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My Culture is Yer Freight: Panel Discussion on Peter Williams

I use color and an outsider’s point of reference in my paint handling, creating an immediacy and a response that endows the work with a sense or feel of currency. … While it is painful, for some, that I bring a state of offensive literature, I think we are also deserving of a critique by looking at representations of race and representation. — Peter Williams

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Moderated by curator and critic Larry Ossei-Mensah, this panel discussion meditates on the legacy of Peter Williams (1952–2021) whose punk-pop paintings such as My Culture is Yer Freight (2019) evoke the complex experiences of Black Americans in the contemporary age. Organized in conjunction with Peter Williams: Nyack on view at Eric Firestone Gallery, this program brings together artist Dominic Chambers; artist Jameson Green; curator and gallerist Ebony L. Haynes; and poet and critic John Yau. 

This panel discussion at 40 Great Jones Street will be followed by a reception at 4 Great Jones Street in the concurrent solo show Abigail DeVille: Original Night, also on view through December 23, 2022.

Larry Ossei-Mensah is a Ghanaian American curator and cultural critic based in New York. Ossei-Mensah curated two previous Peter Williams exhibitions including With So Little To Be Sure Of (2018) at CUE Art Foundation and Black Universe (2020–21) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit along with co-curator Rebecca Mazzei. He is also contributing a Q&A with Ebony L. Haynes to the catalogue that will accompany Peter Williams: Nyack (2022) at Eric Firestone Gallery. Ossei-Mensah is the co-founder of ARTNOIR, a nonprofit focused on driving racial equity in the art world by centering creatives, curators, collectors, and communities of color. He has organized exhibitions globally at institutions including MCA Denver; MASS MOCA; and the 7th Athen Biennale with OSMK Social Club. The projects have featured artists such as Firelei Báez, Ebony G. Patterson, Arthur Jafa, Judy Chicago, and Steve McQueen. Formerly the Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Ossei-Mensah recently curated Amoako Boafo’s debut museum solo exhibition, Soul of Black Folks (2021–22), at the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. He also co-curated with Rehema Barber Unmasking Masculinity for the 21st (2022), which is currently on view at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art.

Dominic Chambers (b. 1993) is a New Haven-based painter who was born and raised in St. Louis. The artist received his BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and his MFA from Yale University School of Art. Chambers creates vibrant paintings that simultaneously engage art historical models, such as color field painting and gestural abstraction, and contemporary concerns around race, identity, and the necessity for leisure and reflection. Interested in how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one's relationship with the world, the artist sees painting as a critical and intellectual endeavor, as much as an aesthetic one. His recent solo exhibitions include What Makes the Earth Shake (2022) at the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art; Progress of the Soul (2021) at Luce Gallery in Turin, Italy; and Like the Shapes of Clouds on Water (2020) at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. Chambers’ work is in the collections of the Green Family Foundation in Dallas, TX; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. He is the recipient of the Robert Reed Drawing Scholarship, the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship, and the Varsity Art XVIII Award and has completed residencies at the New York Studio Residency Program and the Yale Norfolk School of Art. Chambers is represented by Lehmann Maupin.

Jameson Green (b. 1992) is a Bronx-based painter. Green received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and his MFA from Hunter College. The artist creates psychological parables rendered in a visual language steeped in the grandeur of art history, inflected with comics and illustration and filtered through a highly introspective lens. Sampling art historical references ranging from Jacob Lawrence and Bill Traylor to Crumb, Picasso, Goya, Guston, Kokoschka, and Rubens, Green creates a form of visual hip-hop infused with tremendous momentum and energy. Throughout his work, Green boldly deploys the imagery of racism in what he describes as “a representation of corruption in pursuit of power, racial division, bigotry, and through these things personal suffering.” His work is found in the collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami, and ICA Miami. His recent solo exhibitions include Jameson Green (2022) at Almine Rech in London; With Regards, Without Regrets (2022) at Derek Eller Gallery in New York; and Mud Made Monsters (2022) at Sorry We’re Closed in Brussels. The artist is represented by Derek Eller Gallery.

Ebony L. Haynes is a New York-based writer and curator from Toronto, Canada. She is a curator and director at 52 Walker & David Zwirner. Haynes worked with Peter Williams on his first solo exhibition in New York in 2013 at Foxy Production. She also contributed to the catalogue for Peter Williams: With So Little To Be Sure Of (2018) at Cue Art Foundation; and she is´╗┐ contributing a Q&A with Larry Ossei-Mensah to the catalogue that will accompany Peter Williams: Nyack (2022) at Eric Firestone Gallery. Haynes has previously held positions as visiting curator and critic at Yale School of Art in Painting and Printmaking, and director at Martos Gallery and Shoot The Lobster in New York and Los Angeles. Haynes sits on the boards of Artists Space, the New Art Dealers Alliance, and Cassandra Press. She also runs an online “school” that offers free professional practice classes to Black students worldwide.

John Yau is a New York-based art critic, poet, and curator who has published more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and art criticism. Yau has written on Peter Williams's work for Hyperallergic and participated in programs with the artist. Born in Lynn, MA to Chinese emigrants, Yau attended Bard College and earned an MFA from Brooklyn College in 1978. His first book of poetry, Crossing Canal Street, was published in 1976. Since then, he has won acclaim for his poetry's attentiveness to visual culture and linguistic surface. In poems that frequently pun, trope, and play with the English language, Yau offers complicated, sometimes competing versions of the legacy of his dual heritages—as Chinese, American, poet, and artist. Yau was the arts editor for Brooklyn Rail (2007–11) and is now a regular contributor to Hyperallergic. His most recent monographs are Catherine Murphy (Rizzoli, 2016), the first book on the artist, and Richard Artschwager: Into the Desert (Black Dog Publishing, 2015). He has also written monographs on A. R. Penck, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. He is a Professor of Cultural Studies at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

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