Exhibition - Steffani Jemison

Wednesday, Aug 4, 2021 at 10:00am

Contemporary Arts Center
44 East Sixth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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Employing tools borrowed from conceptual art, cinema, fiction writing, and improvisation, Steffani Jemison works with personal narratives and historical archives to reframe the past and examine alternative ideologies of so-called “progress.” The exhibition features a collection of new sculptures and three videos by New York-based, Cincinnati-raised artist Jemison that explore the multiple resonances of velocity, movement, and stillness. Titled In Succession 2019-2021, the videos examine the figure of the Black acrobat as a protagonist who represented criminality or waywardness in the public imagination. Rooted in three historical episodes from the early 20th century wherein Black figures were characterized as super-human after alleged attempts to escape, rescue, or thieve, the work examines experiences of otherness, risk, and fugitivity. Jemison creates an opposition to these past events by capturing present-day imagery of disciplined movement practices that combine parkour, contact improvisation, and acrobatics, foregrounding themes of agility, balance, exteriority, and resilience.

Building upon past videos, such as Maniac Chase (2008-09) and Escaped Lunatic (2010-11), that render the line between recklessness and revolution illegible, Jemison has developed a grammar of forms that employ repetition and sequence to unpack the myth of American progress. Paired with the videos are several free-standing kinetic sculptures comprised of modified rock tumblers. Filled with rough black and brown-colored stones, as well as coins, hardware, found glass, and other debris, the sculptures produce a grinding noise as they transform parts of their contents into polished, rounded gems over the course of the exhibition. Other items, such as the hardware, are degraded and rendered unusable as a result of the agitation. Materials like mahogany obsidian, black hematite, and jet reference notions of self-care, as they are thought to have medicinal properties. These sculptures add a formal counterpoint to the themes present in the videos, as the barrels’ movement mimic the cyclical narrative logic present in Jemison’s films, while also conjuring layered physical and symbolic associations related to homonyms such as “agitation,”“tumble,” and “revolution.” This exhibition is Steffani Jemison’s first solo midwestern museum exhibition.

Steffani Jemison was born in 1981 in Berkeley, CA and raised in Cincinnati. She received her BA from Columbia University (2003) and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009). Since 2016, she has been a part of the musical collaborative, Mikrokosmos, with Justin Hicks. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions and special projects at LAXART, Los Angeles (2013); RISD Museum, Providence (2015); Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA; Jeu de Paume, Paris (both 2017); Nottingham Contemporary (2018); and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2019), among others. She has also been included in numerous group exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2012); The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2015); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and the Whitney Biennial, New York (both 2019). Jemison currently lives and works in Brooklyn.

This exhibition is supported by the WOMXN and the CAC Exhibition Fund. It is supported in part by Arts Midwest.

Exhibition Date: March 05, 2021 - August 08, 2021 

NOTE:  10AM - 12PM Wednesdays are reserved for senior citizens and persons with disabilities

Admission to the galleries is FREE 

In an effort to ensure visitor safety, we are observing new protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and limit capacity in the galleries, specifically TIMED TICKETING.  All visitors are required to sign-up for a reserved time slot. 

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