Fridman Gallery is honored to announce Within Listening Distance of the Sea…, the first solo exhibition in New York by Ambrose Rhapsody Murray, presenting a new series of sewn textiles, and a short film made in collaboration with Logan Lynette and Heather Lee. The exhibition is accompanied by a digital catalog with an essay by the art historian, curator and author Kilolo Luckett.
The source images in Ambrose’s large-scale works on fabric are archival photographs of Black women and girls from the early 1900s, which often circulated around the world as postcards. Invariably taken by white male photographers, they were forms of pornography, tools of colonial propaganda and lexicons for gendered, racial, scientific and medical violence defining and evaluating “the black female body”. They are relics of the power dynamics that continue to live in and across the bodies of Black and Brown women, girls and queer people on every continent impacted by slavery and colonialism today.
Ambrose’s delicate textiles, gently flowing through the gallery space, revise these images through a lens of protection, care and imaginative storytelling, cloaking the hypervisible/invisible protagonists in layers of fabric, and alluding to the poetry of their dreams, the depth of their experiences, the emotions they may hold–their grief, reverence, love, wonder. Hued in blues and purples, and veiled with hand-dyed organza, the figures become spirits, free of typecasting and eroticizing, powerful in their fluidity, their ability to elude binary objectification.
Ambrose further arms her queer spirits with ancestral tools–machetes, candles, vessels, symbolizing how much Black women in the South have had to hold: the water they’ve carried, the fires they’ve lit, the waves of migration. All, in the words of Nikky Finney, “within listening distance of the sea”. The exhibition’s title references Ambrose’s familial heritage in Florida, the presence of the ocean and port cities as sites for displacement and dispossession, and the ocean, water and vessels as symbols of life-force, femininity, refuge, sanctuary, memory, wisdom, magic and Afro-mysticism (a term coined by Daniel Alexander Jones).
The gallery’s downstairs media room will feature a short film, presented as a two-channel video installation, made in collaboration with Atlanta-based filmmaker Logan Lynette, dancer and cultural organizer Heather Lee, and the organizers and artists connected to SpiritHouse Inc. in Durham, NC. The film is a choreographed meditation on Spirit, ancestral presence, ritual, protection, family, community, and belonging, unveiling the hidden beauty of everyday lives of Black folks–their movements, clothing, hairstyles and jewelry rhyming with elements of Ambrose’s textiles.
Ambrose Rhapsody Murray is a self-taught painter and seamstress who strives to create work that heals, transforms and makes tangible impact for Black and Brown people and communities in the American South and beyond. Ambrose has received numerous grants and awards for her work, including Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Yale CCAM Interdisciplinary Arts Award, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking Innovation Award, Gordon Grand and Cohen Public Service Fellowships, SpiritHouse Inc. Sankofa Cultural Alchemist Award, and Alternate ROOTS Project Development Award. She received her BA in African-American Studies from Yale College in 2018, concentrating in arts & culture.
Ambrose Rhapsody Murray: Within Listening Distance of the Sea… will be on view from November 10 to December 19, 2021, with Opening Reception on Wednesday, November 10 from 6-8pm. Fridman Gallery is located at 169 Bowery, NYC.
Related events include:
Artist Talk: Ambrose Rhapsody Murray and Kill Luckett on Friday, November 19 at 6pm And Artist Talk: Ambrose Rhapsody Murray, Logan Lynette and Heather Lee on Wednesday, December 15 at 2pm.