Tales of Soil and Concrete traces various artistic approaches to myth and mythmaking in rural and urban contexts, examining how these environments affect the origin and propagation of such narratives. With an emphasis on cyclical systems – growth and harvest, construction and destruction, appearance and disappearance – the exhibition interrogates how productive processes give way to memory and nostalgia for that which is lost, leaving scarred landscapes, physical and psychological, which we make sense of through narrative, representation and ritual.
The exhibition includes works that seek to unearth the seed of myth buried in the furrows of the land. Both Allison Janae Hamilton and Yun-Fei Ji employ folkloric motifs to shape our understanding of the contemporary dislocation and subjugation of rural communities as a direct result of colonial and socio-political violence. Alison Saar’s spiritual practice employs a language of mythology to tell the stories of people of colour across the US. Her intimate work explores Black womanhood – like Hamilton, Saar connects the African American experience with the land. In the Lunarseas series, disembodied body parts cast in bronze sprout branches. All three artists posit that there can be no harvest without loss.
Painted en plein air, Brett Goodroad’s gestural paintings bring nature into dialogue with the artist’s own psychology. Rich earth tones, mutable compositions and an emphasis on texture are hallmarks of his practice, which finds poetry in direct communion with its rural subject matter. This sense of oneness is also found in Sophia Loeb’s abstractions; their material density finds a counterpoint in the diaphanous facture of Henry Shum’s paintings, the uncanny quality of his dream-like compositions crafting landscapes from his psyche. Like Shum, Arturo Kameya takes his own life as a point of departure, self-mythologising and crafting narrative around memories of his childhood in the suburbs of Lima.
Other works in the exhibition explore the mythology of the city, where furrows are known as cracks, fissures that may destroy but also create possibilities. In Anselm Kiefer’s Velimir Chlebnikov (1990) ground gives way to void but at the same time begets the creativity of the eponymous poet. Meanwhile, despite an affinity for landscape, Jacob Littlejohn explores urban mythology in abstract paintings that explore memory and storytelling as strategies for engaging with the natural environment in a fragmented world.
About the artists:
Brett Goodroad (b. 1979, Nebraska) lives and works in Arizona. Recent solo exhibitions include Greene Naftali, curated by Hilton Als, New York (2022); ADZ Gallery, Lisbon (2022); Cushion Works, San Francisco (2021, 2017); Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco (2019; 2015); and Phoenix Art Space, Brighton (2018). Significant group shows include Karma, New York (2021); Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley (2019, 2018); and The Drawing Center, New York (2014), among others. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Allison Janae Hamilton (b. 1984, Kentucky) lives and works in New York. She holds a PhD in American Studies from New York University and an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University. Her work has been the subject of institutional solo exhibitions at the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; Joslyn Art Museum, Orlando; MASS MoCA, North Adams; and Atlanta Contemporary, as well as a commissioned solo project with Creative Time, New York. Her work is housed in public collections including the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover; The Menil Collection, Houston; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno; and Speed Art Museum, Louisville, among others. She is the recipient of the Creative Capital Award and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant.
Yun-Fei Ji (b. 1963, Beijing, China) lives and works between New York and Pennsylvania. He earned his BFA from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and his MFA from the University of Arkansas. In 2005, Ji was Artist in Residence at Yale University and in 2006 he received the American Academy Prix de Rome Fellowship and Residency. Solo museum exhibitions include Cleveland Museum of Art (2016); Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, which travelled to the Honolulu Museum of Art (2016); and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013). Ji’s work was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the 2011 Lyon Biennale, and the 2012 Biennale of Sydney. Collections include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Asia Society Museum, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; British Museum, London; and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, amongst others.
Arturo Kameya (b. 1984, Lima, Peru) attended the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima and was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Kameya's work was presented at the Busan Biennale (2022) and at the fifth New Museum Triennial, New York (2021). Solo exhibitons include GRIMM, New York (2023, 2022); Dordrechts Museum (2021); GRIMM, Amsterdam (2020); Alliance Française, Lima (2019, 2016); Ginsberg Galeria, Lima (2018); Hotel Maria Kapel, Hoorn (2018); Ciencia Ficción, Wu Gallery, Lima (2015); and Galería del Centro Cultural Británico de San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima (2014). Kameya’s work is part of numerous collections including the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection; ING Collection, The Netherlands; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Museo de Arte de Lima, MALI; and Saastamoinen Foundation, Finland.
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945, Donaueschingen, Germany) lives and works in France. He has exhibited widely, including solo shows at the Palazzo Ducale, Venice (2022); Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris (2021); Franz Marc Museum, Kochel (2020); Couvent de la Tourette, Lyon (2019); Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2019); The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (2017); Albertina Museum, Vienna (2016); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2015); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2014); Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2011); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2010); Grand Palais, Paris (2007); Guggenheim Bilbao (2007); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2005); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1998); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1987). In 2019 Kiefer was awarded the prestigious Prize for Understanding and Tolerance by the Jewish Museum in Berlin, and in 2017 he was awarded the J. Paul Getty Medal.
Jacob Littlejohn (b. 1995, Scotland) lives and works in New York, where he is currently studying an MFA in Studio Art at Hunter College following an MFA in Studio Art at the San Francisco Art Institute (2021-2022). He graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2018 with a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Painting & Printmaking. In 2019-2020 he completed a fully funded residency at the Leith School of Art as the Graduate Artist in Residence 2019-20. Littlejohn has won numerous awards including the Ruth Stanton Scholarship, Hunter MFA and the Open Eye Gallery Award (both 2022); and the MFA Fellowship Award, San Francisco Art Institute (2021).
Sophia Loeb (b. 1997, Sao Paulo, Brazil) lives and works in London. In 2023 she received her MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art. She earned her BA in Fine Art and History of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, after completing a Foundation year at Camberwell College of Arts. Since 2018 she has been included in group exhibitions at Galerie Marguo, Paris (2023); Spread Museum, Entrevaux (2021); and Lamb Gallery, London (2018), amongst others. She has participated in residencies at the School of Visual Arts, New York and Kaasya Arte Residência, Brazil.
Alison Saar (b. 1956, Laurel Canyon, California) lives and works in Los Angeles. Saar received her BA in Studio Art and Art History in 1978 from Scripps College, Claremont, California, before going on to earn her MFA from Otis-Parsons Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design). At the outset of her career, Saar was selected as a fellow of the studio program at The Studio Museum in Harlem (1982-1983). She has received three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1984, 1985 and 1988) and was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1989); the Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists (2000); the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (1998); and the Joan Mitchell Artist in Residence (2013). In 2012, the United States Artists Program named Saar one of 50 USA fellows.
Henry Shum (b. 1998, Hong Kong) lives and works in Hong Kong. He received his BA from Chelsea College of Arts, London in 2020. Shum has had solo exhibitions at Andrew Kreps, New York (2023) and Empty Gallery, Hong Kong (2020). His work has been reviewed in Art in America, Artforum and ArtReview.