Feb 3, 2022
Join 2020–21 artist in residence Jacolby Satterwhite for a roundtable conversation with artist Derrick Adams and scholar/curator Tavia Nyong’o. Satterwhite reconnects with Adams and Nyong’o almost a decade after their first encounters. Adams was Satterwhite’s undergraduate professor at Maryland Institute College of Art and Nyong’o interviewed Satterwhite on the occasion of Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (2013). The discussion will include topics such as the journey from emerging artist to mid-career artist; “looking back to look forward”; the symbiosis between painting and performance; collaboration; catharsis; archives; material meditations; gaming; and virtual reality.
This program will be streamed on Zoom and will feature live CART captioning and ASL interpretation.
Jacolby Satterwhite in Conversation with Derrick Adams and Tavia Nyong’o is presented on the occasion of (Never) As I Was: Studio Museum Artists in Residence 2020–21, held at MoMA PS1 while the Studio Museum constructs a new building on the site of its longtime home on West 125th Street.
Jacolby Satterwhite (b. 1986, Columbia, SC) is celebrated for a conceptual practice addressing crucial themes of labor, consumption, carnality, and fantasy through immersive installation, virtual reality, and digital media. He uses a range of software to produce intricately detailed animations and live-action film of real and imagined worlds populated by the avatars of artists and friends. These animations serve as the stage on which the artist synthesizes the multiple disciplines that encompass his practice, namely illustration, performance, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Satterwhite draws from an extensive set of references, guided by queer theory, modernism, and video game language to challenge conventions of Western art through a personal and political lens. An equally significant influence is that of his late mother, Patricia Satterwhite, whose ethereal vocals and diagrams for visionary household products serve as the source material within a decidedly complex structure of memory and mythology.
Derrick Adams (b. 1970, Baltimore, MD) is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound. Adams obtained his BFA from Pratt Institute and MFA from Columbia University. He is also an alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. Among other honors, the artist received a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency, a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, and a Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize. With his oeuvre, Adams probes how identity and personal narrative intersect with American iconography, art history, urban culture, and the Black experience. The artist explores how individuals are shaped by their physical, societal, and historical environs. With sophisticated formal techniques, Adams investigates the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface—a method that links him to pioneers such as Henri Matisse, Hannah Höch, and Romare Bearden. His current solo exhibition, LOOKS, is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art through May 29, 2022.
Tavia Nyong’o is an author, speaker, and curator. He works at the intersection of critical theory, performance studies, and social justice. The author of two books, The Amalgamation Waltz (2009) and Afro-Fabulations (2018), he is Chair and William Lampson Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Yale University, and Curator of Public Programs at the Park Avenue Armory in New York.
(Never) As I Was marks the third year of the multiyear partnership between The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Museum of Modern Art, and MoMA PS1, and features new work by the 2020–21 Artist-in-Residence cohort: Widline Cadet (b. 1992, Pétion-Ville, Haiti), Texas Isaiah (b. Brooklyn, NY), Genesis Jerez (b. 1993, Bronx, NY), and Jacolby Satterwhite (b. 1986, Columbia, South Carolina).
With practices spanning new media, painting, sculpture, and photography, each artist proposes dynamic ways of experiencing time, space, and locality set into this current moment of complex transformation. In response to the seismic impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time in the Museum’s history the artists participated entirely in remote form for the duration of the residency. Communication was deeply mediated by the digital—this way of collaborating presented new modes of being, bending and recharting the territories of domestic, social, and studio space.
Widline Cadet’s photo and video works examine intergenerational memory, selfhood, and erasure within the diasporic experience. Texas Isaiah offers a space for mourning, celebration, prayer, and remembrance, asserting the significance of imagination in the abolition of gender while exploring the healing capacity of rest as a place of connection. Genesis Jerez’s collaged paintings layer family photographs, oil paint, and charcoal to create works that interrogate her own personal histories and reckon with questions of diasporic fracture. Jacolby Satterwhite’s refocus on painting during the residency marked a shift inward: across these paintings, he engages fantasy as a mechanism for healing and a veil for trauma, flaying open a psychic space for transcendent possibility. Each artist took on the challenge of thinking critically and durationally about the ways the tensions and possibilities of private vs. public and interior vs. exterior can be expanded, reimagined, and renegotiated through and beyond their work. The outcomes are tender and lyrical explorations of family histories, memoir, spirituality, and memory. In reflecting on their private pasts, these artists have created works that look toward what collectively lies ahead, to a world that is at once achingly the same and never as it was.
(Never) As I Was is organized by Legacy Russell, former Studio Museum Associate Curator, Exhibitions (now Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen), with Yelena Keller, Curatorial Assistant, Exhibitions, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Josephine Graf, Assistant Curator, MoMA PS1. Exhibition research is provided by Angelique Rosales Salgado, former The Studio Museum in Harlem and MoMA Curatorial Fellow, and Elana Bridges, former Mellon Curatorial Fellow, The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Support for (Never) As I Was at MoMA PS1 is generously provided by the Tom Slaughter Exhibition Fund and the MoMA PS1 Trustee Annual Fund.
The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Artist-in-Residence program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; Joy of Giving Something; New York State Council on the Arts; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Jerome Foundation; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; and by endowments established by the Andrea Frank Foundation; the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Trust; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Additional support is generously provided by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
When one is immersed in Jacolby Satterwhite’s films and installations, a dissolution occurs. The experience stretches one’s memory and prompts a longing for spaces we've been, want to revisit, and want to reimagine. World building here is shaped by a rhizomatic approach to modernism that is Black and queer. Jacolby’s multimedia projects map us to an Afrofuturist cosmos capable of liberatory intervention where the racial and gendered boundaries of a consumerist-driven society dissipate. He creates anachronistic episodes within his digital landscapes that disturb temporal linearity, yet foreground an aliveness where past and future are subject to de- and re-composition. We see figures and symbols autonomous in flight and tangled infinitely within cyclical passageways, encompassed by deep echoes of an electronic soundtrack that beats toward a proposed utopia. In works like Shrines (2020) and Birds of Paradise (2017–19), Jacolby’s 3D animations yield spatial distortions that suspend boundaries of movement. All elements within them—architecture, schematic drawings, poems, bodies—are liberated from gravity. What feels more full than floating?
Joining generations of peers in the Artist-in-Residence program at The Studio Museum in Harlem unifies the loop of history he has been a part of within this institution and shared community. His arrival permeates the fluctuating meanings of a remote residency. Jacolby’s hyperactive, alluring universe(s) now extend into his Brooklyn home studio, unraveling and remaking themselves within him and his three-story work/living space. His experimentation, boundless as ever, takes shape at present in the form of public art projects and large-scale commissions.
The conclusion of Birds in Paradise, his feature-length animation series, inspired a major gesture: his return to painting. Jacolby’s origins are as a painter. Looking and listening intently, you can tell. Within his oeuvre of performance and video, his digital textures have remained painterly—a coding, sampling, and choreographed composition rooted in Fluxus, Dada, and Surrealism. Jacolby now directs our focus to evolving imagery through his hand on the canvas. In our conversation below, it’s clear his capacious thought process gives as much as it receives.
This interview took place in March 2021.
The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Artist-in-Residence program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; Joy of Giving Something; Robert Lehman Foundation; New York State Council on the Arts; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Jerome Foundation; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; and by endowments established by the Andrea Frank Foundation; the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Trust; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Digital programming is made possible thanks to support provided by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Frankenthaler Digital Initiative.
Additional support is generously provided by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.