NEW YORK.- Thierry Goldberg Projects, New York, presents Khalif Kelly Recess, on view through February 10, 2008. With a fresh and vivid palette, Kelly's paintings capture children at play in moments of sharing, solitude, and vying for power. The paintings often refer to Kelly's own childhood experience and in turn, to the African- American experience at large.
Within these seemingly nostalgic paintings, the mechanisms of race, history, and theater compose the children in telling group dynamics. In picturing playtime, Kelly reveals the contrast between theater and voyeurism, which strikingly occur ever so naturally and innocently at an early age.
The figures he depicts are a mixture of personal archetypes and classic racial stereotypes. His aesthetic includes references to the figurative work of Jacob Lawrence and to the controversial stop motion animations of George Pal, especially 'John Henry and the Inky-Poo' and 'the Jasper series' from the 1940's. Like George Pal, Kelly utilizes perception of race, not for entertainment, but as a narrative device, a role in the theater of personality. Here, race is a tool, something to work with and work against in the children's subsequent formation of identity through play.
Kelly locates his paintings within the dichotomy of spectacle (that which presents) and voyeurism (that which discovers). He likens the spectacle to a moment that may create its own reality separate from the conventions actually governing it - suggesting the possibility of lifting the veil of history and race, however fleeting.
Khalif Kelly was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1980 and grew up in Arlington, Texas. He currently lives and works in New Haven, CT. He holds a BFA in paintings from The School of Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently enrolled in the MFA program at Yale University. Recess is the first gallery exhibition of Kelly's work.