Varying yet specific contours and diverse materiality of her work highlight the intricacies of how bodies are perceived and manipulated, emphasizing self-fortitude and protection. In a series of lavishly embellished collages, German pays homage to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams by transforming them into Madonnas. In these works, along with her tennis racket assemblages, we see how society deconstructs and dehumanizes Black women in sports instead of lifting them up as the champions they are. 

German’s power-figures directly confront these multiple oppositions. Overwhelming in size and material, these works are not meant to ensue comfort. The viewer is forced to question and face the realities of their own history, enabling them to retain, release or reinvent. Across these media, German gives form and voice to her own understanding of freedom, of the creative process, of love, loss and survival. In Vanessa’s own words, “I am in Love with the deep survival, elastic resilience and ordinary, creative, genius of Black People. For the ways that we make ourselves bright against the slaughter of our own names, acts of ordinary, restorative, creative insistence. The insistent force of making, Seeing, playing, protection, Loving, whose evidence shapes the culture of a society that never visioned the Black Body into freedom, resources, or power.”

(text adapted from the curator’s press materials)


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