London Exhbitions. Tameka Norris. Almost Acquaintances. 14 February – 29 March 2014. Ronchini Gallery
Ronchini Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by New Orleans based artist Tameka Norris in collaboration with ARTNESIA. Norris’s multi-disciplinary practice includes performance, video, sound, photography, and installation.
The title of the show, Almost Acquaintances, references her relationship with New Orleans and presents a new series of paintings depicting buildings in Gulfport and Biloxi – Norris’s childhood home – and quintessential shotgun houses in New Orleans, where the artist lives and works. The works take on titles such as Ms. Rosie, Josephine, or Pass Rd that reference women in Norris’s family that have passed away or streets in the area.
A continuation of the artist’s Post-Katrina series, the works are built up mark by mark using oil paint on stretched fabrics in a colourful and impressionistic approach. Norris began the series in 2009 whilst living in Los Angeles but travelled to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to take photographs for use as reference material. Though she experienced Katrina from the safety of the UCLA campus, she uses her family’s personal circumstance, such as her grandmother’s completely destroyed house, as a point of departure for her work. Norris explains:
“I was continually seeing familiar places from back home on the television and felt compelled to understand the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. It is traumatising watching something like that happening. Mississippi was simply flattened; just gone. Through the work I wanted to remember and remap those places so that they did not disappear. In a way, I wanted to place them somehow back into my world.”
In a video performance work the artist recreates Michelangelo Pistoletto’s sculpture Venus of the Rags, 1967 – 1974. The artist appears as the classical statue of the Roman goddess of fertility, positioned with her back to the viewer in front of a large pile of her own brightly coloured, discarded clothes heaped on the floor. By inserting herself – a black woman – into the dialogue about painting she forces a critique about the presence of the black body in the history of painting. After watching the video, Norris became disillusioned with the tattoos she has on her shoulder blades and decided to have them gradually removed as a way of becoming more like the timeless model of Venus. In doing so, the artist herself has become a work in progress, a reductive sculpture, instructed by the notions of perfection and classicism.
Norris is producing a feature length film/installation with artist Garrett Bradley, for Prospect 3 Biennial in New Orleans, in autumn 2014 curated by Franklin Sirmans. The film is in a documentary style with some scripted narrative, and is about Norris’s life as an artist. Elements of what happens at the Ronchini Gallery exhibition will translate into this film and vice versa. Future projects include an EP with original music created by Norris which will become the soundtrack of the film.
Tameka Norris received her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles before graduating with an MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2012. Her work can be seen in Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, until 9 March 2014. The exhibition chronicles the development of black performance art and was previously shown at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston in 2012. Whilst at UCLA, Norris transposed the language and aesthetic of hip hop onto the backdrop of her college campus. In the video Licker, 2010, Norris, in a bikini and fur coat raps, ‘I’m that black Cindy Sherman and that little Kara Walker, Basquiat resurrected from the dead…’ In her 2012 video series she tracked her progression through the Yale School of Art in a savvy update on Alex Bag’s classic Untitled Fall’95. In another gesture of appropriation, Norris pairs Janis Joplin and Drake for Mercedes Benz-Successful, 2011. In 2013, her work was the subject of a solo exhibition at Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans : Tameka Norris – Family Values. The artist has participated in numerous important group exhibitions including Radical Presence, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2012); Gifted and Talented, Third Streaming Gallery, New York (2012); Prospect.2 Biennial, New Orleans (2011); QueerSexing, Human Resources, Los Angeles (2011); Prospect.1.5 Biennial, Good Children Gallery, New Orleans (2010); Open Projector Night, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2009);True Diva Biennale, Skowhegan, Maine (2009); Dissent! 1968 to Now, Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles (2008).