A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking to Open at Claire Oliver Gallery



Ann Johnson, Octoroon (Constance), intaglio, found objects, 10 x 11 x 10 in, 2021

In perfect timing for Black History Month, Claire Oliver Gallery will open its doors to the New York debut exhibition A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking features 21 works by nine contemporary Black women printmakers.  Curated by two artists, founder of Texas-based nonprofit Black Women of Print, Tanekeya Word and member Delita Martin, the exhibition explores the depth and breadth of printmaking through the lens of Black women and their myriad narratives.

“Like our foremothers, Black women printmakers have used the tools in our hands to create visual languages that tell the stories of our past, present, future and the in-between spaces within fractal time,” states Tanekeya Word, co-curator, visual artist and printmaker. “Each printmaker shares matriarchal perspectives on Black interiority.”

Chloe Alexander, Existing in a positively negative space, charcoal, and pastel on wood lithography matrix, 24 x 24 in, 2021

The exhibition includes work by Tanekeya Word, Delita Martin, Ann Johnson, LaToya M. Hobbs, Lisa Hunt, Paula Wilson, Chloe Alexander, Sam Vernon and Stephanie Santana.

Tanekeya Word, founder of Black Women of Print and co-curator of this exhibition explains her works in the exhibition as “The Soul Food of the print world.”  Hailing from the Mississippi Delta region, Word combines her knowledge and training in the Western art historical canon of linocut printmaking with hand embroidery, batting, quilting and weaving – practices long considered “women’s craft” techniques as a form of artistic intervention that in turn elevate each print into a unique work of art.

Delita Martin, My Mother’s Bowl (self-portrait), acrylic, charcoal, etching, gold leaf, hand stitching, 43 x 63 in, 2021

Co-curator of the exhibition and founder of The Blackbox Press, Delita Martin, aims for her printmaking practice to address the marginalization of Black women, which has led to problematic representations of their roles within community and family structures, as well as problematic visual and textual representations; thus making it difficult to document their positive contributions within collective systems. Martin’s current work deals with reconstructing the identity of Black women by piecing together the signs, symbols, and language found in what could be called everyday life from slavery through modern times. Martin’s goal is to create images as a visual language to tell the story of women that have often been marginalized, offering a different perspective of the lives of Black women.  Lush color and gestural forms are infused with reoccurring symbols: birds represent the human spirit, masks a conduit for transition and carved chairs signify leadership.  Ancestry and ties to her African American roots symbolizing the female power and representing notions of totality, wholeness, the infinite, eternity, and patience.

Ann Johnson uses objects as diverse as an ironing board or a feather fan to deepen and expand upon the narratives formed by printing haunting and thought-provoking images of Black and indigenous women directly onto the objects. The artist questions why we are still having the same conversations surrounding “women’s work”, equality and colorblindness in a country as imaginative and forward thinking as ours.  Born in London but raised in Cheyanne, Wyoming by a bi-racial Black and Indigenous grandmother, Johnson’s African, Native and African American ancestry play a large roll in her work.  The works on view are printed on raw cotton and entitled “Auction Block” confronting the cross-generational trauma and pain of slavery, as well as the survival and existence of its ancestors.

Tenekeya Word, Tender a Sisterhood Anthem (Bside) fig. 014, linocut, relief ink, hand quilting on 280 gsm BFK Rives, 22 x 30 in, 2021

A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking was organized by Black Women of Print to showcase the work of a spectrum of established and emerging Black women artists with a focus on printmaking.

A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage of Printmaking will be on view from January 29 to March 19, 2022 at Claire Oliver Gallery, 2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, NYC.