McClain Gallery is excited to announce our first solo exhibition with multi-disciplinary artist Shikeith (b. 1989, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). This show, part of our two presentations for FotoFest 2022, includes recent photographs and small-scale sculptures and marks the premiere of three new prints.
Shikeith’s work, conceptual at its core, explores the experiences of Black queer men via portraiture. The artist develops a visual vocabulary by sieving personal and cultural history. Hauntings, psychic space, intimacy, and the refusal of painful societal expectations all have seats at the table of his practice. His material choices mirror his investment in the non-corporeal: skin, sweat, clay, “haint” blue, and breath become physical manifestations and symbols for the themes Shikeith deftly navigates.
Through eerie compositions and the distillation of color, Shikeith pinpoints his interest in how the past tints our current experiences and can engender a stillness and potency. His new monograph, Notes Towards Becoming a Spill, features a collection of found photographs, an extension of the artist’s exploration of portraiture. Says Shikeith, “the found photographs [...] are part of my archive focused on establishing and critically fabulating the missing gaps within Black gay history. I select the pictures with a knowing and wonder regarding the subjects’ lives.” In Shikeith’s practice, collecting and looking at a group of portraits – establishing an archive – is a paramount act in restoring agency to a body oppressed. Revisiting the past, critically, is folded into the practice of hauntology. In a recent review in Art Forum, Zoë Hopkins writes:
For the artist, grace is burdened by the past: like a spirit, it can be imperceptible but everywhere. Shikeith’s photographs indicate as much: They are cloaked in chiaroscuro, tainted with the shadows of history that continue to haunt the now.
Shikeith’s photographs and sculptures evoke such presences and resurrections through familiar iconography. The classical recline of Visiting Hours, 2022 deliberately recalls a resurrection scene. A figure sheathed in a white bedsheet wraps itself around a sleeping person and, like the childhood game of dressing up as a ghost, the cloaked figure appears as a specter from the past. The hazy, gray tone of expired film imbues the image with sensitive intimacy. The sleeping person is ‘visited,’ as it were, by a gentle ghost, one who holds and caresses him. The image was made during a time of grief and satisfies a deep longing for closeness.
Shikeith focuses on a malleable, free state of being that he aspires to for himself and his subjects. Three blown glass sculptures make use of the artist’s breath, a gesture that illustrates his approach to his role as a maker, much like the intimacy with his sitters. Through the repetition of specific shapes throughout his oeuvre – the glass balloon, the ceramic deathmask-like object, the use of the color blue – Shikeith emphasizes moments that have a fleeting existence but such a heavy psychic one: breath, expiration, lightness, illusion, imagination.
We are grateful to Yossi Milo Gallery for their collaboration on this exhibition, and Shikeith's generosity and kindness through this process.
Shikeith (b. 1989 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his MFA in Sculpture from The Yale School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut, after earning his BA in Integrative Arts from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania. His work has recently been featured in institutional solo exhibitions, including at the Alexander Brest Museum & Gallery, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Florida; Locust Projects, Miami, Florida; Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, Georgia; and The Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His work is in the permanent collection of The Hammer Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California and the Wroclaw Museum, Wroclaw, Poland. In 2019, Shikeith received a Painters & Sculptors Grant from The Joan Mitchell Foundation. He was awarded the 2020 Art Matters Foundation Grant and was selected for the 2020 – 2021 Leslie Lohman Museum Artist Fellowship. His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art Forum, and Aperture. Aperture has also recently published the artist’s first monograph, Notes Towards Becoming a Spill. Shikeith is represented by Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, New York.
FotoFest is a Houston-based contemporary arts organization dedicated to advancing photography and visual culture through the presentation of exhibitions, public programs, and publications. In addition to the organization’s year-round programming, FotoFest organizes a city-wide biennial project in the form of large-scale central exhibitions, curated lectures, performances, a symposium, and film programs. Fotofest has been in operation since 1983. For the fourth time, McClain Gallery is a participating space in FotoFest biennial. Our presentation features two exhibitions: Shikeith and Elaine Reichek | Archival Correspondents. They run September 24 – November 5, 2022.
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