Acid Abstraction: A Review of Jeffrey Gibson at Kavi Gupta — Caira Moreira-Brown

Newcity Art, 10.17.2019

Jeffrey Gibson’s new solo exhibition, “CAN YOU FEEL IT,” at Kavi Gupta includes a new range of works by the 2019 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Here, the American artist integrates his background in rave culture and punk rock with his Native American origins in a series of abstract works. The fourteen new paintings and sculptures make references to Pop Art and geometric abstract work, while simultaneously exploring identity politics and relational aesthetics.

During the 1990s, the artist—now based in New York—called Chicago home. The title of this exhibition refers to the Chicago-born DJ Mr. Fingers (Larry Fine). Within this array of works are Everlast punching bags, an ongoing body of work from 2013, where the iconic designs are adorned with weavings, tassels and beading. These material interventions shift the meaning and purpose of punching bags from strength to beauty. The presence of the adorned bags are invigorating. The movement in the punching bags and the characterization created by Gibson gives them a soul.

Included in the exhibition are eight new paintings that borrow titles from pop culture like “I’ve never met anyone quite like you before” (from “Temptation,” by New Order) and “To say I love you right out loud” (from “Both Sides Now,” Joni Mitchell). Within each of these paintings are words depicted among bright patterns. The paintings are acrylic on canvas with glass beads embossed onto the canvases in a wooden frame. The pattern on each canvas is repetitive, with different shapes in the center that have contrasting colors from the outer corners of the canvases.

The final pieces in “CAN YOU FEEL IT” are three new quilts that are constructed out of performative garments. The quilts are adorned with highly-pigmented fabrics and geometric shapes that vary in size and contrast. Words like “stand”, “your”, “ground” are places in vertical and horizontal lines. Gibson invites the viewer to exist in a world that he has created, a world born out of imagination. The geometric shapes swim around one another enclosing the viewer in a world now adorned with bright pigments. The texture of the quilt juxtaposed with the words that bounce off the threads create an immersive experience.

Through the geometric abstraction in each work, we see elements of a two-dimensional world that contrasts our own reality. The tiling of each shape is different and placed intentionally. As your eyes move to the center of each work the pigmentation gets brighter and the shapes contrast even more.

“CAN YOU FEEL IT” will leave vibrancy in your soul. The various shapes, textures, tones and materials that Gibson uses evokes untapped emotions that left me recognizing objection, shapes and forms that created a visual and physical warmth. (Caira Moreira-Brown)

“Jeffrey Gibson: CAN YOU FEEL IT” is on view at Kavi Gupta, 219 North Elizabeth, through December 14.