Armani Howard USA, b. 1993
Armani Howard is a multi-disciplinary, African American-Thai artist whose work cross-examines the roles of memory, nostalgia, and folkloric narratives in the creation and preservation of identity.
Howard’s interest in the ways storytelling is used to construct identity developed early in life. The loss of his father when Howard was a young child led him to search for information about his father’s life and history.
“Through learning more about him I realized the connection of how an individual’s passing, unspoken creeds and the memories that are shared begins to dictate their Identity,” Howard says. “I began to question the roles that help shape identity and how they can mold the beliefs in one’s heritage.”
Thinking about what that dynamic means to a family over generations, Howard draws heavily upon family folklore in his work. His nebulous, conceptually layered compositions depict an intersectional space between objective reality and the more speculative mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life.
Raised as a Buddhist, the practice of meditation has informed Howard’s understanding of how physical bodies are, and sometimes are not, boxed in by seemingly concrete circumstances. This understanding manifests in the work as the figures in Howard’s paintings are often blurred or hidden, or depicted with allegorical or symbolic features. The physical environments they inhabit are heavily abstracted and obscured, suggesting a realm outside of time in which dream life, memory, and imagination coexist with materiality.
For Howard, that midpoint between concretion and abstraction is deeply rooted in the human capacity to construct an understanding of life based not only on what is or was, but on what could have been, or might yet be.
“There is something powerful about nostalgia. I can access a moment in time in its entirety in a split second,” Howard says. “That experience of chasing a feeling—of being physically here, but allowing my mind, emotions and spirit to move around and engage in various emotions and ideas and dialogues that I am not physically present for—I want to visually represent the essence of that.”
SKIN + MASKS |||, Curated by Vic Mensa & Chanelle LacyMagnificent Mile Association, 535 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 18 Jul 2022 - 15 Apr 2023Kavi Gupta announces the third iteration of SKIN + MASKS, a group exhibition aimed at decolonizing Black art beyond the politics of visibility. Co-curated by gallery director Chanelle Lacy and rapper, activist, and philanthropist Vic Mensa, the exhibition brings together works by an inter-generational group of Chicago-based contemporary artists, and...