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Johansson presents All Up In Your Mind: Blackstrap, a solo presentation of new work by Oakland-based artist Richard-Jonathan Nelson. Nelson is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses textiles, video, and digital manipulation to create alternative worlds of speculative identity. His work is multi-layered, chromatically intense and mixes images of the natural world with reference to hoodoo, queer culture, and Afro-Futurism. He uses his constructed worlds to examine the overlapping spheres of culturally perceived identity and the emotional memory of what it means to be a queer Black man.
The artist writes: “How does the Black body respond to existing within the mental landscape of the other? How are Black people forced to shift their existence when engaging with the various mental spaces and projections of Western people? The work contemplates how Black silence or the desire for interiority and respite from social performance can be interpreted negatively by non-Black bodies. How does it feel to be fluent in the externally imperceptible psychic language of misinterpreted silence?
To hold a dual awareness of one’s mental landscape as a Black person and the projected mental dialogue of the non-Black spectator.
The social discomfort our society has with the unengaged, silent, unencumbered Black body is both a physical space and a mental one. Why does the Black body at rest draw so much attention whether engaged in fishing, barbecuing, or just reclining in an easy chair? As Black bodies sink and fall into landscapes of dreams and peace, the outside viewer becomes perplexed by this disconnection from demanded engagement.
When does silence become conflated with rejection, absence, dismissal, and not purely a space of respite? The larger Western culture demands a constant level of performativity from Black bodies. This desire to be engaged, entertained, nurtured, and reflected is unspoken and unanalyzed, but in its absence from Black bodies an atmosphere of discomfort is perceived and created by the other.
As a Black interior landscape becomes more lush and dense in its mental nuance the physical social spaces become more bare and inhospitable. A perceivable frisson of the everyday is created, and the external social discomfort becomes apparent in the Black body’s gesture. This discomfort creates a loop forcing our Black bodies to sink deeper into the forest of our minds, becoming unreachable specters.
This distillation of silence depending on the palette of the receiver can be both a nuanced deep as night sweetness or a bitter astringent counter to processed sucrose whiteness. Like blackstrap molasses, Black silence and mental retreat is both a space of blossoming comfort and a symptom of suffocating non communal projection.”
All Up In Your Mind: Blackstrap presents four new mixed media textile works in our side gallery. The exhibition opens with an Artist Reception on Saturday, September 16, 12-3.
Richard-Jonathan Nelson is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses textiles, video, and digital manipulation to create alternative worlds of speculative identity. His work is multi-layered, chromatically intense and mixes images of the natural world with reference to hoodoo, queer culture, and Afro-Futurism. He uses his constructed worlds to examine the overlapping spheres of culturally perceived identity and the emotional memory of what it means to be a queer Black man. Thereby creating a limbic space free from the weighted accepted Western cultural reality, and able to examine the unspoken ways systems of power persist.
Born in Savannah, GA (1987) and working in Oakland, CA Nelson received his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2017. He has been featured in solo shows at Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, The Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, and Johansson Projects, Oakland. His work has been featured in New American Painting and shown in the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design and San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Nelson has held residency at Headlands Center for the Arts and the Studios at Mass MoCA.
2300 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612