Every year, to provide the opportunity for Louisiana artists to have their work reviewed by curators from around the counrty, Antenna Gallery’s Louisiana call for exhibitions hosts a guest juror to choose the exhibition selection. This year, our juror is Jan Christian Bernabe of FLXST Contemporary in Chicago.
A Filipinx American genderqueer, queer person of color based in Chicago, Jan Christian Bernabe (“he, him, Jan”) is the Gallery Director and Founder of FLXST Contemporary. FLXST Contemporary is a contemporary art space and incubator in the Motor Row district in the Near South Side focused chiefly on contemporary emerging diasporic and immigrant artists, artists of color, and LGBTQ-identified artists. He is also an educator, scholar, curator, arts and & culture critic, and writer. Jan has over fifteen years of professional experience teaching, researching, and publishing on art history and visual culture in higher education and working in arts management in the nonprofit sector. He collaborates closely with emergent artists, writers, and scholars on curatorial projects within the digital arts and humanities and site-specific art projects. Jan has taught courses focused on art historical surveys, histories of race and representation, and gender and queer theory in art history and visual culture (among other topics) at the University of Michigan, Cornish College of the Arts, and Whitman College. With a Ph.D. in the Program in American Culture from the University of Michigan, he has written for positions: asia critique, Wasafiri Magazine, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, the Filipino/American Artist Directory, and other academic and non-academic outlets. With the artist-scholar Laura Kina, he co-edited Queering Contemporary Asian American Art published by the University of Washington Press (2017). When not running FLXST Contemporary or researching and writing about art and photography, Jan has served as a member of the Community Advisory Group for Equality Illinois, a Core Leader for AFIRE Chicago, and is a Critique Group Instructor and Portfolio Reviewer for Latitude Chicago. He also supports other local community social justice and art nonprofit organizations in Chicago. He is a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ immigrant rights, racial and economic social justice, and transgender affirming policies for Illinois and the US. Jan believes in the power of art to inspire civic engagement and cultural transformations. He is also training to be an ultramarathon runner.
Louisiana Call Solo Exhibition Selection :: Bianca Walker
Bianca Walker is an African American gender-noncomforming painter who will be finishing their MFA in 2023 from the University of New Orleans.
The artist returns to the archives of US colonialism and empire and, through their pantings, resurfaces images of from the Black diaspora that have been disregarded or written out of history. Bianca paints on various sizes of drop cloths in their natural states. Bianca allows the cloth to soak up the house paints that the artist uses. The painted drop cloths are all attached to a wooden plank and hung with twine. The artist uses everyday materials that are readily accessible—symbolic perhaps of the raw materials that were used or available to the people painted in her paintings.
With exacting intention, the artist drips paint on the cloths and creates historical tableaus that resurfaces and visualizes the Black bodies at various historical periods. Signs of any manipulation with painterly tools, if used at all, are not visible. Even the titles on the wooden planks owes its legibility to serendipity. Bianca’s paintings are eerie and haunting—the minimal use of colors, mostly black, white, or hints of red and blue, fill the drop cloths’ surfaces. The paints, as they dry, shape the cloth—pulling on the cloth, tightening it in spots, flattening the cloth at various spaces. The unpredictability of the layering and drying of paints add a sculptural touch to the work. Unframed, the work hangs like clothes on a clothesline—a reference to the historical domestic laboring of Black folks.
We feel the labor of the artist in each of the work. The creative labor of the artist connects them to the Black figures and their labor or actions in the paintings. This connection to history and the black diaspora is not didactic. During this current moment when issues of race is often discussed in pointed terms, Bianca’s artwork performs important cultural work that refrains from exclamations or platitudes and presents issues of race earnestly yet lyrically. The recuperative artistic practice is personal and emotional—as viewers, these painting touch us, and we are lucky enough to feel their weight.
Unlike photographs from this bygone era, the painter imbues the figures, however abstracted, with interiorities that were often denied to them. Bianca presents paintings that are an homage to the Black diaspora, its people, the labor, and how their representations continue to matter today.
-Jan Christian Bernabe
Louisiana Call Group Exhibition ::
I Know a Place.
This year’s Louisiana Call also includes a curated group show which will feature artists: Jourdan Barnes, Hannah Chalew, Jose Cotto, Thomas Friel, Ann Haley, Lucia Honey, Sara Mandandar, Mary Ratcliff, Suzanna Scott and Jade Thiraswas
As we make our way into 2022, we might consider the weight of the changing and challenging world that we have collectively carried. Many of us feel an overwhelming weariness. These are pandemic times. These are times that have surfaced the cruelest components of humanity using race as a wedge to pit one against another. Yet, these are also times that have brought out the collective resilience, creativity, and kindness of individuals, unwittingly creating a type of queer vigilante—queer, in so far as, their vision is one premised on non-normative ways of navigating the world; feelings of shared struggles and interwoven histories; and queer, in so far as, temporal and spatial comforts exceeds or even defies preordained scripts. These are times when intersections, convergences, and connections, big and small, matter. The group show I Know a Place brings together artists whose artistic practices thrive at the junctions—these are creative intersections in which being a queer vigilante isn’t just another newfangled label but a critical praxis integrated into all facets of one’s life. I Know a Place is group show that creates the very places of comfort and joy; humor and laughter; kinship and solace. These are places that often feel few and far between or referred to in the past tense: “I knew a place.” But these places do exist today. To find them requires the act of reaching out. It’s a matter of simply asking: “Where is that place you know?” The artists in this group show will show you where those places are and then some.
-Jan Christian Bernabe