Black Gold

Black Gold

On View from July 24, 2009 – December 12, 2009

curated by José Ruiz

Tattfoo Tan (Gallery 1) & Abigail DeVille (Gallery 2)

The Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) is pleased to open its 2009-10 gallery season with a new curatorial initiative entitled DIALECTS. Working under the umbrella of local and international dialogue, research, and collaboration, DIALECTS presents four (4) sets of side-by-side solo exhibitions, eight (8) exhibitions total, that pair local Bronx artists with foreign-born, NY-based artists. The exhibitions will showcase the new work created from this process and will be overseen by BRAC's Gallery Director & Curator José Ruiz. In order to further the definition of the "international" and "New York" artist, while simultaneously bridging cultures and ideologies, BRAC has invited artists who hail from countries that are currently underrepresented in the global art scene, as a parallel response to the Bronx's own position within the New York art community.

Black Gold, the first exhibition in the series, extrapolates context from a term that carries diverse meanings and connotations. From glorified connections to oil drilling, to re-branded forms of jewelry, and even political forms of corruption, this ominous term allows Malaysian-born artist Tattfoo Tan and Bronx artist Abigail DeVille to bilaterally coalesce around themes of urbanity and nature, decay and environmental stewardship, and loss and congregation, to name a few. The exhibition, which features new, site-specific works in painting, sculpture, and installation, amidst subtle interventions and collaborations within each of the artists' projects, will run from Friday, July 24 to Saturday, September 12, 2009.

In Gallery 1: Tattfoo Tan’s art practice encompasses a wide set of mediums, such as sculpture, installation, design, and public artworks, to establish an interactive, and often participatory, relationship with the viewer. Influenced primarily by a need to decipher the crux between art and life, the artist gives life to his works through a framework of collaborative events, dinners, exchanges, and eclectic everyday rituals. The artist uses organic, living materials as transitional elements that live, grow, die, decompose, and through his interventions, are repositioned at the same hierarchical level and with the same innate complexities as the viewer. It is within this milieu of shared relational systems that Tattfoo’s work becomes conscious. In keeping with the spirit of the transitional, his works are often ephemeral and conceptual in nature. His most recent body of work, S.O.S. (Sustainable. Organics. Stewardship.), is a multifaceted, yearlong horticulture and cultivation project, in which the artist engages deeply in the social and cultural curve of "green" ethics and aesthetics. By acknowledging the shortage of food at the global scale — how we eat, what we eat and how we should offset these demands — the artist tackles the sociopolitical ramifications of the origin of food, its labor, and their direct effect on our health and well-being with humorous works and challenging interventions inside and outside of BRAC.

In Gallery 2: Abigail DeVille presents a new, site-specific installation that combines painting, drawing, and collage to create a wild, chaotic, and seductive environment encompassing the gallery's walls, floor, and ceiling. This large-scale work physically mixes and juxtaposes old and new paintings and sculptural elements as installation materials and objects for a topographical assemblage. A part of her ongoing series Universal Diagrams of Discourse, this work uses the pictorial format to highlight issues and concerns in contemporary history and American society. In mathematical theory, the Universe of Discourse includes all things that are under discussion at a given time. Extrapolating from this idea, DeVille manifests the complexity of "blackness" and the reality of racial prejudice and tension in America within a sociological Venn diagram: a rectangle comprised of an infinite variety of situations, narratives, and multiple points of view. The artist balances and counter-weighs the overabundance of rough, toxic and inauthentic societal visions with poetic resistance and self-reflection. These excesses are illuminated with an excessive artistic process that is layered, dense, and loaded with diverse sets of response imagery and codes of influence, from African sculpture and textiles, to the artist's own personal biography. This compositional whirlwind and structured disarray outlines the confusion of the individual in American society, the decay of social structures throughout America's cities, and glorifies the richness of popular, intellectual, and artistic culture that has been born from this maelstrom.

About the Artists:

Tattfoo Tan was born in Malaysia and currently resides in Staten Island, NY. He has exhibited extensively over the past decade at venues such as the Queens Museum of Art, Pocket Utopia, Lower Eastside Tenement Museum, Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, and Flux Factory, all in New York. Tan has participated in residencies and fellowships at the Center for Book Arts (NY) and at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art (NJ), as well as lectured at institutions such as the Fashion Institute of Technology (NY) and the California Institute of the Arts (CA). He has created public works in partnership with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Fashion Center Business Improvement District, Times Square Alliance, DUMBO Improvement District, and the NYC Department of Transportation, all in New York.

Abigail DeVille was born in New York City in 1981. She received her BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2007. In 2005, she received The Frank Shapiro award, which is F.I.T.'s highest award for excellence in Fine Arts. She received a fellowship to participate in the Skowhegan Residency Program in 2007 and was a participant in the art world's first reality show, Artstar, which aired on Gallery HD from June 2006 – January 2009 and culminated with an exhibition at Deitch Projects (NY). Currently, DeVille is a Resident Artist and Art Instructor at the Bronx River Art Center. A longtime resident of the Bronx, Abigail DeVille will begin her graduate studies at Yale University's prestigious Painting Program this fall.

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This program is made possible with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, including Council Members Eric Dinowitz, Althea Stevens, Kristy Marmorato and the Bronx Delegation. Additional support is from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, the NYS Council on the Arts with support from Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature. Foundation support is from Con Edison: The Power of Giving, The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, The Lincoln Fund, and private donors.

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