Pamela Council USA, b. 1986

Overview

“Sometimes I make work in collaboration with ancestors. Sometimes I make work that sort of penetrates some metaphysical barrier that allows healing between me and other people, not in a theoretical sense—I mean we have conversations we’ve never been able to have because of the work, speaking through the work. I think that’s spirit.”

— Pamela Council

Pamela Council is a multidisciplinary artist working in sculpture, printing, installation, and performance. Their work deploys surreal and uncanny forms and an assortment of found and fabricated materials to explore a conceptual framework Council calls “blaxidermy”—a blend of taxidermy and blacksploitation.

 

Many of Council’s works, such as her Fountains for Black Joy, take the form of structures or objects that viewers might normally associate with dedications to the deceased or monuments to the past. A playful and vivid color palette of pinks, purples, yellows, and greens lends the work a whimsical presence, while darkly humorous materials, such as synthetic nails, crack pipes, red drink, and sneaker silicone, allude to a commercial culture that trades in superficiality and sickness.

 

One recent body of work incorporates squares of silicone into abstract compositions that relate to Council’s experiences working in the sneaker industry. Council assembles the silicon tiles into geometric grids, creating stoic, formalist arrangements next to dynamic gestural patterns emanating from the varied textures, which are themselves sampled from the Reebok texture archives.

 

“I have this word blaxidermy,” Council says. “It addresses Black fungibility, like asking, ‘Why are so many Black people valued after life rather than during our lives?’ I make these works around that question, using adornment materials from my culture.”

 

Council’s first large-scale work of public art, A Fountain For Survivors, will debut in fall 2021 in Times Square. It will incorporate 400,000 acrylic fingernails.

 

Council earned a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Columbia University, and is a recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, Andy Warhol Foundation Grant, MacArthur Travel Grant, and Harpo Foundation Grant for Visual Artists, among others. Council’s work has been exhibited extensively, including at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, OR; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI; New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York, NY; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and Southampton Historical Museum, NY, among others. Council has been Artist-in-Residence at MacDowell Colony, Red Bull Arts, Bemis Center, Rush Arts, MANA Contemporary, Signal Culture, Mass MoCA, and Wassaic Project.

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