Spanning from the 1970s to the present, Bitter Nest brings together a trans-generational group of American artists whose work takes measure of the respective cultural climates in intervals throughout the past half-century, acting as societal barometers and presenting truths at various times and in a variety of expressive forms. The show’s title, Bitter Nest, is derived from a quilted series of works by Faith Ringgold, one of the artists at the centre of this exhibition. Artists have long been at the centre of the demand for justice in the U.S., holding a mirror, to the nation’s imperfect and improbable union. Weaving together a number of intersectional threads—from feminism to critical race theory, environmental politics and capitalism—the artists on view demonstrate not only an awareness of the myriad issues of their moments, but an awareness of themselves as artists, people, and agents of truth.
Chronologically speaking, Bitter Nest begins with the works of Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) and Judy Chicago (b. 1939), respective pioneers of racial and feminist activist art. Brought together for the very first time, these two trailblazers, engage in tacit dialogues with exhibition’s other artists, each concerned with their own individual ideas and critical observations. These other artists—Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982), Genesis Belanger (b.1978), Mark Thomas Gibson (b. 1980), Emily Mae Smith (b.1979), Chiffon Thomas (b. 1991) and Robin F. Williams (b. 1984)— from younger generations, offer a new and evolving view on the issues of their time, on the personal as political, and demonstrating an enduring and fertile American artistic vocabulary.
In a 1964 text, the poet and revolutionary Amiri Baraka—Faith Ringgold’s contemporary—wrote about the use of personhood and narrative within contemporary art, 'Poems have got, literally, to be about something. And the weights of love, murder, history, economics have got to drag whoever’s writing in a personally sanctified direction or else there will be no poems at all. But it is not the direction that’s interesting, or makes literature or art, but the replaying of it, by the poet.' All of the artists in Bitter Nest are storytellers, harnessing the power of their own subjectivity to change the stakes, and encourage the proliferation, diversification, and retelling of perspective.
Press release courtesy Perrotin.