Thursday, February 28, 2019

'In Lieu of a Louder Love' Swells the Heart

On Single Awareness Day, Valentine's Day for most, I strolled through both Jack Shainman Gallery locations to immerse into Lynnette Yiadom-Boakye's latest paintings, romantically titled "In Lieu of a Louder Love." It is easy to lose self in these beautiful, large and medium scale works that contain slender, graceful bodies in various moods and movements, as fluid and beguiling as tender poems drawing their stanza lines between endearing affection and charged passion. Seduction alludes in the expressive mark making, the palette interplay, the soft, pleasing forms.

A quixotic thrill stretches from piece to piece of dark brown tones from burnt umber to sienna jarringly adjacent bright, mesmerizing colors, heightening the compositions with such an urgent, unconstrained joy. On occasion, marginalized men and women have their arms aflutter, their bodies poised and bending with limber flexibility and kinetic energy existing in various degrees of flighty movement. They are serious, candid, delighted, intense, and intuitive, sharing every emotion like film stills rapturously captured in luscious, rhythmic brushstrokes. It makes a dark brown woman walking among the paintings feel seen, feel loved in this otherwise lonely spectacle.

Yiadom-Boakye's invented characters are performative actors conducting ordinary tasks yet they're significant in their portrayal. Her visible brown bodies are eloquent dancers, keepers of pets like fine-feathered birds and joyous foxes, and hold cigarettes with sophisticated fingers. These black bohemian spirits have knowing dark eyes and contagious smiles and this charming wit about themselves. Their heads are held high and defiant and they wear their personalities like a second skin. Still, a mystery swirls around the air, a loving kind of mystery that is enthralling to behold.

Yiadom-Boakye continues to play with gender roles, letting the black men wear colors stereotypically associated with femininity. A man stares off in a thick pink scarf and another man lets an owl span out its wings affixed to his hand.

Although "In Lieu of a Louder Love" is gone from the white walls of New York City, the remains of its enchanting aesthetics and undeniably breathtaking take on blackness stay inside the beating heart of a painter in love with images of herself told by a painter that looks like her-- deep brown, bespectacled, and kinky haired.

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