KADIST presents Nectar, a solo exhibition by New York artist Xaviera Simmons. For her first exhibition in France, Simmons has created new photographic works, paintings and videos that draw on the AFRO American Newspapers’ massive collection of historic images.
Simmons’ work contextualizes our historical and contemporary implications with the systems, ideas, people, and architecture that underlie American empire building as a seemingly endless process of expansion. If AFRO’s images draw essential nuances and trace the sketches of future paths, Simmons’ new works use the very textures of these sources – tenuous and subtle – to underline the tensions inherent in the search for autonomy within systems built on historical erasure.
Summoning contemporary practices of photography as much as its history, Simmons’ images, animated videos, texts and colorful paintings are based on fundamental photographic principles such as the rule of thirds, while using color, pattern and performance to create abstract environments rooted in material reality. The subjects of Simmons’ works alternate between the direct gaze and the refusal to be seen, thus pressing their agency within the frame itself.
In Nectar, she crafts a nuanced narrative in which prejudice, pleasure, restraint, spiritual commitment, resistance and reparation are foregrounded, without ever losing sight of the fact that the United States and its European models founded their empires on the principle of white supremacy. For Nectar, her works are steeped in the tonal qualities of black and white, and her layering of archival material, figures, text, physical and virtual landscapes refer to the layered images that photographers and illustrators of the AFRO enhanced by hand, adding detail and contrast to their documentations of daily life.
Thus, Simmons’ commitment to the archives highlights their potential as a repository of language, within which we could draw in order to propose new models of reparation. In this alliance, the archive is not an object of the past, nor a reflection of a present situation: it is radically turned towards a future that remains to be articulated.
This project is a collaboration between Simmons, KADIST and Afro Charities, a US-based non-profit organization that maintains the archives of the AFRO American Newspapers, a 130-year-old weekly newspaper that produces programs inspired by this collection.
The exhibition is supported by the Villa Albertine and the Ford Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts.
Practicing photography as well as painting, video, sound, sculpture, writing and installation, Xaviera Simmons is interested in the construction of the landscape, in language, in the complex history of the United States. and the continued development of their national and global imperialism. Simmons received her BFA from Bard College (2004) following two years of pilgrimage with Buddhist monks retracing the transatlantic slave trade.
Xaviera Simmons : Nectar
May 5 – July 24, 2022
19bis-21 rue des Trois Frères