The exhibition project “Todd Gray: Euclidean Gris Gris” activates the Pomona College Museum of Art’s largest gallery throughout the 2019/2020 academic year and consists of a site-specific wall drawing and an evolving selection of photographs from Gray’s ongoing artistic examination of the legacies of colonialism in Africa and Europe. A series of monthly programs, “Longing on a Large Scale,” and a publication accompany the exhibition.
Los Angeles-based artist Gray is known primarily for photography, performance, and sculptural works that explore contemporary and historical examinations of power in relationship to the African Diaspora. His work consists primarily of photographs from his own archive juxtaposed with one another, then mounted within found frames as a structuring device. In recent installations, he pairs images of Michael Jackson (Gray was Jackson’s photographer in the 1980s) with photographs of rural scenes in Ghana (where Gray maintains a studio) and formal gardens in Europe.
In his work, Gray explores the historical constructs of the “logical” and geometrical gardens of Europe—an aesthetic manifestation of the idea of disembodied reason—with the “unpredictable” nature found in African landscapes. The exhibition title “Euclidean Gris Gris” combines contrasting language to frame the work within a broader cultural critique. Gray’s project pushes beyond these binaries, referencing the Euclidean—Western influences—and Gris Gris—African animism and poetics.
Serving as a year-long, artist residency, Gray’s project expands the space of his exhibition to introduce other artistic and creative voices. Inspired by Gray’s work, visiting professor in art history of the African Diaspora at Cooper Union, New York, Dr. Nana Adusei-Poku is curating the “Longing on a Large Scale” programming. The nine monthly events originate from Gray’s techniques of deconstructing images, rupturing the body/mind and nature/culture binaries, and examining the intimacies of Black sociality. Gray’s work provides the catalyst for the program series by exploring the web of connections between his project and contemporary creative, social, and artistic issues, such as the possibilities of Black Liberation, the relationship between institutional politics and systemic exclusion, the tension between performativity and performance in relationship to race and gender. “Longing on a Large Scale” invites artists, poets, activists, and thinkers to unpack colonial paradigms and explore strategies of resistance.
The exhibition is curated by Rebecca McGrew and is accompanied by a publication designed by Kimberly Varella, of Content Object. Contents will include new essays by Dr. Nana Adusei-Poku and Dr. Neelika Jayawardane, and a conversation with Todd Gray and Carrie Mae Weems.
About the Artist
Todd Gray (b. 1954, Los Angeles) received both his BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Gray’s work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions internationally. Most recently, in 2018, Gray’s work was included in “Public Fiction: The Conscientious Objector” at the MAK Center for Art & Architecture in Los Angeles, where he directed a new durational performance, and in the major summer group exhibition “Michael Jackson: On the Wall” at London’s National Portrait Gallery, which travels in 2019 to the Grand Palais, Paris; the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn; and the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland. In 2017, Gray had solo exhibitions: “My Life in the Bush with MJ and Iggy” at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and in Johannesburg, South Africa. Gray presented performance works at the Roy & Edna Disney Cal/Arts Theater, REDCAT, and as part of the 2016 Hammer Museum biennial exhibition “Made in LA: a, the, though, only” in Los Angeles. Gray is a 2018 John S. Guggenheim Fellow.