Devin Troy Strother
Devin Troy Strother’s work is blazing and sharply witted. His innovative use of materials, overloaded compositions and hilarious titles present a paradoxical satire that scrutinises dominant notions of blackness.
Strother’s practice effortlessly dethrones the limits of form and genre. His painting, sculpture and installation combine a wealth of mediums such as collage, painting and assemblage into a free-fall of beaming colour and viscid texture.
Acrylic paint, paper cutouts, neon tubes and drug paraphernalia make up Strother’s vivid compositions, which shift between abstraction and contemporary iconography. Strother’s titles, often borrowed from snippets of conversations he overhears in public spaces, present a multifaceted humour that disrupts racial stereotypes and combines the daft with the serious.
- Solo show, Before You Ask Me, No I Don't Watch Basketball (And on Im Really Into Double Dribbling for some reason) at Over The Influence, Hong Kong, 2019
- Solo show, Lemme get some Coco Butter, a Voodo spell, and some newport at Nevven Gallery, Gothenburg, 2019
- Solo show, The Worst Witch directed by Alima Lee and written by Mandy Harris Williams at Shoot the Lobster, Los Angeles, 2018
- Solo show, They Should've Never Given You Niggas Money at the Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, 2015
- Solo show I Just Landed in Rome, Nigga at the Marlborough Contemporary, New York, 2013 Co-founded Coloured Publishing with Yuri Ogita, 2014
His style centres around simple, flat outlines and shapes, with a childish sensibility reminiscent of Basquiat or Miro which feels ever-fresh and tirelessly playful.
Strother cleverly pulls together a myriad of cultural references from both contemporary life and art history into his own idiosyncratic visual language. Gurrrl I’m just talking about that composition, Gurrrrl what’chu know about that post abstraction? is a mixed-media painting with a busy but carefully considered composition. Accumulating on an inky black background are small, simple patterns of multi-coloured dots and repeated lines squeezed directly out of the paint tube and onto the canvas.
The colloquial language of the title resists staid white cube expectations and raises the question: is it necessary to understand the context of art history in order to fully grasp a work of art? The answer, as always with Strother, is ambiguous. On the one hand, it appears critical of the elitism associated with a knowledge of art history and, on the other, the painting’s clean composition is a clear nod to the Post-Abstract movement which resisted the loose signature strokes that defined Abstract Expressionism.
Despite living in what Strother describes as a “post-post-post racial society”, his work speaks to the impossibility for blackness to be neutral. With the seemingly casual repetition of “nigga” throughout his titles, and his signature motif of simplified black faces with dramatized thick red lips and blue eyes, reminiscent of minstrel characters or golliwogs, Strother’s work is steeped in historic signifiers of racism that are turned into playful visual gags and punchlines.
However, it is precisely the tension between these opposing desires that come to shape the work: the desire to explore personal experience which, inevitably, is shaped by racial identity, the desire to be an artist irrespective of race, and the desire to fulfil and escape a moral responsibility to contribute to the visual re-writing of racist histories. Thus, Strother’s work offers a complex and nuanced critique of race relations in the contemporary age which is both critical and celebratory and as bound to it’s racial identity as it is separate from it.
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