Nina Chanel Abney: Framily Ties — You Win Some, You Lose Some at Pace Prints
September 30 – November 12, 2022
536 West 22nd Street, NYC
© Nina Chanel Abney. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Prints.
Pace Prints presented a solo exhibition of large-scale prints and collages by American painter Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago), from September 30 – November 12, 2022, at Pace Prints’ new gallery location at 536 West 22nd Street. This presentation, titled Framily Ties — You Win Some, You Lose Some, marks the inauguration of the new space and Abney’s third exhibition with the gallery since 2018. A public opening reception will be held Thursday, September 29, 6–8 pm.
The exhibition centered on Abney’s monumental works on paper, a medium that she has developed into a pillar of her practice over the course of four years of collaborations with Pace Editions’ master printers. Beginning with relief printing processes that render Abney’s graphic forms in richly saturated oil-based inks, the artist then cuts and combines printed elements into immersive collaged compositions that use all of the myriad imagery and symbolism of her personal lexicon. The tensions between geometric figures and patterns and the vibrant interaction of colors give Nina Chanel Abney’s work their distinctive formal energy, which draws on the legacy of Henri Matisse’s découpage works.
Framily Ties — You Win Some, You Lose Some represents a progression of Nina Chanel Abney’s approach to printmaking, both in scale and complexity, and the emergence of its role as one of her primary creative outlets. Far from taking a duplicative approach to the printing process, Abney embraces its potential for multiplicity and variation, which she uses as a channel to compose original images. Three of the bodies of work to be exhibited were created at Pace Prints for a contemporary homage to Matisse, Matisse Alive, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, where they filled five walls of the museum during the run of the exhibition, from October 2021 to April 2022. Additional works were created specifically for Pace Prints’ new gallery, making use of the expanded space to create ever more ambitious and genre-defying printed works, including a wall-spanning seven-foot-high diptych.
In a series of mural-like works (GREEN, YELLOW, PURPLE, RED, WHITE, BLUE) Abney creates scenes at once celebratory and edgy, in which syncopated bodies shift shape, ethnicity and sexual identity. This series reflects Abney’s ongoing dialogue with contemporary society and events, one that is not expressed as political commentary, but organically and personally, though allusion and free association. In GREEN, Abney juxtaposes three figures of mismatched skin color with colored triangles and a bold circled “NO.” The figures, apparently nude, interlock in a choreography of gestures that remain obscure, yet charged with the suggestion of touch and interconnection. In WHITE, a composition in grays and blues, skin color and gender are pushed beyond conventional signifiers, as the two figures sit among a constellation of Abney’s symbolism: circles/balls; outstretched hands; Xs and striped bands that could suggest genetic code or warning signs; the number 1 housed inside a broad pyramid.
In her series of collaged portraits, Abney takes a more intimate and personal tone, depicting herself and close friends enclosed in oversized wooden frames, printed from blowtorched plywood. These images allude to personal spaces and comforts: a beach; houseplants; a favorite jacket; a moment of relaxed reading. Their presentation, on a background of screen printed wallpaper created by Abney, situate them within a private setting rather than public polemics.
An additional suite of seven portraits, titled Crew, uses color and clothing as markers of the subjects’ individuality. Once again, Abney shows herself and friends, this time close-up, as if cropped by the familiar proximity of the smartphone camera in the subject’s or a friend’s hand. Each portrait proudly announces its sitter on their own terms, in a moment of connection with another person. With her own likeness at the center of this setting, Abney shouts out the individuals who sustain her as well as the broader human connectedness that feeds her work.