Based in Los Angeles, Gray is best known for photography, performance and sculptural works that address histories of power in relationship to the African diaspora. In the work at Pomona College, he combines photographs from his own archive—assembled over decades—and reconfigures and stacks the framed images on top of each other, resulting in layers that both reveal and conceal. The works include photographs of individuals and rural scenes in South Africa and Ghana (where Gray maintains a studio), formal imperial gardens in Europe, constellations and galaxies and images of rock and pop musicians Gray worked with in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a recent conversation with artist Carrie Mae Weems that will be published in the exhibition catalog, Gray notes his desire for the audience to locate themselves within the multidimensional aspects of his work:
“I wanted to make the viewer conscious of how they are active players in constructing meaning. We tend to think of the veracity of photography, and that it does not lie,” says Gray. “I wanted to shift that and bring attention to the frame, to ask what’s outside of this frame? Because this other frame is covering something up. Then, you are given the task to reconstruct and bring in your narrative, your history, your understanding of what you’re looking at, and then, to name and create a narrative.”
The title “Euclidean Gris Gris” references Gray’s examination of the historical constructs of the “logical” and geometrical gardens of Europe—an aesthetic manifestation of the idea of disembodied reason—and the “unpredictable” nature found in African landscapes. Gray deconstructs and layers images in order to rupture the body/mind and nature/culture binaries and examine the intimacies of Black sociality.
Gray’s exhibition and residency also includes a public program series curated by Nana Adusei- Poku, “Longing on a Large Scale.” This series invites artists, poets, activists and thinkers into a dialogue with intellectual and artistic discourses raised in Gray’s work including the possibilities of Black Liberation, the relationship between institutional politics and systemic exclusion, the role of art and the imaginary and various attempts to build communities beyond the notion of resistance. Guests include Tina Campt, Jeff Chang, Gabrielle Civil, Bridget R. Cooks, Ntone Edjabe, NIC Kay, Kevin Quashie, and Christina Sharpe, among others.
The PCMA exhibition is organized by senior curator Rebecca McGrew with assistant curator Hannah Grossman. It is accompanied by a publication designed by Kimberly Varella of Content Object, Los Angeles. It includes new essays by Dr. Nana Adusei-Poku, Visiting Professor in Art History of the African Diaspora at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; and Dr. Neelika Jayawardane, Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego, and a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), University of Johannesburg (South Africa); and a conversation between Todd Gray and Carrie Mae Weems.
Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and the Pasadena Art Alliance.
TODD GRAY: Euclidean Gris Gris
September 3, 2019 – May 17, 2020
Opening Reception:Saturday, September 14, 3-5 PM