Claire Oliver Gallery opens 'A Brief History of the Future'
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Claire Oliver Gallery opens 'A Brief History of the Future'
Carolyn Mazloomi, Stolen Comfort.

NEW YORK, NY.- Claire Oliver Gallery presents A Brief History of the Future, a special group exhibition of works by artists BK Adams, Barbara Earl Thomas, Stan Squirewell, LaNia Roberts, and Carolyn Mazloomi. Expressing themselves through painting, paper cuts, glasswork, found photography, and quilting, the artists in this presentation are time benders—wielding their practices in order to explore the interdependent and evolving dimensions of past, present, and future. With their unique variations on the choreography of reflection and anticipation, these artists prove that chronological systems of time are insufficient to address the compounding complexities of and ever-shifting revelations about identity, race, gender, family, nature, culture, and politics. Calling on ancestral, generational, and societal wisdom, this show gives equal importance to those histories we bring into focus and those futures we attempt to influence. As Octavia Butler expressed in her 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, “All that you touch / You Change / All that you change / Changes You / The only lasting truth / Is Change…” A Brief History of the Future will be on view at Claire Oliver Gallery, May 31 - August 3, 2024.

Carolyn Mazloomi

Carolyn Mazloomi is a textile artist working in West Chester, Ohio. Mazloomi makes quilts that honor individuals who have made significant contributions to civil rights, women’s liberation, and social justice movements in the United States and across the world. With an emphasis on the narratives of Black freedom fighters, through her quiltworks she ensures that underrepresented lives and stories are authentically preserved—creating textured portraits that revise a fraught historical canon. For Mazloomi, the image is the most essential part of her quilts; she works exclusively in a bold, black-and-white palette that offers a clear and memorable composition reminiscent of the striking headlines and images memorialized in newsprint. Mazloomi reminds us that those who hold the pen can have a profound influence on generations to come, and with her needle, she strives to share these histories with a holistic perspective through a visual language that is relatable, accessible, and enduring.

In Stolen Comfort, Mazloomi recounts the history of those women from Korea and the Philippines who were captured and sex trafficked by Japan’s army during World War II. Known as “comfort women,” these prisoners of war were forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers. After decades of fighting for acknowledgment of these atrocities from the Japanese government, survivors only recently received recognition. For Mazloomi, these images are seminal to holding space for the histories of her race and gender—lives that are under threat of being omitted from history by the far-right politicians who threaten democracy. She hopes these quilts, as objects of familiarity, warmth, and comfort, become meaningful learning tools for future societies—tapestries that ensure retrospection, retribution, and resilience.

BK Adams

BK Adams is a mixed-media artist living and working in Washington, D.C. With vibrant acrylic palettes and found biomorphic materials—from artificial bees to dried flowers—each of Adams’ canvases is a portal into his whimsical, autobiographical world. Depicting himself in the image of a lion, his paintings illustrate a series of open-ended parables. Unlike the formulaic trajectory of folklore, these scenes stray from the familiar and embrace a limitless wandering; the lion assumes both mythological and quotidian gestures like guiding a cub, climbing a ladder, riding a horse, and crossing a path with a relaxed, curious gait.

Foregoing set destinations and languages of logic, he paints landscapes composed of jumbled numbers, alphabets, clocks, and shapes; in his realm, symbologies are scattered like stars in the sky. As the father of two sons, Adams’ work is an exploration of his role as a protector, teacher, and guide. These paintings offer a view into his ways of observing and absorbing the natural and built world—vivid scenes that will inspire his kin to embrace expansive, optimistic, and fluid encounters with all life. Always in dialogue with legacy, Adams places himself between his own existence and the transference of his experiences to the next generation, for whom these symbols and stories will continue to undergo metamorphosis.

Barbara Earl Thomas

Barbara Earl Thomas is a visual artist living and working in Seattle, Washington. This selection of work illustrates Thomas’ interpretation of the silhouette—a Western, colonial mode of portraiture in which subjects were portrayed through a flattened outline of their profile. For Thomas, this one-dimensional perspective correlated to structural racism and reductive bias used to suppress the profound dimension and extraordinary depth of Black people in America. Reclaiming this visual tradition to serve her own expression, Thomas creates silhouettes by carving into black paper and sandblasting glass vessels.

Unlike their stark forebears, these portraits are intricate and textured—individuals depicted with attention to their unique features, posture, and animation. Depicting musicians, relatives, wildlife, and animals, these works emphasize life for its inherent joy, expression, verve, and verdancy. The paperworks are backed with vibrant, hand-printed colors and the vessels are incised from saturated, dual-tone glass, compositionally and conceptually refusing to be reduced to the rigid constraints of “black and white.” Thomas instead welcomes the nuance of shadows, celebrating those luminous, elastic silhouettes that reflect dynamism, pulse, and transcendence into real life.

Stan Squirewell

Stan Squirewell is a painter, photographer, installation, and performance artist living and working in Louisville, Kentucky. Squirewell’s muses are the unidentified subjects of found photographs from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—anonymous figures whose individuality and dignity the artist seeks to restore through his work. Focusing on portraits of Black and Brown communities, Squirewell challenges the assumptions that audiences may project onto unattributed photographs, distorted by bias, prejudice, and racism. Bringing these archival prints into a contemporary context, he encourages his viewers to question, rather than assume, the narratives that shape the lives of those communities who have gone unacknowledged in the historical record.

Invoking his own identity as a Black man with Indigenous roots, he seeks to offer each of these sitters a retrospective justice and recognize the implied socioeconomic status of being photographed in past centuries. Collaging directly onto the portrait—as if sampling a track on a turntable—Squirewell adorns his revisited subjects with ornate textiles and rich pigments, furnishing them with the luxuries that they deserved to enjoy during their lifetimes. Each work is encased in a handmade wood frame that Squirewell treats with the Shou Sugi Ban technique, a Japanese method for conserving wood by burning a plank’s surface. Like phoenixes from the ashes, these historical figures are restored to their youthful bodies—preserved, perpetually, with the flush of life.

LaNia Roberts

LaNia Roberts is a visual artist based in Louisville, Kentucky. She has a rigorous studio practice that focuses on figurative painting and collage, utilizing her own photographs from time spent with friends and family. Inspired by the Fauvist movement “liberating color,” Roberts employs a vibrant color palette in the skin tones of her models to explore liberation and to disrupt the historical use of skin color as a gauge of racial identity and worth. Her work aims to challenge singular, limiting perspectives by collaging multiple points of view of each model to coexist within a single painting.

As a Black female artist from the American South, Roberts’ work explores personal and collective memory. A focal point for her in the works on view is her late Great Grandmother's kitchen, a central localization of identity, familial bonds and cultural lineage. In Living Water and Maxine’s Recipe, Roberts explores her family’s connection to food, from fast food to Thanksgiving dinner as a paradigm for physically nourishing our bodies is parallel with nourishing our souls. Living Water draws from biblical narratives, turning ordinary experiences into spiritual reflections, while Maxine’s Recipe honors the tradition of passing down recipes as cultural heirlooms. This ongoing series examines the physical space and the body to explore diverse perspectives and the multifaceted nature of identity.

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