Masquerading Fiction: Dawn Black at Curator’s Office

Dawn Black’s second solo show at Curators Office in Washington, D.C. doesn’t veer too far from her first go in 2009. Pulling characters from her ongoing Conceal Project, her current show, The Magic Foxhole, uses J.D. Sallinger’s unpublished short story of the same title — an absurdist tale about the follies of war — as a point of departure. Like her previous exhibition, Black’s own absurdist scenes subvert context in detailed ink, gouache and watercolor works on paper. And instead of narratives, the artist offers her nuanced understanding of the power roles and cues that result from masquerade and from our propensity for playing dress up.

Dawn Black | American Gothic, 2011, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 11” x 17” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

Dawn Black | The Magic Foxhole, 2012, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 30” x 40” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

Dawn Black | The Magic Foxhole (detail), 2012, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 30” x 40” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

It would seem that Dawn Black’s Conceal Project is a study of archetypes. Consisting of a large grid of 91 drawings, each seven and a half inches by five and a half inches, the project presents a varied taxonomy of characters whose perceived power is predicated by the costumes or uniforms that they wear. TheConceal Project, which will be exhibited in a forthcoming show at the Columbus Museum in Georgia, then becomes Black’s palette for subsequent projects, including The Magic Foxhole, as she fantastically mixes scales and pulls characters that tend to stare back at the viewer with a keen sense of self awareness or even self regard.

Black’s figures are appropriated from images in the media, mostly high fashion and military men in the news. And next to each other these archetypes seem involved in a subtly erotic power struggle that is personified in their body language and mannerisms. In this regard, Black’s enormous technical skill is not limited to her wrought and detailed brushwork, but also accounts for a nuanced understanding of body and facial diction, and the implications of each in the way that we project and ascribe power. It’s certainly a struggle that we can all find familiar.

Dawn Black | Death and the Apostate, 2011, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 22” x 30” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

Dawn Black | Pilgrimage, 2012, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 15” x 22” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

Dawn Black | XX Triumvirate, 2012, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 15” x 22” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

Dawn Black | Oubliette, 2012, Ink, gouache, watercolor on paper, 7” x 11” (courtesy Curator’s Office)

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Dawn Black has participated in several prestigious artist residencies such as McColl Center for the Arts, Lawndale Center for the Arts, and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. She has exhibited her works in numerous solo and group exhibitions including Lehman Gallery, CUNY, Bronx, NY; McColl Center for the Arts, Charlotte, NC; Lawndale Center for the Arts, Houston, TX; Fulcrum Gallery, Columbus State University, Columbus, GA; Ameen Gallery, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, LA; School 33, Baltimore, MD; City Arts Gallery, City College of San Francisco, CA; Kunstoffice, Berlin, Germany; Oculus Gallery, Baton Rouge, LA; and many other venues. She has upcoming museum exhibitions at the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA and the Paper and Watermark Museum, Fabriano, Italy. Her work has been written about in national publications such as Art in America and Art Papers.

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